Monday, July 26, 2010

Frankenblogging Part 6: Medieval Wire Jewellry

Author's note: The Frankenblogging feature is a republication of older content from my former personal webpage, with some annotations. It occurs every Monday morning. Annotations are in this typeface.

I wrote this a long while ago. Please excuse the 10-year-old, grainy, low quality digital photography. 

On Wire Jewellry in the Medieval Period
Good books on the subject:
Welch, Martin Discovering Anglo-Saxon England isbn 0-271-00894-6

has some information on grave-finds, including color pictures of a double pin connected by a chain and spiraled-wire beads. 

Ogden, Jack Ancient Jewellry (from the _Interpreting the Past_ series) by ISBN0-520-08030-0

Slim book, lots of information and illustrations. Ancient wire-making techniques, chains, etc. 

Egan, Geoff and Pritchard, Frances Dress Accessories c1150 - c1450 Medieval Finds from Excavations in London: 3 isbn 0 11 290444 0

In-depth catalogue and study of artefacts from the Museum of London excavations of the London waterfront. Lots of clear photographs, some colour plates, many detail drawings of jewelry, belts, pins and other accesories. Extremely useful to the medieval costumer for all the finishing touches. 

I've copied several pieces from this book, in particular two copper wire annular brooches, shown on p 254,
fig 164, artefacts 1340 and 1341. Descriptions of these artefacts and two further similar pieces (one in gold, from York) are given on p 256. The chapter of Hair Accessories is of especial interest. I've made several
of the decorative u-pins (p295, fig 196), and recreated possible original states of both of the nearly-complete circlets/headdress frames, which are made of silk-covered wire.

There are also spiraled wire beads and of course chains from Anglo-Saxon england, rome, etc, as well as a sort of naalbinding technique used to make chains from viking times to the present (although modern examples
are mostly from the Middle East and North Africa).

This is another clear case of "I've got a BOOK! I'm an EXPERT NOW!!!" I'm sorry. But, that said, these things are both documentable and easy to make with cheap and widely available materials, which makes them kind of fun to have references for. Hence my geeky excitement.

Jewelry and personal items made after items in Dress Accessories

A grouping of homemade reproductions of medieval period items.

Author's note: I took these with a terrible, terrible old digital camera sometime in 1998 or 1999, and the picture quality is just AWFUL. My most heartfelt apologies for that fact. I plan a new post on some of these items with new photos, as I still have most of them.

A grouping of homemade reproductions of medieval period items, this time with a wooden jewelry casket bound in incised leather.

Author's note: This "wooden jewelry casket" is actually a fairly nicely redressed 1950's or 1960's small mass-produced jewelry box. It's lined on the inside with tooled brass sheet and printed cloth. I think it's still neat enough to get its own future post. 

A full-size (1") and a double-size (2") reconstruction of a small double-spiral ornamented ring brooch in Dress Accessories (p 254, fig 164, artefacts 1340 and 1341). There are actually numerous examples of this type of brooch, in base and precious metals.

My versions are all in copper.

A conjectural brooch made with a flattened coil wired to two concentric rings and decorated with flat spirals at the compass points. It is all copper.

A reconstruction of a simple but effective little (1") flattened
coil brooch described and illustrated in Dress Accessories. It has no foundation ring. Mine is copper with an iron pin.

A first attempt to create a period grooming set (earspoon, tweezers and toothpick) after examples shown in Dress  Accessories.

This attempt at reproducing one is made from hammered copper sheet, cut and shaped, with fine brass wire wrapped around to provide grips. it is perforated and strung on a small chain, which depends from a brooch.

Hair or veil pins made after examples shown in Dress Accessories (p295, fig 196). They show the characteristic doubled-spiral decoration. The originals were made in copper, brass, silver and gold (if I recall correctly).

These I made in two sizes, all in copper. I have since made more,
in brass.

A draft of a conjectural recreation of the fragmentary iron wire headgear with silk-wrapped spiral brass wire decoration shown in Dress Accessories. These pictures are larger than the others to attempt to show the detail of the piece.

Mine is made of heavy copper wire for the base, instead of iron, because it is easier for me to get my hands on. The spiral decoration is made of brass wire, wrapped with cotton embroidery floss, which was then formed into the double spiral motif. The base wire was wrapped with the same floss, and this was used to secure the ends of the wire into smoothly covered loops. Finally, the decoration was attached by wrapping on a further layer of floss. The ends were sewn down to secure them. It is held shut with a matching floss tie.

I have not attempted to attach a veil to this piece because I'm saving the good translucent silk for the final product.

It is not known if the original is in fact a circlet or if it is
some other kind of head ornament, such as a veil frame. The original was found to have fragments of a  transparent silk veil attached to the spiral decoration, and one end of was formed into a hook or opened loop. The other end was broken off.

This is a reconstruction of the silk-wrapped iron wire circlet with silk-wrapped square knot decoration in two colors shown in Dress Accessories. Mine is made of heavy copper wire for the base, instead of iron, because it is easier for me find.

The base wire was wrapped with yellow-dyed unspun silk, and this was used to secure the ends of the wire into smoothly covered loops.

The ornamental wires are copper, wrapped with blue and red dyed unspun silk. These were carefully knotted around the base wire so as to form decorative square knots at regular intervals (about 1 inch apart). Once these were attached, red silk was used to smoothly
cover the ends of the decorative wires near the loops. Finally, the circlet is held closed by a silky cord tied through the ends.

The two circlets, together, and another image of the two together, on edge to show details.

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