Jewellery could give insight into person’s place in society
WHAT does the word jewellery mean to you?
Jewellery can be a precious keepsake, a memory of a person passed, a symbol of commitment and companionship.
It can also act as fashion accessory, an expression of personal style, and social and political beliefs.
It can provide an insight into a person’s wealth and status and what they choose to display to others.
This portrait by artist Henry Wyatt hangs in the 19th century gallery at The Wilson.
It was painted in 1828 and shows a Regency lady wearing fine clothes and jewellery from the era.
She wears long drop earrings, a string of pearls and a long gold chain with spyglass.
She holds the spyglass in bejewelled fingers, her gold rings set with precious stones.
This fashionable lady’s prestige is demonstrated by the jewellery she wears and reflects her place in society.
During this period, there were developments in intimation jewellery.
Paste, a form of durable glass, was being cut in a more sophisticated way; it was cut with a larger number of sides and this created a greater brilliance and a more convincing similarity to precious stones.
You can see examples of paste used in 19th century tiaras within the same gallery space.
In the 20th century, people’s perception of jewellery made from non-precious materials changed.
By the end of the century, instead of the idea of simply imitating more expensive materials, non-precious jewellery developed its own identity and conventional ideas around jewellery and status were challenged.
Founders of contemporary jewellery brand Tatty Devine, Rosie Wolfenden and Harriet Vine, have embraced non-precious materials in their work.
They graduated from art school in 1996 and started using readymade items found in places such as market stalls and charity shops, really turning ideas of ‘precious’ jewellery on its head.
Their aesthetic evolved after discovering laser cutting technology.
They have used this technique to create an array of innovative pieces made from acrylic from ‘wearable bananas’ to lobsters to political messages.
You can see pieces of Tatty Devine jewellery at The Wilson, a venue of The Cheltenham Trust, in the upcoming Tatty Devine and Crafts Council Touring Exhibition Misshapes: The Making of Tatty Devine, opening on Saturday, September 7 and running until Sunday, November 3 (tickets £5/£3).
The Wilson is open Tuesday– Wednesday/friday–saturday 9.30am-5.15pm; Thursday 9.30am–7.45pm and Sunday 11am– 4pm.
You can find us on Facebook and Twitter as @Thewilsonchelt and browse all our events on our website, cheltenhammuseum.org.uk
The Henry Wyatt portrait at The Wilson