Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Sticky Situation.. Armed only with a stickpin……

Sweet little ladies subtly carried hat pins and stick pins during the Victorian era and looked quite innocent till their naïve attacker made his move.. And SHE MADE HERS…Need I say more as to his fate? Cursed be the day that man ever thought of taking advantage of a woman.

Imagine the 1900’s, when women were not equal to men and certainly not feared by robbers. They had to be creative in their power of persuasion. When all else failed, little pieces of jewelry became the weapon of choice when it came to going out unprotected..

Men carried canes with hidden knives inside to protect their bank rolls and women put on pretty pieces of jewelry.. Seems logical since women tend to think with both sides of their pretty little brains.

Unfortunately, a Judge back in the 1900’s did not feel the same and in 1909 a bill was introduced in the Arkansas legislature which copied an Illinois law limiting the length of pins to 9 inches or making ladies take out permits to possess longer ones. The pins were considered deadly weapons. As a result ladies had to cut their pins to the shorter length if they wanted to wear them in public or to court.

Imagine the headlines… "Woman jailed for carrying deadly weapon.. A STICKPIN…"

Or... "Man attacked with woman wielding a 4” STICKPIN". Oh that must really take the macho out of that fight!

A headline in 1910 created the “international hatpin crisis” and called them society’s newest and most dangerous lethal weapon. Laws began to require that all dangerous points of hatpins by covered by guards ( no not the human form) or clutches (the safety end) Most antique stick pins have a spiral groove around the pin which was used to screw on a “keeper or clutch ” which acted to prevent the stick pin from coming loose. This is one indicator in telling if your stick pin is antique or more modern as modern copies do not tend to have this groove. Others had a twist to the pin like a screw near the middle of the pin to hold it to thin silks and to keep it from sliding.

IN this blog I will give you lots of interesting information on these pins so you too, can pass it on when you buy or sell one.

What is it?
Let’s start with what the real definition is according to MR WEBSTER: a long, straight pin with a jeweled or decorated head, worn to hold a cravat or necktie in place.
A cravat? No.. Nothing to do with craters or cracks. The cravat is a neckband which came before the modern tailored necktie or bowtie.

Why were they used?
Once it was tied, these pretty jeweled things were used to anchor that bad boy down so harsh winds would not have it blowing in you face (or someone else’s).
Now the fancy cravats or scarves sometimes were worn over the shoulder so these little sparkles were used as jewelry with a hidden agenda of actually being useful as an anchor. . (Somehow I think the brooch was what they had in mind, but stick pins were so much easier to stab thru thick material and to close)

What did they look like?
Originally stickpin designs were simple — a single pearl, gem or cameo nestled neatly in the folds or under the knot of the tie. But by the 1850s, men of wealth and fashion began to design their own personalized pins as a form of extravagant self expression. Tiffany and Ostby & Barton started producing luxuriously cut emeralds, rubies, sapphires, opals and pearls that were set in gold and encircled with more diamonds.

And then came the aesthetic period when anything and everything went on the head of those pins.

That means insects ( like scarabs) and claws , fingers and teeth and things a voodoo princess might call “staples” in her cupboard.

In the art nouveau period you saw creepy and you saw beauty. There were stylized woman with long flowing hair and figurals of faces that you could only adore. Stones wrapped in serpents and carvings of gardens and flowers were popular with the Darwinist’s (Darwin’s theory created a whole subculture of followers). Spiders and flies and delicate filigree that held diamonds and opals were all held with the same high esteem.

Miniature art with tiny paintings of people and animal companions were delicately painted and set in bezels that went on top of these pins. Most were hand made and once the trend set in it was like a challenge to make a more unusual and exotic pin than the next …Tiny mosaics of glass and cloisonné came from Europe jewelers. Sterling and gold and platinum knew no bounds. . By the 1870s, animal heads, horseshoes, knife-and-fork motifs, crossed pipes, political symbols, miniature paperweights of Venetian glass, wishbones, fraternal insignias, flowers, shields and a host of other novel designs were popular.

And a funny thought that came to mind
I can’t help but thinking of that poor robber being stabbed with spider on the other end of a pin… CSI would have a ball with that one.

What were they made of?
Celluloid was another inexpensive material that found a niche in stickpin ornamentation. It could be made in a wide range of vibrant colors as well as in imitation of ivory, jet amber and coral. It was used for advertising logos and miniature photographs. Most common were gold, sterling silver, platinum, brass, silver plate

How much did they cost?
Costing from a dollar to thousands, these jeweled pins were all the rage.

Who bought them?
Sometimes called novelty pins, they were in most people’s jewelry boxes. Also called tourist pieces, they were part of the Grand tour where the Victorians traveled all over Europe to be part of the phenomena of Kings Tuts tomb.

My thoughts again..
Now mind you …. IF it were up to me they would not be around today. I have a hard time keeping track of anything so small in my boxes of jewelry, much less keeping it for well over 100 years.

What about the transitional period?
During the Gay Nineties, the stickpin crossed gender boundaries as active young women began wearing them as part of sporting costumes. Stylish outfits for bicycling, boating, horseback riding, tennis and golf were in vogue. No lady's outfit was complete without trendy neckwear, which was adopted from men's fashion. That famed Cravat or scarf was popular with both male and female and all of them required the adornment of an ornamental stickpin. These were not just worn on cravats anymore. Oh no…They were worn on dresses and hats (longer being called the hatpin, but really just huge stick pin) and on lapels and blouses.

This was the beginning of a fashion trend that would reign for two decades. Between 1894 and 1930, countless patents were issued for prong settings, ornament attachments, stickpin blanks, safety clutches, guards and decorations.

HOW creative were they?
One imaginative designer created an innovative brooch with a decorative center that converted to a stickpin. Another featured a detachable ornament that concealed a tiny lead pencil point in the shaft of the pin. One faddish design featured a pin with a reservoir behind the ornamental head for holding the blossom of a small flower. That is called a tussie mussie.

Perhaps one of the most peculiar patents was issued to Albert Johnson of Washington, D.C., for Luminous Jewelry. His stickpin design featured a star motif of radioactive material that made it glow. Well maybe another one might be the one that had a tiny battery in the gents pocket so it would light up.

How were they Displayed?
Along with these pins came the way to display them. Gorgeous miniature vases with holes in the tops like flower frogs became very popular for the wealthy. These were made in bisque, china, porcelain, celluloid, metal and wood, with both masculine and feminine appeal. The not so wealthy who owned them used other ways to display their stickpins, using such items as pincushions, small antique saltshakers.

And then what happened when no one wanted them anymore?
When the stickpin craze lost some of its pizzazz around WW1, jewelers would take 5 or 6 of them and form a brooch that resembles a porcupine. One center piece with rays (stickpins) like the sun protruding from it..

What can you use them for now and why would you want to buy them?
Heading into this century, these beautiful and most unusual pieces of jewelry are easily adaptable. You can pull your hair up on that bohemian gypsy style and place them strategically throughout the curls. You can pin them to your headband to bring a little flash to your accessory. Some folks take it to a jeweler and make a pendant out of it. Scarves are all the rage so you can certainly pin one to it and watch the people start talking about how UNIQUE that is! Soon they will be asking you where you got such a piece!

I have sold many to brides who have used them as the “Something old” or had their husbands to be, wear one and give one to each of his groomsmen.

As purse accessories they are quite the conversation starter, as gifts they are very heart warming. Added to a silk or velvet ribbon they make pretty bookmarks and are now being used in scrapbooking.

You still need more reasons?
Mel Gibson as he accepted his Oscars for "Braveheart wore one if you like to follow the movie stars…As Rock Hudson wore a white handkerchief in the suit breast pocket or Elton John wear’s those FABULOUS glasses It could easily become a signature look. It requires a certain amount of attitude and savoir-faire which I am sure you can pull off with ease.

Ivana Trump (May 4, 2009 issue of People magazine) wore three generously sized spiders crawling up the bodice of her dress. Spiders on such an elegant gown of a beautiful woman prove just how daring and sexy these can be.

To the elite is has become a discreet status symbol. They're understated, personal and intricate..
They have been shown in Armani ads in case you are a fashionista ?

Valerie Steele, a lecturer at the Fashion Institute of Technology and the author of "Fetish," a book about the sexual implications of clothing, speaks of stickpins with reverence. "The idea of glittering, precious jewels on a pin that pierces the fabric of your clothing is very erotic in a Freudian sense," she said.
Need I say more???
Check out these that I have on my web page

Put a little vintage sparkle back in your life

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