Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Chatelaine Magic

Often we think of a Chatelaine as the keeper of the castle. The woman in charge of the keys to a very large house.  I picture a bone thin matron dressed all in black. Her hair is pulled tight in a chignon. She is wearing hightop button down leather shoes that, one can hear echoing, slapping against the wooden floor boards, from anywhere in the house. As she goes from room to room making the place secure she will be especially careful to lock that squeaky attic door. Who knows what is lurking up there?

Sometime in the early eighteenth century, the term Chatelaine changed slightly and came to refer to the ornament that the lady of the house would wear on her belt. It consisted of a set of short chains of varying lengths that could dangle keys, but now; a small pair of scissors, a thimble, a magnifying glass, or whatever tool she may need in her duties of the day would be there as well. In this scenario, I envision a much more refined woman with lots of happy children about.

Depending on the means of the gentlewoman, it could be made of pinchbeck (an early imitation gold named for its inventor), silver, or real gold. Some were very elaborate in their design and were decorated with enamel, precious gems, or inlaid with agate. What a pleasure it must have been to own one of these fancy utilitarian accessories. 

By the early 1800's, the gents picked up on the trend and would use their chatelaines to carry monocles, small writing tablets, mechanical pencils, and good luck charms. 

It would have been a definite fashion statement for any gentleman enjoying a day at the races. A must really, to keep track of favorite horses, race results, etc.

Pictured here, this extraordinary circa mid to late 1800's chatelaine pendant has a secret. It is a highly detailed sterling silver racing horse's head with beautiful European cut rubies for his eyes. As it is, the charm measures about one and one half inches long. The secret he holds is magic. That is, a Magic Pencil.  A retractable, telescoping pencil that measures two and one half inches extended. This outstanding artifact with it's perfectly working mechanical mechanism is most certainly a rare find. 

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