On the Hunt for Sporting Jewelry
At the turn of the twentieth century, objects relating to fishing, golfing, riding, and hunting became popular jewelry design motifs. Sporting jewelry appealed to men and women alike. The dapper gentleman had a plethora of tiepins and cufflinks to choose from of this kind, likely admiring the riding and hunting references to English country life. The New Woman, too, adorned herself with sporting jewelry, emblems to the athletic lifestyle among her latest freedoms in breaking from the domestic realm, long thought her rightful place.
Fox-hunting was a particularly popular sport for the fashionable Englishman in this period, as only the fox remained of all the animals that could still be chased on horseback. The ability to hunt on horseback signified high status, as only the wealthy had such leisure time and could afford to care for horses and acquire the proper accoutrements.
Much sporting jewelry featured reverse crystal designs, a jewelry making technique involving long and laborious handiwork. First, the cabochon form is cut and ground by hand. A draft in watercolor is made on the reverse, followed by scratching, and then engraving, the image into the crystal, before painting. The three dimensional effect created by this technique really brings the pieces to life.
These charming pieces equally suit the sportsman of today, or the collector ever in search of history, who will appreciate these miniature pastoral scenes, the end of an era frozen in time.
Linking Past and Present
Utilitarian and decorative, cufflinks have an interesting background. For much of history menâ€™s shirt cuffs were hidden beneath outer garments, as their exposure was considered indecent. This began to change in the sixteenth-century when ruffles, the antecedent to the modern cuff, appeared on menâ€™s dress. In the following centuries men began to adorn their wristbands with buttons, but it was the starched cuffs of the mid-nineteenth-century that necessitated an easier fastening solution, heralding the era of the cufflink. In fact, shirts with attached buttons were fairly uncommon, ensuring the widespread use of this accessory.
Common among the middle and upper classes from this point onward, cufflinks were a welcome addition to the Victorian gentlemanâ€™s rather limited repertoire for sartorial expression. A range of whimsy in cufflink designs allowed a man to show a bit of his personality through common themes like playing cards and sports.
In the mid-nineteenth-century guide The Gentlemanâ€™s Book of Etiquette, and Manual of Politeness, author Cecil B. Hartley makes the following recommendation concerning jewelry:
â€œLet it be distinguished rather by its curiosity than its brilliance. An antique or bit of old jewelry possesses more interest, particularly if you are able to tell its history, than the most splendid production of the goldsmithâ€™s shop.â€
Antique cufflinks provide the gentleman of today with both curiosity and brilliance to enhance his wardrobe, and perhaps, more importantly, a story on his sleeve.