This is the first Nursing belt I have had. Oh so impressive in every way. I have known about these for at least 30+ years as I used to work in the Intensive Care Unit for 20+ years. The older seasoned nurses told me about these however I really did not know what they were at the time. This was long before I was an antique dealer. Being curios, I did look to see what it was they were referring to. For the past 20 years I have had this information tucked away and have seen these out there at flea markets, antique shows, etc. I have always seen all metal Electro Plated Silver or bits and pieces however I have never seen one this wonderful before. I found this in New York at the NY Pier Show. A very fine and high end antique show I might add.
The belt and the history of 'The Nursing Belt'. During the later part of the 19th Century when a nurse had graduated from nursing school, a family member would present their new graduate with a 'nursing belt'. Not all nurses received these but families of some means would purchase them as their graduation gift. They were all different and they were not all created the same. This belt is one of the finest I have seen. Double swallows were created with open pierced work and hand etched and chase work. The metal looks like individual cut steel pieces however it is a bit of an illusion. This was actually made from pieces or sheets of steel, cut and then hand hammered from behind. Then it was flipped to the top side and ever single raised area was impressed, by hand with a special tool which gives the look of hand riveted individual appliqué. The center medallion is very large and then small links are attached to the softest original leather. It is still in place and it is incredible. It looks like alligator or crocodile however being it is so soft, it may in fact be baby lamb leather that was pressed, I am not certain. At the ends are two more swallows or Saint Esprit Doves. The belt is adjustable and the ends are kept in place with metal teeth.
Measurements, Origin, Circa and condition. The center medallion measures 4" and tapers down. This is the portion that would be worn in the front, like a stomacher. There is a double row of linked steel pieces, which attach to the leather. The end pieces of the steel measure 2 1/8" x 2 1/2" (the portion that attaches to the leather. One end has a open rounded hook and the other has a square portion attachment. This will be clear in my photographs. One end is stamped Made in England. That stamp is on the outside where it could be seen as apposed to the inside. I find that interesting, as the jeweler was clearly proud. The entire length of the belt is 31 1/4" long. This actually can be made about an inch or so longer if you like however it has been in this position for probably 100+ years.
The leather is like kid glove and the softest I have ever felt. I have not disturbed the patina on the steel. If you like, you could go over this with a very soft polishing cloth and it will twinkle, even more if you like. I personally think it is Fabulous just the way it is. Being this belt was stamped Made in England I will assume that it was done so that it could be exported if needed. That export law came into effect right at the turn of the century. That makes it pretty easy for me to date so we shall say, Circa 1900. The belt is in Excellent Antique condition with no apologies to be made. The finest Nurses Belt I've seen. I did spend about an hour looking on-line at these belts and frankly, I cannot find another as good. There is not a single 'complete' belt to be found. Only bits and pieces that I can find so please do check on your own. Rare, a word I do not throw around lightly. This absolutely falls into the category and I feel good about using it to describe this amazing piece. Absolutely fit for the finest of collections. Perhaps you know a nurse in your life that about to graduate or you yourself are one? They are some of the most loving and caring people on our planet. What a gift this would make to the nurse in your life. Questions are always welcome and encouraged. Also, if you would like additional photos, please do not hesitate to ask. I would be happy to send more along.
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