Fantastic Georgian Cut-Steel Tassel Earrings c. 1800
In France in 1759 King Louis XV ‘asked’ that private citizens donate their precious jewelry to help fund his ‘Seven Years War’. Some did donate theirs, other hid it, but either way, this inability to wear precious jewelry in public lead to a serious rise in the demand for cut steel jewelry.
Cut steel had been around for a long time and consisted of steel which was hardened, faceted and polished to resemble diamonds, but this new demand caused such a boon for cut steel jewelry that by the early 1800s the cost often outstripped that of real gold. Into this frenzy for cut steel, these earrings were born, long and drapey, these earrings contain cut steel beads and rods, intricately woven and hanging from faceted steel tops. This pair has fabulous fire and flash and would certainly be in their best element when worn in candlelight.
These hand crafted early earrings were likely made in England in about 1790 at a time when massive amounts of English made cut steel items were being exported to France (which is where I found them). These beauties are large and in charge, measuring a full 78 mm (just over 3 inches) from top to bottom, be warned that they are also a bit heavy at 31.8 grams together, so about 15 grams each, the equivalent of 3 nickels. These tassel style earrings are made of cut steel beads on string with cut steel caps and sterling silver wires.
Cut steel jewelry ended it’s hay-day in the early 1900s when it started to be mass produced in sheets and lost it’s fantastic hand crafted look, but at the hight of it’s fashion the pieces took longer to make and were more intricate than many of their precious metal counterparts.
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