When collecting, studying and working with antique jewelry it is easy to take for granted the crescent and star motif that is so common in Victorian Era jewelry. While photographing some pieces the other day I had a renewed interest in the origins of these images and where they come from.
The nineteenth century saw a wealth of visible comets including the famous Halley’s comet and Comet Tebbutt, also known as “The Great Comet of 1861”. In fact, Comet Tebbutt was so great that earth passed right through its tail that arced visibly across the sky. It was an awe-inspiring sight that would be talked about across the world.
These amazing celestial demonstrations fueled a well-established fervor for astronomy. I can see the jewelry here worn by the woman who attended one of the highly popular astronomy lectures of the day. Her gold and turquoise starburst pin would have been another constellation among the projected images and orreries (mechanical models of the solar system) presented by the speaker.
And if she didn’t attend the lectures or study cosmology she might still have owned a piece with the ubiquitous star and crescent. These images were just as important as the flower or heart in the Victorian woman’s jewelry box. Astronomy was part of everyday conversation. Everyone who kept up with the fashions harnessed the strength and intrigue of the stars in metal and stone in order to have their own piece of the heavens.
This blog post was authored by Jessie Hibbs.
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