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Photo-jewelry in the nineteenth Century Most major industrialized countries experienced the explosive popularity of photography and its use in jewelry, although the vogue for it was greatest in England, France, Germany, and the United States. Queen Victoria increased worldwide acceptance of the taste by wearing and collecting a variety of photo-jewelry - making a fashion statement that many embraced, first in the United Kingdom, and then in North America. Photo-jewelry’s acceptance in America was rapid, like that of photography itself. The moneyed class in every Western country had long enjoyed the painted portrait miniature. But photo-jewelry offered almost all the same attributes, and in addition, an exact mirror image of a loved one, in a small, jewel-like, wearable object of charm and sometimes great beauty. A personal item to be shown off proudly in public, or cherished in private. An heirloom to hand down to future generations. A permanent record. No wonder the exchange of gifts of photo-jewelry became a tradition lasting for many decades - in both America and Europe.
The diverse photographic types prevalent in the nineteenth century:
were each incorporated into pins, watch fobs, lockets, buttons, bracelets and pendants. The mounts ranged from mass-market electroplated frames to fine gold and gem-encrusted jewelry.
- ambrotypes (negatives mounted behind glass against a black background)
- paper photographs such as albumen prints
Although it is rare that we know the name of the subject in a piece of photo-jewelry at times we do know the major photographers and studios that were involved in their manufacture. In America for example: George N. Barnard, Mathew Brady, Jeremiah Gurney, Marcus Aurelius Root, Southworth & Hawes, Augustus Washington and the studio of John Whipple & James Black all sold photo-jewelry. These names are famous in the history of photography for a variety of reasons, Barnard and Brady for their work during the American Civil War, James Black for his aerial view of Boston taken from a balloon and Southworth & Hawes for their photographs of the first operation using ether.
The importance of photo-jewelry is that it is a different aspect of the studio business that has been largely neglected until recently despite the beauty of the objects themselves.
The following book provides the only detailed study of this subject
Larry J. West & Patricia A. Abbott
Foreword by Grant Romer
with contributions by
Joyce Jonas and Joan Severa
Antique Photographic Jewelry
Tokens of Affection and Regard
The book can be ordered from
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