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Wedgwood and Jewellery: Chatelaine

Open the V&A Collection at World of Wedgwood’s jewellery box to discover the fascinating stories these gems can tell.


This piece of jewellery is a chatelaine and originally it was designed to substitute the missing pockets of a woman’s dress. Useful household items such as sewing tools, scissors, a coin purse, a clock key, a scent bottle, seals, and the keys to the house were hooked to a series of chains which suspended from a decorative hook or clasp, to be attached to the waistband.

‘Chatelaine’ was also the name for the lady of the house – as the keeper of the keys she was a person of authority.

Over time, this accessory became more and more elaborate and developed into a type of jewellery in its own right. Chatelaines were made from precious metals such as silver or gold, but also from pinchbeck - named after its inventor Christopher Pinchbeck, a London clockmaker. It is an alloy of copper and zinc made to resemble gold.

This chatelaine mainly consists of two sets of chains suspended from two oval-shaped, double-sided blue and white jasper medallions. They are mounted in cut steel frames and the chains themselves are decorated with beads of cut steel. The hook to attach it to the waistband is covered by a plaque elaborately engraved with two cornucopias.

The first jasper medallion features on one side Fortuna and on the other Hygeia. Three beaded chains connect it to the second jasper medallion and two other chains hold a miniature decorative padlock and a watch key on hooks. The second jasper medallion features Hope and on the other side, again, Fortuna.

Five beaded chains of different lengths are attached - the longest holding a cut steel mount for a now lost eyeglass. The two outer chains both hold seals. One is in the shape of a six-lobed leaf, a form often found in gothic architecture. The seal features the letter S in a shell-ornamented frame. The other seal is shaped like a harp with the strings represented by small threaded cut steel beads; the actual seal was never engraved in the plate.

One of the two other chains holds a pear-shaped scent bottle for perfume or smelling salts, the other hook is empty to receive the key of the tea caddy. Tea was a very valuable commodity in the 18th century and the mistress of the house carrying this key would prevent any servant being tempted to try this exclusive and expensive beverage.