Antique bracelet from the 1870s, a restoration tale.
A client brought to us a Victorian bracelet in dire condition. The bracelet was a belt and buckle hinged bracelet dating from the 1870s.
This bracelet had been handed down in the family and had quite a history. It had been passed down to the granddaughter of the original owner, who in turn wished to pass it on in turn to her own granddaughter on or around her 21st birthday. Sadly, she became gravely ill when the girl was still a young child.
She knew that she would never live to see her granddaughter come of age, so she made a resolution and carefully wrote a letter to the child to be opened in the future, long after she was gone. This was a difficult, heartfelt letter of love and advice to a young woman from her Grandmother.
She then gathered the bracelet along with the hand written letter and an antique photograph of her own grandmother as a young woman (the photograph is a formal portrait taken in the 1870s, in the photograph she is wearing the bracelet) . She entrusted them to her the girl’s other grandmother with the firm hope that they would be delivered someday.
The buckle and belt has always been a popular motif in jewelry, many rings and bracelets took on those shapes in the 19th century. It was used as a love token expressing eternal loving strength and a permanent bond of affection. When it is used as a memento mori. In Victorian mourning jewelry, it represents the strength of an unbreakable circle of loyalty, enduring memory and love.
You can see how this is the perfect token. Any gift or family heirloom would be appreciated, but this was a legacy of her very own family from an age where jewelry served as a powerful talisman.
The trustee took her charge seriously and saw the importance of restoring the bracelet before passing it on and brought it to me to see what could be done.
Unfortunately, the bracelet was in terrible condition when I first saw it. It had been badly damaged and poorly repaired. It was missing parts and the clasp did not function.
In its damaged condition it was certainly an interesting artifact, but it lacked the power of a complete living piece of jewelry.
Fortunately, we had the antique photograph of it in its original condition to use as a guide in a difficult restoration.
We rebuilt the buckle section in rose gold matched the long safety chain and repaired the clasp to make it functional.
The original bracelet’s finish was restored and the bracelet looked surprisingly contemporary.
The finished piece was beautiful!
And yes… She LOVES the bracelet!
The power of human lives endures in jewelry. I feel that if you do not understand this you are missing an important connection with the jewelry and you cannot restore it. When I was young, I was fortunate enough to have apprenticed with a master goldsmith from Spain. She was a wonderful woman named Pilar Romallio. She was beautiful, elegant and amazingly talented. She told me that “we must put love into everything we do, every single piece of jewelry whether we are making money on it or not”.
I have taken this to heart and apply it to everything I do… I hope it shows.