Saturday, May 3, 2014

Unusual Artifacts: The Crichton Vinaigrette, 1885-1886

G.&M. Crichton
The Victoria & Albert Museum

A Vinaigrette was used to hold an aromatic substance. Usually, the vinaigrette was worn, suspended from a chain, cord or ribbon around the throat. Sometimes, it could take the form of a brooch or a hand-held ornament.

This example was made around 1886 in Scotland by the Edinburgh jewelery firm G&M Crichton who had earlier made quite a splash at the London Exhibition of 1872. While Crichton’s designs were praised overall at the exhibition, some critics felt that the Highland brooches were a bit too “extravagant” in detail.

When this brooch was made, Scotland and all things Scottish were quite fashionable due to the earlier poetry of Sir Walter Scott and the public admiration for the land shown by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Scottish pebble jewelry was quite in demand. While the majority of these Scottish agate pieces came back to England as souvenirs of Scotland, some examples were made in Birmingham to meet the high demand. Birmingham jewelers would mimic the style of the Scottish jewels, employing stones collected in Scotland.

This vinaigrette shows the variety of attractive stones native to Scotland. Citrines, amethysts, bloodstone, mottled jasper and banded agate are set into silver. The reverse is marked for G.&M. Crichton with hallmarks for 1885 to 1886.

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