Monday, November 8, 2010

Steeling Myself

I'm soooo behind on my Bead Journal pages....

But I did just finish my page for March!!!

My "muse" for this project is a fantasy dressmaker, who attempts to create various vintage style dress trimmings in beads; this time, she was inspired by steel ornaments - yes, steel.

Steel can take, and was given, a very high polish, so that it reflected and shone as much as silver. The surface could, of course, be decorated by techniques such as engraving. But perhaps the most characteristic use of steel as ornaments is steel studs.

These are small pieces of steel cut to shape, and then given a high polish. The commonest shape was a faceted stud, similar to a cut gemstone. But in addition almost any other shape might be used, including rectangular faceted bars, frustra of cones, crescents and vesica.

In addition steel beads were made which could be used on steel jewellery or sewn into dresses, woven into purses or used in any other way that took the fancy of an artisan or a lady genteelly engaged in needlework.

A shoe buckle, or other piece of jewellery, was made by cutting a base plate, usually from steel, brass or even a low grade of silver alloy, into the shape of the final article. The studs were then rivetted or screwed onto these base plates. Small base plates could be linked together to make larger pieces or flexible pieces such as bracelets. Steel studs were always rivetted or screwed, probably because steel jewellery sprang from a metal working tradition not from the jewellers' tradition.

Victorian cut steel jewelry was originally made in Woodstock, England, these became a fashion in France as a replacement for the fine diamond jewelry the French monarchy confiscated to pay for the Seven Years' War in 1759. The earliest pieces were made from recycled steel nails machined to have up to 15 facets. Later production was more mechanized, used less facets and ultimately gave way to stamped pieces embellished with a few actual studs.

These are a few pieces from my collection, shoe buckles, buttons, and other small ornamental pieces.

And here's my secret weapon in duplicating the look - vintage glass sew ons, with faceted tops, they were perfect replicas for the steel studs.
Here's my beaded version of a fancy, nonfunctional belt buckle. Many period belt buckles are purely ornamental, just an accent piece.
I can picture this being used in any number of ways on a vintage costume: at the waistline, accenting a bodice, on a bustle, or even a large hat - it's very versatile.

I have a number of ideas regarding modern usage of the technique too...and luckily I have a nice sized stash of those vintage sew ons, so future projects are a definite possibility.


  1. wow this is a beautiful piece. looks like it came from the vintage shop
    diane, new zealand

  2. oh wee - love this post and your collection/stash. love all of this.

  3. I love this piece and surely am looking forward to what else you create.

  4. What a lovely piece & unique story behind it.
    Great imagination!
    Thanks for sharing and please don't worry about being "behind", I to get or got behinded in the past, so not to worry, work at your leisure, there are no "enforcers" on the BJP.