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Spotlight On: French Jet

One of the overwhelming aspects of the Victorian period was that of mourning, and the many accoutrements that came with its strict code. While death was prevalent at this time, the fashion for mourning clothing rose to prominence after the death of Prince Albert in 1861 plunged the whole of England into mourning.

Jet is fossilized driftwood, and was especially popular  in mourning jewelry in England due to the large deposits of jet in Whitby, located in Yorkshire. After Prince Albert’s death, jewelers began to utilize new production methods and substitute materials to imitate the look of jet and keep up with demand.

Mid Victorian French jet maltese cross, circa 1870

“French jet” is one of the most effective uses of substitute materials. It is shiny black molded glass, usually mounted in gold or gilded metal, and often faceted like a gemstone. Unlike other substitutes such as gutta percha and bog oak, French jet has a glossy appearance similar to genuine jet. It is also not as fragile as Whitby jet, and was therefore able to be used in more elaborate and delicate pieces. Between the glossy finish, twinkling faceted edges, and intricate design, French jet pieces are shimmering, wearable pieces that are equally appealing to a modern eye. They look equally at home with a white button-down shirt as they down with a little black dress.

- Lindsay


How to Wear: Dress Clips

Dress clips are a little time capsule of the Art Deco period. Especially popular in the 1920s, 30s and 40s, they were (and still are!) a great way to accentuate a neckline. With a little imagination, they can spice up practically any ensemble. Celebrities such as Charlize Theron and Olivia Palermo have even been spotted wearing them on the red carpet.

Dress clips are usually a pair of decorative elements, with a flat, hinged back so that they can literally be clipped onto your dress. Our favorite ones are considered "clip pins" and come with a frame that they can snap into, allowing them to also be worn as a brooch. This was an idea invented by Cartier, of course, and they are also pretty rare. And...we just happen to have a pair of Art Deco diamond ones right now!

Art Deco diamond dress clips

So, how are you supposed to wear these things? Here are a few ideas to try:

  • clip them as they were originally intended: to the neckline of your dress. They are particularly effective on sweetheart and square necklines
  • clip them to the collar points of a blouse or jacket
  • attach them to a scarf, or use them to clip your scarf to your clothing
  • add a little sparkle to a belt or waistline
  • clip onto a ribbon or chain for an instant choker or necklace
  • you can even clip one or both of them to a hairband for a modern approach to hair accessories
  • create a more casual look by attaching them asymmetrically

Check out our "How to Wear: Dress Clips" Pinterest board to see some real-life examples!

-- Lindsay


Be inspired by Downton

Fashionable people often take inspiration from pop culture, and Downton Abbey is providing ample spark for sartorialists and fashionistas alike.  Downton Abbey transports the viewer to an elegant world of wealth and privilege.


Our favorite residents of the eponymous country house are living in a time of rapid changes.  As Downton Abbey transitions from the Edwardian Era into the roaring 20’s, the clothes will focus less on fabric and more on silhouette.  The corset will give way to the slim low waisted flapper dress suited for the new jazz age. 

 A circa 1910 pendant, compared to a circa 1920 pendant

Jewelry will be equally affected by the shift in style.  Lacey Edwardian pieces will give way to the bold geometry of art deco jewelry heavily influenced by the innovations taking place in transportation.  Art deco motifs featured elements that epitomize speed; the arrow, car, panther, and airplanes.

An example of Art Deco geometry and bold color combination, using coral and hematite

The modern shopper can see the appeal of these timeless pieces.  Art deco jewelry is easily mixed with modern clothes.  For example, a chic pair of Past Era’s art deco long drop earrings paired with a little black dress creates the perfect au current look.  Keep watching the Crawleys and come visit us to find the perfect look.

Art Deco diamond and pearl drop earrings 

- Dan


Georg Jensen's Art Nouveau Elegance

As the newest member of the Past Era team, I want to introduce myself.  My name is Daniel, and I’ve been a passionate collector of antiques for most of my adult life.  My love of collecting began when I was a young boy.  It all started with Star Wars figures.  I quickly realized that if one was good, a dozen had to be better.  As my age and finances improved so did my toys.  As my collection grew, diverse periods, decorative arts and materials captured my attention. Finally, I discovered the beauty of silver both in objects and jewelry.  One of my greatest treasures is a simple bowl from the master silversmith, Georg Jensen.  

In 1904, Georg Jensen founded his workshop.  From its genesis, the Jensen foundry created silver pieces that were both masterfully crafted and superlative in their artistic expression.  Jensen’s reputation grew rapidly to international acclaim.  Jensen’s personal style embodied the Art Nouveau.  Art Nouveau became popular at the beginning of the 20th century and takes its inspiration from organic natural forms.  Jensen’s jewelry is dynamic and undulating; a seamless fusion of elegance and quality.

Lapis Lazuli Pin/Pendant, designed by Georg Jensen in 1908

Past Era is pleased to display a collection of Jensen’s jewelry work in our store.  Although period in age, the pieces we will have on display are modern in style and totally suited for pairing with current fashions.  Please stop by October 5th - 13th to preview our trunk show.