They Didn’t Make Jewelry Like that in the 19th Century…

As a Civil War reenactor and historian, it is always a challenge to ensure that my clothing and jewelry are as historically accurate as possible, within the confines of 21st-century reproduction capabilities and 21st-century historical prejudices.

As a 21st-century jewelry designer, I am free to use a large variety of materials and techniques to create interesting pieces that challenge my creativity. When I design pieces for use by reenactors of 19th-century events, it becomes very important to research and discover the common materials and jewelry findings that were invented or in use during those time periods. In this blog, I’m going to be discussing tips and hints for those looking to purchase either antiques or period-correct reproductions to wear with a living history outfit. Since my discussion will span a couple centuries from time to time, depending on the topic, some of the information may be of use to reenactors of periods other than Civil War.

As much as I research and study pictures, I’m always learning and discovering new facts that shatter previous beliefs about particular jewelry findings or types. For instance, just last week I discovered that lobster claw clasps weren’t used until the 1970s; for some reason I had assumed that they were used in the 19th century. Therefore, I need to go back and change the clasps on my necklaces because many of them have lobster clasps on them. 


So what was used instead? Hooks or box clasps were the popular choices throughout the 19th century. There were many variations on this simple theme:


I hope that you will enjoy my blog and that you will visit my Handmade by Amazon shop Jewels Victoriana from time to time to see my new offerings and examples of Victorian jewelry that I will be talking about here. And if there’s something you’d like me to write about, please let me know.

By the way, the idea for this blog was prompted from frustration I experienced this past weekend at a living history show where I saw a variety of bad jewelry being sold to unsuspecting people. The period covered for the show was supposed to end in 1890, but the cameos that were being sold were blatently representing women from the twentieth century. So, I am hoping to provide an education to those interested in learning about the history of jewelry.

Cheers–Liz Kelley Kerstens