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Catalog Data

Wood, gold
2 × 3/4 in. (5.1 × 1.9 cm)
Costume accessories
Victorian (1837-1901)
Charm for chatelaine in the form of a small black hand with gold bracelet. The hand holds a small gold flower in its palm. This is most likely a piece of mourning jewelry. The hand is often a mourning symbol in victorian jewelry in memory of husband or sweetheart.
Label Text:
The chatelaine is a utilitarian and decorative waist-hung accessory that is steeped in history, which led to a greater symbolic meaning. The word chatelaine’s etymology comes from Medieval France, as early as 1196, when the word denoted the “mistress of the castle.” The symbol of her office was the keys to the household that she wore at her waist. The word chatelaine now signifies the object rather than the women who wore them. These charming objects presented endless forms, materials, objects, and styles with which to accessorize throughout the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. Though originally worn by the women of the house, by the Victorian Era their popularity and usefulness lent themselves to be worn by children, servants, and nurses
The chatelaine came in a variety of forms and could be suited to different purposes. It may have been attached to the belt or waistband by a hook, be made as a belt, or dangle from the finger, hand or wrist, as seen in later eras. Single purpose chatelaines were often created for watches, etuis, bags, perfume bottles, fans, keys and spectacles. However, in many cases, they were multifunctional and dangled those items, as well as other small tools and decorative ornaments. This waist-hung accessory was intended to be worn by a lady during the day, both as a fashionable piece of jewelry and a utilitarian object that would keep daily household objects close at hand. Sometimes these pieces even acted as a religious tool, which held a small book of prayer or as commemoration object of an event, person, or love interest. The most common accessories of the chatelaine were the watch and the etui. The etui was a small decorative container that could hold various items such as needle working tools, spectacles and other household objects Accompanying the watch, etui, or other primary appendage could be a variety of accessories, either utilitarian or decorative. Trinkets, tassels, charms, and other items were often attached to chains though they served no function other than to adorn. More utilitarian objects included corkscrews, penknives, seals, keys, pomander, scissors, thimble case, bodkin case, notebook in metal case, small purse, pin cushion, and tape measurers.
Designs and styles for chatelaines typically followed the decorative and fine art movements of the time. However, changes in fashions and the construction of women’s garments brought about the end of such objects in the mid nineteenth century. As purses and pockets in women’s clothing developed, the chatelaine was rendered useless, though it made a resurgence between 1870 and 1914 as a collectable item.
charms  Search this
chatelaines  Search this
costume accessories  Search this
decorative arts  Search this
fashion  Search this
jewelry  Search this
mourning  Search this
mourning jewelry  Search this
Victoriana  Search this
Credit Line:
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection. Gift of Frances Jones Poetker.
Accession number:
Restrictions & Rights:
Usage conditions apply
See more items in:
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Data Source:
Smithsonian Gardens