Creeping Into the World of Jewelry: The History of Insect Motifs
By Paige McKirahan
Over time, we have observed designers and innovators create pieces of art and fashion that reflect the interests of society. Given our long standing fascination with nature, it was only natural that insect motifs would crawl their way into the wild world of accessories. From using real insects to creating them out of diamonds and pearls, this aesthetic choice has been popular for centuries and it seems that it is here to stay.
As many common themes in jewelry do, the practice of incorporating insects in accessories has roots in ancient Egypt. Scarabs in amulets were widely popularized and most of the time, real scarabs would be used in the creation of these pieces. Butterflies, which are the most popular insects depicted in fashion, were incorporated into Egyptian bracelets as early as 2600 B.C. It has been said that wearing insect motifs has long been associated with the symbolism surrounding each of these arthropods. The cicada along with some variations of beetles and butterflies have positive attributes relating to immortality, rebirth, rejuvenation, longevity, and courage.
Why do we form these types of associations you ask? It could be attributed to the fact that we have been able to naturally or historically observe the lives of insects. Many go undergo the process of metamorphosis, where they grow and completely alter their appearance in different growth stages. Though ancient wearers of these designs may not have known about the science behind these transformations, they would have still noticed these obvious changes, influencing them to form the positive associations we are familiar with today.
As time soldered on, insects were incorporated into designs sporadically until they burst in popularity in the Victorian, Edwardian, Art Nouveau eras. Throughout these periods, natural themes were popular in all forms of art, from fashion to architecture. The emerging industrial era and romantic associations surrounding nature prompted the widespread use of insect motifs. Many featured depictions of moths, butterflies, and dragonflies, and were created from a variety of gems, pearls, and colored glasses.
Insects in fashion are still prominent themes in collections from Jeffrey Campbell to Betsey Johnson. Whether it be in ancient Egypt or the New York runways, we love the wild look of arthropods in jewelry here at TalkingFashion! Head over to our collection and search for your favorite bug-inspired pieces to accessorize any season!
Cameo Jewelry's Fine-Carved History
By Paige McKirahan
When looking for accessories that seem to be tiptoeing the fine line between art and fashion, there is one piece that is sure to be found: the cameo. This jewelry features miniature reliefs that typically show a profile view of a woman’s face or a mythological scene, and have captured the hearts of many with their high sentimental value and impeccable craftsmanship. The name for the object has origins in Italy where it means “to engrave”; it is also said that the term was derived from the ancient Arabic word “khamea”, translating to “amulet”. Now that we know what the object is, let’s explore its rich history.
A tradition that began at the end of the 15th century, cameos were first widely popularized by Queen Victoria and featured women’s profiles carved in sea shells, which is a practice that is still favored today. Despite this romantic evolution, the decorative jewelry piece has not always been a feminine accessory. In fact, they have been favored by men throughout history and this fondness began nearly 300 years prior to the birth of Christ. In ancient Egypt, carving reliefs into rock were used to record significant events in history as far back as 15,000 B.C. Cameos of this era frequently featured depictions of ethical values or made a statement about faith and loyalty.
Since the conception of this genre of jewelry, it has had a variety of uses throughout history. In early Greece and Rome, many carvings featured mythological creates, attractive women, or biblical events. The Hellenistic era saw young women using cameos to express their romantic desires; these pieces commonly depicted a relief of a dancing Eros as an invitation for seduction. The Renaissance brought these motifs to the attention of Pope Paul II and it is said that his love of the piece contributed to his death as his extensive collection of cameos kept his hands and body so cold that he ultimately froze.
In addition to their use as military accessories, they were also collected by women in the Elizabethan period to prove cultural status and serve as a souvenir for their travels (specifically to the newly discovered Pompeii). Even Napoleon became enchanted by the creation; he wore one to his own wedding and even founded a school in Paris dedicated to teaching the art of cameo carving.
Cameo showing Napoleon and his bride c. 1810
(image credit to pinterest.com)
Cameos are made from a variety of materials, but in order to tell if they are authentic and not made of plastic, you can expect them to be carved out of the following:
As the most frequent shell used for cameo carving, this material is low intensity with colors in peach and orange tones.
With a thicker outer wall and dark brown interior, this shell can resemble marble when carved. The cameos in these shells tend to cost more because of their rarity, and they are distinctive in color with a white foreground starkly contrasting the darkness.
Mother of Pearl:
Best set in silver, mother of pearl cameos customarily are opaque with a bluish-grey color.
Agate cameos are blue or green in color and have a more modern look, despite the fact that this material has been used to create this piece for centuries.
(Above photo credits to thecameocollection.com)
If these materials aren’t easily recognizable, you can check the authenticity of your piece by observing the cameo’s appearance. Ones made in plastic are typically thicker than shells, so if they are real, they should be slightly transparent. You can also check for cracks as shells are fragile and are susceptible to damage if not cared for properly. Checking the carvings is another easy way to differentiate between plastic and real, raw material as those carved in shell should have fine markings whereas plastic is more smooth. For cameos of all types, check out our collection for brooches, rings, necklaces, earrings and bracelets that are sure to add a romantic touch to any fall look!
Fashion Flashback: Lockets
by Morgan Watkins
An item of sentiment and utility, the locket is truly a dazzling antique to behold. With such a rich history and wide array of functions, lockets carry with them more than just dusty portraits. Keep on reading to expand your horizons on what makes lockets such special accessories.
While the earliest known lockets date back to the 16th century, it is said that they were initially inspired from ancient amulets and pendants from the Middle Ages. Some cultures wore lockets containing special charms to ward off evil spirits and energy, and although we now associate lockets with affection and love, they commonly carried items with less than sentimental value like herbs, perfume soaked fabric squares, and in sinister situations, poison. Locket necklaces were quite popular, but locket rings and brooches were also worn by those who could afford them. Queen Elizabeth I popularized the locket ring in 1575 with her one of a kind style holding portraits of herself and her late mother, Anne Boleyn. This tender display of familial love added significant meaning to the jewelry of this time, particularly with locket styles.
By the 1600s, lockets became symbols of political alignment. With the passing of King Charles I in 1649, supporters far and wide wore lockets containing his portrait to pay homage to his life and death. Some faithful King Charles advocates even managed to snag a lock of the king’s hair from his execution, which they then carried within their jewelry to commemorate his reign. While this may seem like an odd or extreme gesture, carrying the hair of a loved one within a locket was actually common practice in the 17th century, especially with the rise of mourning jewelry. These lockets were characteristically heavy, dark and contained the portrait of a lost loved one.
Commonly made from precious metals and gems, lockets and most other jewelry were primarily sold to those with considerable wealth during the 18th century. It was around this time that the iconic heart shaped locket was born. Ranging from a variety of different metals and finishes, heart shaped lockets, like mourning jewelry, contained locks of hair or portraits of lovers. Some were made of transparent materials, putting their love on display for the world to see. They were a sign of not only love, but also honesty, truth and purity.By the late 19th century, lockets became less of an accessory for the rich and more of an item for everyone as cheaper materials were used to create more affordable jewelry. Also aiding in the widespread access of lockets was the improvement of photography, which made it easier for locket lovers to obtain quality and long lasting portraits to be inserted into their jewelry. Unisex lockets came in the form of pins, bracelets, buttons, rings and necklaces, making them items that could be worn by men and women alike.
With the presence of both World Wars came the emergence of sweetheart jewelry. The locket in particular was an essential jewelry item in the realm of sweetheart accessories, as soldiers would leave their loved ones with portraits of themselves stowed away in lockets while they were off on the battlegrounds. 20th century sweetheart lockets also became a sign of patriotism, as they displayed the wearer’s pride in their loved ones serving the country, as well as pride towards what their country was fighting for.
After the dust had settled on World War II, all that was left was mourning paired with hope for a better future. Lockets fell out of favor for decades, serving only as reminders of past times and people. But with the rise of vintage and antique inspired jewelry, lockets are slowly but surely re-emerging into the fashion spotlight. In recent years, revered fashion magazines like Elle and Vogue have rooted for lockets within online and print publications. Last winter, the Tory Burch Pre-Fall 2018 collection featured in Vogue displayed the gleaming Walnut Locket Necklace, which paired perfectly with a silky button up and bohemian maxi dress.
(Image from https://www.toryburch.com/walnut-locket-necklace)
Regardless of what you put in your jewelry, be sure to jump on the trend now by checking out talkingfashion.net for the latest and greatest locket styles out there! And if you have a locket of your own you’d like to pass on, we would love to consign with you. But please — keep any poison at home.
“A Sentimental History Of Lockets.” The Artyologist, 14 Feb. 2017,
“Locket History: Heart Lockets & Photo Keepsakes Through the Ages.” With You
Lockets, https://withyoulockets.com/about/history-of-lockets. Phelps, Nicole. “Tory Burch Pre-Fall 2018.” Vogue, 1 Dec. 2017,
The Steampunk Movement: Modern, Industrial, and Accessory Filled
By Paige McKirahan
When thinking of ways to accessorize a steampunk look, you first want consider what the term means in order to understand this wild aesthetic as a whole. In short, it is a movement inspired by Victorian England, American’s wild West, and the Industrial Revolution that reimagines modern technologies as more elaborate, creative pieces of fashion, art, and mechanics. Essentially, it puts a classic twist on modern style, combining pieces from previous centuries with industrial motifs. This style of art and dress did not come into circulation until the late ’80s, and it has only grown in popularity since; its presence in literature pushed the movement in to the public eye and from that point, it gained momentum in fashion, film, and music. Now it is more than just a part of science fiction as its fun, DIY characteristics have spread into popular culture. Every good pop culture movement has standout accessories, so read on to see a few of our favorite steampunk pieces and motifs!
Back in a time when canes were less utilitarian, they were typically an indication of the owner’s wealth and overall status. For a period spanning over three centuries, they were an essential part of the wardrobe and it was likely that cane users possessed a variety of canes to be used in a multitude of social settings. Their general use has roots in the male psyche where wielding a stick equates to power. Just think back to classic literature; Black Rod carried a actual rod, Merlin carried a wand, and Moses used a staff to part the sea. When they were introduced in the 1650s, they were considered exotic as they were made with foreign materials like ivory and Malacca wood. As time progressed towards the Victorian age and the Industrial revolution, the middle class became increasingly wealthy and used canes to illustrate that wealth in grandeur. This popular use continued until about the 1940s when everyone almost simultaneously seemed to lay their canes down in pursuit of more simplified accessories. They were mostly used as a walking aid until the steampunk movement picked them up again, giving their gear-oriented ensembles an added level of class!
Though it seems like cufflinks may account for just a small part of an outfit, their aesthetic value and ability to redefine your entire look is what makes them one of the most important accessories of all. The small but mighty accent piece began appearing in the early 1500s when men began using strings to tie their ruffled wristbands together. This continued until the Industrial Revolution, when chains and strings were replaced with rods and clips to closer resemble the modern cufflink of today. Despite the fact that shirt makers have now began to put buttons on sleeves to decrease the need for cufflinks, they are still seen as a luxury item and give one the opportunity to make their clothing truly their own. They give steampunk lovers a great way to incorporate industrial motifs into their elaborate outfits, tying together their retro-modern looks.
Abiding by the steampunk ideals of functionality, creativity, and retro aesthetics, pocket watches capture the essence of the movement with their gear-oriented appearances and chain accents. Originating in around the 16th century, the widespread use of the pocket watch began with the rise of railroading; keeping precise time was crucial for railroad guards and this importance was so prominent that Levi Strauss designed his jeans with a tiny front pocket made exclusively for holding the accessory! Many steampunk aficionados prefer the open face style of watch, which allows the wearer to display the inner workings of the piece. The best watches to invest in are said to be made by Rolex, Movado, Omega, IWC, ad Patek Philipe and are brands coveted by steampunk fashionistas.
Though the hand fan was widely popular in Victorian Eras as a foreign symbol of wealth and class, their origin lies centuries prior in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. The piece, which was originally thought be a sacred instrument, was used in religious ceremonies and by royalty. They were also used in China in association with ancient mythical and historical characters. At their conception, they were fixed and remained as so until Chinese culture birthed the folding fan and spread it westward towards Europe. The 17th century then saw an increased use of folding fan, eventually causing fixed fans to become obsolete. They generally featured prints of all kinds, either painted or transferred on, and shifted from biblical tradition to contemporary pastimes. The Impressionist, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco movements highly impacted the design and construction of fans from the 19th to the 20th century and today, the steampunk movement has taken hold of the accessory to complement their Victorian aesthetic.
Similar to the hand fan, gloves found their origins in ancient culture; throughout history, they have been used for both utilitarian and decorative purposes beginning in Greece, China, and Egypt. They did not come into widespread circulation until the 11th century when they finally reached Britain after their conception 100 years prior. Originally, they were confined to soldiers in warfare and their use as a fashion accessory did not commence until the 17th century when style and status-oriented interests surrounding gloves began. Both genders were involved in this practice until the 18th century, when their importance in men’s wardrobes dwindled. With the 19th century, though, their popularity burst for both men and women when social codes developed that called for gloves in public settings. If you were seen out gloveless or were wearing soiled pieces, you would be the target for ridicule and face accusations of poor etiquette. The 20th century saw another shift in use of gloves as the World Wars’ rationing of materials and standardization of design proved highly fashionable gloves to be unnecessary. We saw a brief revival in the 1950s, but it quickly fizzled out by the end of the preceding decade. Steampunk fans love to use gloves in their ensembles, giving their looks a vintage flair with fingerless, lace pieces holding precedence.
Steampunk face masks are very reminiscent of thoses seen at a masked ball, but more industrial in appearance. Many of them feature clock and gear motifs and are typically gold, silver, or black in color. Their style may vary, and their steampunk-ehtusiats wearers use them to tie together their entire outfit and overall personality. The gas mask is a popular style, emulating Victorian London where fumes and smoke were a part of daily life. The masquerade mask starkly contrasts the gas mask aesthetic as it is more fancy and associated with dancing at a grand ball. Eye patches are a viable option and gives wearers the opportunity to play with their story; maybe they are hiding a mechanical eye or some other industrial creation beneath the covering. The plague doctor mask may be the most startling in appearance, with inspiration coming from iconic plague masks used in the 17th and 18th centuries. The accessories were worn by doctors and scientists and are commonly known as bird masks because of their long, beaklike nose piece.
The pocket knife has been in use for centuries from the Roman empire to the Viking era. In the 1600s, they began to become more affordable, widely distributed, and mass produced. Many different styles of knives began being designed for a multitude of purposes ranging from hunting to camping. The simple, folding pocket knife is the most popular in steampunk fashion and they are typically bronze or gold in color with gears featured throughout the piece.
Though these pieces are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to steampunk accessories, we feel like these are major fashion components than can be seen in any steampunk lovers closet. Octopus, spider, skeleton, camo, playing card motifs are also commonly featured in this movement’s fashions with bronze and leather colorings. If you’re trying to prepare a steampunk look for this upcoming Halloween or an impending convention, we’ve got you covered! Click on any of the photos in this post or search our collection for steampunk inspired pieces that are sure to make you feel industrial chic!
Magnifying the History of Binoculars
By Paige McKirahan
As a direct descendent of the telescope, binoculars are a little bit more portable; whether you need a close look at a sporting event or are trying to see some big game in the woods, the functionality of binoculars are unmatched. The question we are posing, though, is how this steampunk-approved device came into circulation.
Though the birth of the telescope is seen as somewhat of a mystery in the realm of history and science, Hans Libbershey is the first to be credited with the invention. The Holland based spectacle-maker was the first to attempt obtaining a patent for the star-gazing instrument in 1608, making it widely known regardless of his connection to its creation. Galileo Galilei, the great Italian scientist, introduced the device to astronomy in the following year; he used it be the first to see craters on the moon, as well as sunspots, Jupiter’s moons, and Saturn’s rings. This telescope begun an astronomical revolution and consisted of two lenses: the objective and the eyepiece. The objective were the convex lenses and the concave lenses at the eye-facing end were dubbed the eyepiece
Two of Galileo’s first telescopes
(image credit to pinterest.com)
These lenses allowed Galileo to magnify objects up to thirty times, but a major design flaw regarding back draw gave the telescope a very narrow field of vision, forcing the user to constantly move the device when viewing details in the distance. Looking to combat this flaw, Johann Voigtlander did so by creating the first set of binoculars, affectionately known as Galilean binoculars, in the 1820s. After he managed to repair the back draw issue, he also added eye tubes, which are used to better focus images.
(Image credit to Wikipedia.com)
This style was extremely popular for the next three decades in the theatre, social events, and outdoor activities. They were often detailed with pearls, silver, gold, bone, or colored leather and were modified to resemble fancy glasses used at the opera. In 1854, though, a new type of binoculars took hold of the public; Italian optician Ignazio Porro’s innovative Porro Prism binoculars had a wider range and were better performing than their predecessor, making Galilean styles almost obsolete. From then on, inventors and innovators continued developing new binocular designs, ultimately shaping them into what they are today. Steampunk connoisseurs and sportsman alike love the instruments, with the former being more so interested in vintage, rustic styles. The creation of the piece and the overall look fits perfectly into the steampunk aesthetic and allows those dressing in the style to display their love for innovation.
Opera glasses and steampunk binoculars
(image credits to pinterest.com)