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Dearly Beloved: Adornments of Marriage and Sentiment

Personal adornments related to the joyful occasion of matrimony and sentiments of love were cherished and often passed down through generations. When there were no heirs to leave of these treasures to they were often donated to museums or historical societies. Because of such donations, Historic New England has amassed a large collection of jewelry that documents the customs and ceremonies of courtship and marriage in America over the past three hundred years.


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Rings are symbols of many sentiments such as the eternity of love, fidelity, commitment, and the immortality of the soul. In England, the church required the use of rings in its marriage ceremony. However, in colonial America, it was not a universal practice, especially in New England where Puritans perceived many customs of the Church of England as materialistic excesses. By the nineteenth century the use of rings in betrothal and wedding ceremonies in America became more widespread. Rings in the collection dating from the first half of the nineteenth century were often used as both engagement and wedding rings and illustrate the diversity of style and materials that were utilized at that time. Diamonds were prohibitively expensive and were not commonly used in engagement rings until after the Civil War. Early diamonds were usually set in silver in closed-back and collet settings. Open settings in which the pavilion of the diamond is exposed to light in order to increase the brilliancy of the diamond became popular in the 1870s and 1880s, and in 1886 the introduction of the “Tiffany Setting” by Charles Louis Tiffany solidified the position of the diamond solitaire ring as the preferred style of American engagement ring.


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Before the rise of diamonds, suites of pearls were the traditional gift to brides, particularly in America where the fashion for pearls lasted long after it had waned in Europe. This prolonged taste is due to the discovery of domestic supplies of freshwater pearls in the Mid Atlantic and Midwest in the nineteenth century. Pearls, which are a symbol of tears, happiness, and purity, were deemed a demure and appropriate gift to young brides. Seed pearl suites consisted of tiny pearls strung onto mother-of-pearl plaques and often featured rosette and flower designs. Early seed pearl suites were often set with colored stones or foil-backed pastes, while later suites are made entirely of pearls and tend to be larger and more elaborate.

A variety of jewelry materials enjoyed periods of popularity as engagement and wedding gifts. Carved ivory suites consisting of brooches and earrings in the form of sheaths of wheat were fashionable in the mid-nineteenth century. The wheat motif, which was a symbol of plenty and fertility, was considered a fitting gift to young brides. Jewelry worn by brides during the wedding ceremony is another category in the collection. Many of these pieces were donated with related items and give us a better understanding of wedding fashions. White was not universally worn by American brides in the late eighteenth century. For example, Prudence Jenkins wore at her wedding in 1778, a brightly colored floral brocaded silk dress and high-heeled silk shoes with a similar pattern. In the second half of the nineteenth century brides wore headdresses made of orange blossoms. This fashion began when Queen Victoria wore the flowers for her wedding in 1840.


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In the second half of the nineteenth century the style and use of hair jewelry changed dramatically. Instead of small locks set under glass, hair became the predominant material and whole pieces of jewelry were made of woven human hair. This new style was not only used as memorials to deceased loved ones, but also as sentimental tokens exchanged between lovers, family members and friends. Using your own hair, jewelry could either be commissioned from a professional hairworker, of which there were many in Boston, or purchased from a retailer. Some retailers provided illustrated catalogues with large sections devoted to hair jewelry. A. Bernhard & Co. of New York advertised itself as a manufacturer of diamond work and ornamental hair jewelry as well as other fine jewelry in their 1870 catalogue. Those who wanted a more personal touch and who were nimble of finger and artistically endowed could make their hair jewelry at home with kits that were advertised in popular periodicals such as Godey’s Lady’s Book.


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Another form of intensely personal jewelry utilized portraits. In the eighteenth century painted miniature portraits often done on ivory were set in bracelet clasps, brooches, or worn on chains as pendants. These pieces were often set with hair arranged either in woven or braided patterns or cut and sculpted into feather and curl designs decorated with seed pearls and pieces of gold wire. Miniatures continued to be popular until the invention of the daguerreotype in the 1830s and subsequent photographic processes, such as the ambrotype and tintype, which were quicker, less expensive, and more durable. This new technology gained popularity as a method of portraiture. Photographs were set in almost every form of jewelry during the second half of the nineteenth century and were particularly popular during the Civil War.


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Ring
Possibly American, 1775
Gold
Diam. ¾, W. 1/16 in.
Gift of Mrs. Arthur Outram Sherman
1953.9

This wedding ring purportedly belonged to Dorothy Quincy (1747-1830), and dates to her August 23, 1775 marriage to John Hancock (1737-1793), second president of the Continental Congress, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and first governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Hancock was also one of the richest merchants in Massachusetts, but Dorothy’s unadorned band indicates that Puritan attitudes towards wedding rings still prevailed in the late eighteenth century. After her husband's death in 1793, the ring was enameled in black and worn as a mourning ring. The enamel has worn off and the inscription on the inner band is no longer legible. According to the donor the inscription originally read "D.Q. & J.H." with the date of their marriage.

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Ring
Possibly American, 1810-1820
Gold
Diam. ¾, W. 3/8 in.
Gift of Mrs. John S. Thatcher
1935.1234
Inscription: “E F”

This double heart ring is a simplified variation of the heart-in-hand ring, which consisted of two hands clasping a heart. These rings, which enjoyed popularity in America in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, were appropriate as tokens of love and were commonly used as wedding rings. According to the donor, this ring was her grandmother’s wedding ring. Elizabeth Fish (1789-1859) married William Jones about 1815.

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Ring
United States or Europe, 1822
Gold, garnets
Diam. 13/16, W. 3/16 in.
Gift of the Misses Emma Gertrude & Harriet Alma Cummings
1934.1914.1
Inscription: “Remember the giver C. W. to H. H.”

Engagement and wedding rings from the first half of the nineteenth century utilized many materials and forms. Garnets and seed pearls, symbols of tears of happiness, were a popular combination as were other colored stones, such as rubies, emeralds, amethysts, and turquoises. This engagement ring is set with a ring of rose cut garnets and belonged to Harriet Homer (1804-1836), who married Charles Whiting (1799-1831) on October 6, 1822.

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Ring
United States or Europe, c. 1875
Gold, enamel, pearl
Diam. ¾, W. 3/8 in.
Bequest of Lydia G. Chace
1965.128
Inscription:
Hallmark: “18”
Scratch Mark: “332 / + = A”

In the 1870s and ‘80s, open settings, which exposed the entire diamonds to light and increased its brilliance, became fashionable. These settings consisted of prongs rising from the band in a basket shape to clasp the diamond around its girdle, or circumference. However, this type of setting was also an effective way to display perfectly round oyster pearls. According to the donor, this was the engagement ring of her mother, Ella Frances (Trippe) Chace, who married Samuel Chace on June 15, 1875.

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Ring
United States, 1930-1940
Platinum, diamonds
Diam. ¾, W. 1/4 in.
Bequest of Eleanor Fayerweather
1993.877
Inscription: “10% IRIDPL.”

In 1886, Tiffany & Co. introduced a six-prong setting for diamonds called the “Tiffany Setting.” The successful marketing of this setting by the company solidified the diamond’s position as the preferred style of American engagement ring. By 1925, etiquette expert Emily Post recommended diamond rings over other types because “the great majority will probably always consider a diamond the only ring to have.” This ring also reflects the change from silver to platinum as the preferred base metal to set diamonds. While platinum is a more expensive material, unlike silver, it does not tarnish and is much more durable.

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Ring
Edward Everett Oakes (1891-1960)
Wakefield and Boston, Massachusetts, c. 1946
White gold, sapphire
Diam. ¾, W. 3/8 in.
Gift of Barbara Wriston
2004.14.10
Ring
Edward Everett Oakes (1891-1960)
Wakefield and Boston, Massachusetts, c. 1946
Gold, white gold
Diam. ¾, W. 5/16 in.
Gift of Barbara Wriston
2004.14.11

This sapphire engagement ring and wedding band made in 1946 for Marguerite Woodworth Wriston by the Boston Arts and Crafts jewelry maker, Edward Everett Oakes (1891-1960). Oakes closely examined his clients’ hands before designing jewelry for them. Both rings feature characteristics of Oakes’s work-- the use of two kinds of metals, pierced floral designs, collet-set stones, and oak leaf patterns, the designer’s signature motif.

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Shoe Buckles
Probably Birmingham, England, 1770-1778
Paste, silver, steel
H. 2, W. 2, D. 5/8 in.
Gift of Miss Frances L. Chace
1931.1668 a,b
Shoe
Probably England, 1770-1778
Silk
Gift of Miss Frances L. Chace
1931.1667
Dress Fragments
London, England, 1770-1778
Silk
Gift of Miss Frances L. Chace
1931.1671 a-g

These shoe buckles were worn by Prudence Jenkins (b. 1759) at her 1778 wedding to Dr. John Chace.  Historic New England also has fragments of Prudence’s brocaded silk wedding dress, which, according to tradition, was purchased in London for a guinea a yard as well as one of her high heeled wedding shoes covered in a green and purple floral brocade. These related objects illustrate that eighteenth century brides either wore their best dress or had wedding clothes specially made for the occasion and did not universally wear white, which was considered a more appropriate color for mourning.

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Brooch and Earrings in Original Case
United States or Europe, c. 1850
Ivory
Brooch: H. 2 ¼, W. 1 5/8, D. ½ in.
Earrings: L. 2 ½, W. ½ in.
Gift of Miss Emma L. Coleman
1927.2089 a-d

Presents of jewelry were common to brides in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the 1850s, suites of carved ivory jewelry in the form sheaths of wheat, which was a symbol of plenty and fertility, were considered fitting gifts to young brides.

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Necklace
United States or Europe, c. 1871
Gold
L. 8 1/8, W. 3/8 in.
Gift of Hannah May Burrough Freeman
1933.1464
Brooch
Shreve Crump & Low
Boston, Massachusetts, c. 1871
Gold, chalcedony
H. 2, W. 1 ½, D. 5/8 in.
Gift of Hannah May Burrough Freeman
1933.1462
Headdress and Earrings
c. 1871
Wax, silk
Headdress: Diam. 8 ½ in.
Earrings: L. 2 5/8, W. 7/8 in.
Gift of Hannah May Burrough Freeman
1925.232 a-c
Pair of Shoes
c. 1871
Leather
Gift of Hannah May Burrough Freeman
1925.231 a,b
Bodice
c. 1871
Silk
Gift of Hannah May Burrough Freeman
1925.233

In 1840, when Queen Victoria walked down the aisle with orange blossoms in her hair, she set a bridal fashion that crossed the Atlantic and lasted well into the twentieth century. In 1871, Harriet Fairbrother of Rhode Island wore a wreath of silk and wax orange blossoms with matching drop earrings and a gold bead necklace when she married Frank Burrough. Orange blossoms decorated the bodice of her wedding dress, which she wore with white kid slippers. Historic New England also has a finely carved chalcedony cameo in its original Shreve, Crump and Low case that was a wedding present from her husband, Frank Mason Burrough.

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Bracelets, Earrings, and Brooch
Stephen Twycross
London, England, 1796
Diamonds, natural pearls, gold, miniature paintings on ivory
Earrings: L. ¾, W. ½, D. ½ in.
Bracelet clasps: H. ¾, W. ½, D. 1/8 in.
Brooch: H. 1, W. 5/8, D. ¼ in.
Gift of Miss Frances Gray (Ellen W. Joy)
1953.42 a-e

Inscription:
Brooch Front: “WE MUST SUBMIT”
Brooch Reverse: engraved “Barrell / ob 20 Feb. / 1777 / At 24"; painted on reverse of ivory "HB”
Bracelet Clasp: “ENJOYMENT”
Bracelet Clasp: “I SEEK THE END”
Earring: “INNOCENCE”
Earring; “EXPECTATION”

The earliest pearl bridal jewelry in the collection is a parure made by the London jeweler Stephen Twycross. This suite was commissioned by the wealthy Charlestown merchant, Joseph Barrell, for his daughter Hannah Barrell (1773-1842) on the occasion of her marriage in 1797. The set is typical of the Neoclassic style which utilized symmetrical shapes, light and airy materials, and classical symbols. Each piece is set with a miniature painting on ivory that depicts members of the Barrell family including a memorial to Hannah’s late mother, Hannah (Fitch) Barrell.

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Necklace and Earrings
Shreve Crump & Low
Boston, Massachusetts, 1871
Gold, pearls
Necklace: L. 11 ½ in.
Earrings: L. ¾, W. 3/8 in.
Gift of the Stephen Phillips Memorial Charitable Trust for Historic Preservation
2006.44.30 a-d
Margaret (Duncan) Phillips (1847-1926)
D.B. Vickery
Haverhill, Massachusetts, 1887
Cabinet card
Gift of the Stephen Phillips Memorial Charitable Trust for Historic Preservation
Ring
Shreve Crump & Low
Boston, Massachusetts, 1871
Gold
Diam. 13/16, W. 3/16 in.
Gift of the Stephen Phillips Memorial Charitable Trust for Historic Preservation
2006.44.26
Inscription: "October 3d 1871"
Ring
United States or Europe, 1870
Gold, old mine cut diamond
Diam. 13/16, W. 3/8 in.
Gift of the Stephen Phillips Memorial Charitable Trust for Historic Preservation
2006.44.25
Inscription: "S.H.P. Dec 30 1870"

This set was a wedding present to Margaret Duncan from her husband Stephen Henry Phillips. They were married on October 3, 1871. The original receipt shows that Stephen purchased this set from the famous Boston jewelry retailer, Shreve Crump & Low for $790 along with his wedding band for $5.50. The cross can be worn as either a brooch or a pendant. In 1887, Margaret was photographed wearing the pearl cross from her wedding set as a brooch. Convertible jewelry was popular in the late nineteenth century. Margaret’s old mine cut diamond solitaire engagement ring and Stephen’s gold wedding band are also in Historic New England’s collection.

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Miniature Pendant of Robert Harcourt Twycross (b. 1769)
Painting Attributed to George Place (ca. 1755-1805/09)
London, England, 1791-1798
Watercolor on ivory
Setting, Robert Harcourt Twycross
London, 1791-1798
Gold, opaline, pearl, hair
H. 3 ¾, W. 2 ¾, D. ½ in.
Gift of Mr. William Waters
1994.86
Inscription:
Case: “R. H. Twycross / Jeweller / No. 9 Brook St. / Holborn / London”

The subject of this miniature is Robert Harcourt Twycross (b. 1769), the nephew of the London jeweler, Stephen Twycross (ca. 1745-ca. 1822). Robert was apprenticed to his uncle after his father’s death in 1782. The apprenticeship lasted until April 1, 1800. The painting and setting were probably made around the time of Twycross’ marriage to Harriot Allen in 1794. Portraits from the late eighteenth century illustrate that miniatures set as pendants were worn with the portrait turned towards the body. This exposed the reverse side, which was also decorated. The back of this pendant contains a curl of hair with gold wire and seed pearl accents set on an opaline ground.

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Brooch
United States, 1851-1860
Gold-colored metal, daguerreotype, glass
H. 1 3/16, W. 7/8, D. 3/16 in.
Gift of George C. Winslow
1941.46

Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre (1809-1893) invented a process of photography creating an image on a copper sheet plated with silver in the late 1830s. These photographs, called daguerreotypes, were introduced in the United States by Samuel F. B. Morse, inventor of the telegraph, and quickly became a popular method of portraiture. This brooch contains a daguerreotype of the donor's great uncle, George P. Geer. The portrait was taken by Benjamin Fessenden, who had a studio on Hanover Street in Boston from 1851-1860.

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Necklace
United States, c. 1870
Gold-colored metal, photograph
L. 11 ¼ in.
Bequest of Lydia G. Chace
1965.125
Inscription:
“Ella F. Trippe”

According to the donor, this necklace was given to her mother, Ella Frances (Trippe) Chace, by her father Samuel Gardiner Trippe. The photograph is presumably of Ella's father.

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Bracelet
Probably United States, 1845-1861
Gold, tintypes, hair, glass
L. 7 ½, W. 1 ¼ in.
Gift of Mrs. Albert Thorndike
1919.243
Inscription: “Louis Agassiz / A.D. Bache / Benjamin Peirce / J.Q. Adams / 6th Pres't U.S.A. / Gauss, / Gottingenl. / John Adams / 2nd Pres't U.S.A.”

This unusual bracelet consists of six oval links containing tintypes of famous nineteenth century academics and two American presidents: (left to right) Louis Agassiz (1807-1873), Harvard professor of zoology and geology; Alexander Dallas Bache (1806-1867), first President of the National Academy of Science and superintendent of the United States Coast Survey; Benjamin Peirce (1809-1880), Harvard professor of mathematics and third superintendent of the United States Coast Survey (1867-1874); John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), 6th President of the United States (1825-1829); Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855), noted German mathematician and professor of astronomy at the Goettingen Observatory; John Adams (1735-1826), 2nd President of the United States (1797-1801). Each individual’s hair is mounted under glass behind each portrait, except for John Adam’s portrait, which is said to be the hair of Daniel Webster, Massachusetts Congressman and Senator.

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Bracelet
United States, 1863
Gold, hair
Diam. 4 3/16, W. 1, D. ½ in.
Estate of Jane N. Grew
1920.545
Inscription: “Oct. 11th. / 1863. / M. G. W / from / J. N. W.”

Mary Goddard Wigglesworth (1838-1909) received this bracelet on her twenty-fifth birthday from her sister, Jane Norton Wigglesworth (1836-1920). This pinwheel design was extremely popular in hair jewelry in the late nineteenth century and can be found in almost every hair catalogue published at that time.

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Ring
Probably United States, 1860-1880
Gold, hair
Diam. 7/8, W. ¼ in.
Gift of Miss Ruth C. Presbrey
1944.332
Inscription: “from Mary”

The late nineteenth century saw an explosion of design styles that were fashionable simultaneously. This ring features the classical Greek key pattern with Rococo inspired asymmetrical floral engraving. Rings were often engraved with inscriptions to commemorate a special event, or as this gold and hair ring, simply remind the wearer of the person who gave it to them.

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Necklace
United States, 1850-1870
Gold, hair
L. open 13 ¾, L. closed 8 in.
Gift of Miss Frances G. Curtis
1943.1
Inscription: “F.G.C.”
Frances Greely Stevenson, Isabella Pelham Curtis, and Mrs. Charles Pelham Curtis
Bowers
Lynn, Massachusetts, 1862
Cabinet Card
Gift of Miss Frances Greely Stevenson

This necklace was a present to the donor from her aunt, Miss Isabella Pelham Curtis (b. 1832). The necklace is engraved with the initials of Isabella's sister and the donor's namesake, Frances G. Curtis (1827-1867). Isabella is pictured (standing at center) with her aunt to the right, Mrs. Charles Pelham Curtis (Margaret (Stevenson) McKean 1811-1888) and her cousin, Frances Greely Stevenson (b. 1833) to the left. This picture was taken in 1862 in Lynn, Massachusetts. The women are holding a war map and a sheet of music dedicated to a male relative serving in the Union army.

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Dearly Beloved: Adornments of Marriage and Sentiment