Late 19th century silver-plated chatelaine. Skinner Galleries. Boston/Bolton, NM

By Anne Gilbert

     Here's proof that long out-of-fashion items that seem to have no practical use today can be reborn as collectibles. Consider the chatelaine. "The what ?", you might ask. Yet it and other mens and women's dress accessories from the 19th century are not only coming to auction and the intemet but doing surprisingly well At a recent Skinner auction a chatelaine , silver-plated, sold for $345. On the intemet another chatelaine sold for $750.
     Chatelaines have been around for several hundred years, originally used for the very practical purpose of holding keys. It was worn at the waist. By the 19th century, made of sterling silver and silver-plate it became a dress accessory, and was worn like a brooch or pin near the shoulder. It still retained a practical purpose with such items as vdinaigrettes(small decorative bottles that held smelling salts) m small mirrors and even buttonhooks. These days vinaigrettes, made of various materials from tortoisesheu to glass and silver sell at auction for $300 and up to serious collectors.
     CLUES: Chatelaines and vinaigrettes are only two of the many forgotten but collectible dress accessory categories . Chatelette pins that attached to the lapel or to chatelaines came in sterling silver or silverplate. They were made in many designs and shapes. You can find them at antique shows for a few dollars, since most dealers don't know their purpose. Or, with luck, tucked away in drawers at house sales. You could start a new fashion by wearing several as pins.
     Garter, suspender and arm band buckles can turn up at flea markets or attic trunks. Ladies garter buckles were quite fancy, considering no one was supposed to see them. They came in a variety of shapes, including heart. They were often set with fake gem settings and often of rolled gold or sterling silver. The garters themselves were often made of quality silk elastic webbing. The most attractive examples were decorated with bright colored ribbons.
     When money was no object to the Victorian man, gold and sterling silver suspender buckles and buckles for arm band were wom. Like the ladies buckle mountings, these often had many dffferent engraved motifs.
     Veils were a popular fashion of the 19th century and ti gikd them in place were sterling silver and often gold vefl fasteners. Collectors look for the most fanciful shapes such as butterffies, birds, scarabs and insects. Fake gem stones decorated many. The more common fasteners were oblong. There were also pins that came in sets to hold shawls and lace collars in place. The scarf pins, also known as stick pins, had tiny heads of various shapes, mounted on a pin shaft. Subjects included butterflies, birds, horseshoes and flowers. Popular since it was first made was the pin with a teddy bear head. There were also cameo heads.
     Even the humble belt buckle could be a work of art around the turn-of-the-century. These were often decorated with a variety of fake gem stones.
    When was the last time you saw anybody wearing a locket on a chain ? They were the ultimate fashion in the late 19th century when they contained miniature paintings or pictures of family loved ones. They ranged in size from half an inch square to around 1 1/2" in diameter or length. The locket covers were of silver-plate, silver and gold with engraved motifs and both precious and semi-precious stone trim.
     Another forgotten name is the once popular lavaliere. These very delicate pendents on small chains were wom around the neck. Some consisted of several chains with pendents attached, festoon-style on many tiny chains.
     Use your imagination. Frame them or wear them for a decorative statement.

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