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5THECULTOF NOVELTY OVELTY'jewellery was a term used at the time in both jewellers' trade catalogues and in fashion and ladies' periodicals. The novelties, most of them relatively inexpensive, have tended to be dismissed as mere curiosities, and in one sense they are, but underlying many are the concerns and preoccupa-tions that dominated social and cultural discourse. A simple ' date' jewel might mark a birthday, engagement or wedding ( Fig. 142), but there was in many instances a message for both wearer and beholder. Some were obvious puns; others were so personal that their mean-ings are unintelligible today. But above all they represent an element of individual choice as opposed to the conventional gifts for bridesmaids or the prescribed etiquette of mourning wear. For both men and women they were the perfect dinner party joke - a battery- powered electric jewel that could be switched on and off at the touch of a button - or conversation piece, whether a bracelet made of the new Parian porcelain in imitation of marble, a stud or brooch in the form of a £ 10 banknote or the new ' penny lilac' stamp brought out in 1881, or the front page from the Daily News, perhaps the equivalent of today's ' birthday' newspa-per. 1Topical events, successes of the stage, popular lyrics: all are mirrored in ornaments intended to delight, amuse or startle. Many may have been created with a youthful audience in mind. ' Old China' jewellery in enamelled silver or gold had been popular since the late 1870s, reflecting the taste for old English ceramics as much as the craze for oriental blue and white porcelain; usually the brooches or earrings were round or oval ( Fig. 144). 2In 1885 Vaughton & Sons of Birmingham brought out a new line: ' To make the plate more realistic', wrote the Jeweller and Metalworker, ' at various portions of it there are imitation chips'. 3The young Isabella Harlock in her portrait by Joseph Southall seems to be wearing one of these: the tightly buttoned brown velvet collar of her jacket is set off by a brooch in the form of a willow- pattern plate with uneven edges. The painting is dated 1888 ( Fig. 143). 142 ' 1889' novelty jewels. Advertisement for ' date' jewels offered by Godwin & Sons of High Holborn. From Illustrated London News, 6 July 1889, p. 32 The simplest are made out of gold or silver wire, others are set with diamonds or pearls. The prices ranged from £ 6 15s for a gold and diamond bracelet to 5s for a silver brooch, which could also be had in best- quality gold ( presumably 18 ct) for 21s and in second- quality ( probably 12 or 9 ct) for 12s 6d. The idea for ' date' jewels may derive from jewelled and enamelled ' date' souvenirs of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee two years earlier. Previous pages: left, detail of bee brooch ( see Fig. 176a); right, fanciful fashion plate ( see Fig. 147) ' N

191 The Southall portrait provides evidence that inexpensive enamelled novelties of this kind were worn by the educated middle classes who could afford to commission portraits. It has often been assumed that novelty jewellery, because it was frequently inexpensive, was a purely middle- class taste. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fashion started at court: as a thank- you present to the Queen on his birthday in 1842 Prince Albert chose a gold bracelet with a spider pursuing a fly on the band, inspired by the popular poem-cum- nursery rhyme ' The Spider and the Fly', written by Mary Howitt in 1828. On their birthdays the members of the royal family always gave trifles or modest souvenirs as an acknowledgement of the gifts they received. 4The Prince of Wales too favoured spider and fly jewels. 5The theme was subsequently adapted around 1880 as a popular matching suite entitled ' YESPIDERANDYEFLIE' by the Birmingham firm of J. J. Wainwright. With eccentrically placed roundels containing the title and raised gold parts on oxidized silver backgrounds, these are typical examples of Birmingham jewellery imitating Japanese mixed- metal work for an English market. 6( Figs 145, 146) Many of these popular novelties were ordered by the royal family through the crown jeweller some time before they became commonplace in the trade. In 1865 the Princess of Wales ordered an artist's palette brooch with gemstones for the paint colours for £ 1310s. A popular novelty item, its message is ' harmony'. This is an early date for this sort of jewel, more usually found in the 1880s ( see Fig. 110). The Prince of Wales's ledger at Garrard's is peppered with purchases of insect jewels and pins with popular catchphrases of the day. 143Above left Portrait of Isabella Harlock, by Joseph Southall ( 1861- 1944). Watercolour, 1888. London Fine Art Society The young sitter wears an ' Old China' willow- pattern brooch, probably one of the novelties introduced by Vaughton & Sons of Birmingham, with ' chipped' edges to make the plate more realistic. 144Above Banknotes, stamps and china plates: enamelled silver and metal novelty jewels. English, 1875- 85. H. of stamp brooch 2.7 cm. Glasgow Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Hull Grundy Gift The design for the £ 10 banknote brooch was registered in 1877. The stamp brooch commemorates the issue of the new Penny Lilac in 1881. The earrings imitate willow- pattern plates, reflecting the craze among ' chinamaniacs' for old English china as much as oriental blue and white. THE CULT OF NOVELTY