Victorian 1860s or 1870s tableworked woven hair brooch features dark brown coils of hair twisted into the shape of a bow, with a chased rolled gold center fitting. It has a tube hinge pin stem with secure C-clasp closure.
Woven in an “open lace braid” pattern, (photo #5), the brooch design matches one of those in Mark Campbell’s popular 1867 book, “The Self Instructor in the Art of Hair Work” (photo #4). The center fitting in this example has two metal loops on the back to suspend pendants from, though no pendants are attached.
Tableworked hair (literally, hair worked into intricate weaves on a special table) became a hugely popular parlor pastime for women in the mid-Victorian period; after they had created their hair “jewel” from a pattern in a ladies’ magazine or book like Campbell’s, they could send it to a jeweler for fittings that allowed it to be worn. Such jewelry was made for sentimental as well as mourning purposes.
Campbell’s concluding instructions for working hair into a coil are as follows: “Braid this over a round stick, the size you want the braid for use, varying the number of strands according to the size of the stick; then slip the braid from the stick onto the mold you wish to use, tying it so it will fit the mold exactly, then boil in water five minutes, and take it out and put it in an oven as hot as it will bear without burning, until it is quite dry. Then it is ready for use."
This brooch measures 2” wide by 1” high, and is very lightweight.
It is in good, sturdy condition, wearable and with the weave intact. Issues are: Darkening to the metal pad beneath the C-clasp and on the C-clasp itself, and a spot on the lowermost loop on the right where the hair coil has pulled free of the center fitting (photo #6);
Proud Member of the VFG Vintage Fashion Guild