Bairbre Power... on delving into 1915's jewellery boxes and other adventures
I don't have to be asked twice to turn back time and research through the decades for a fashion project, so when I got a call from RTÉ about its Road to the Rising event, I was intrigued. Taking place on Monday, it explores the lead up to the Easter Rising beginning with the previous Easter of 1915 (rte.ie/1916).
Thumbing through the archives, it's obvious from the newspaper adverts that Irish shoppers in 1915 had quite a choice of merchandise from department stores like Brown Thomas, Arnotts, Clerys and Switzers, three of which are still in existence today. If you were fortunate enough to inherit, or discover a piece of clothing from the second decade of the 20th century in your granny's attic, chances are that the moths enjoyed a nibble over the last century or it was too small - Irish suffragettes 100 years ago had super tiny waists.
However, one area where we are lucky in reaching back in time is in the sphere of vintage jewellery. Family bequests are to be cherished (don't forget to get the claws checked regularly to mind your stones) but if you are buying seriously valuable, five-figure jewellery for an engagement, or a landmark birthday, it pays to go to respected specialists like John Farrington on Drury Street in Dublin, who is particularly knowledgeable about old pieces, especially the Art Deco period, which is my personal favourite. For affordable buys or payday self-gifting, etsy.com has fascinating pieces to chase down.
Bohemian glass necklaces are increasing in value and popularity, especially among brides who love the rich colours like cranberry and citrine. A century ago, many of these glass necklaces were bought from the Dublin department stores or shops like Woolworths on Grafton Street - where the Massimo Dutti store is located now.
Many of these glass necklaces would have been bought by Irish customers through catalogues such as McCalls according to Bernadette Butler who, with her sister Catherine, runs Rhinestones on Dublin's St Andrew Street. Both ladies are hugely authoritative about vintage collectibles.
Coloured glass necklaces from the late Edwardian period go for huge money in the US. Here, prices start at around €200 but if you find an exceptional piece, like the (no. 6) art nouveau foil glass with brass filigree findings and chain tassel, you can expect to pay €1,950. So it pays to look into your family's jewellery box! Knowledge is power.
More affordable than cultured pearls, mother of pearl pieces were hugely popular in 1915. Just like Kate Middleton today, all eyes were on Queen Victoria's mourning jewellery made from Whitby jet. In 2015, as a counterpoint to our modern day all-black dressing, I love the contrast of vintage silver such as mesh coin purses or match boxes on long chains. Happy hunting!
Check your family attic for period finds like these:
1. Bohemian brass openwork design necklace with amber and citrine faceted glass drop, €245
2. Sterling silver ring mesh purse with chain, €450
3. Black celluloid and paste piece c1915, €350
4. Wrist watch on ribbon €395
5. Brass and gold wash choker with amethyst coloured glass stones, €695
6. See description in main text
7. Edwardian french jet and cultured pearl and gold front brooch/pendant, €395
8. Silver gilt filigree screw back earrings, €295
9. Reversed carved 'stork' earrings in vaseline glass, €85
10. Marcasite and emerald paste screw base circle pendant earrings, €395
11. Bohemian cranberry glass necklace c1910, €295.
GO TO: Rhinestones, 18 St Andrew Street, Dublin. (01) 679 0759