Chatelaine


Chatelaines were a ‘useful’ form of jewellery, worn when women’s clothing had no pockets. They were dangled from the waist, their chains carrying small items. Chatelaines were common in the 18th century but enjoyed revivals at various times during the Victorian era.

This elaborate chatelaine was made especially to be shown at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, where it was described as ‘highly polished and richly cut’.

Chatelaine

 

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Chatelaine

London, about 1850
Made by Joseph Banks Durham
Cut steel
Given by Mrs Gilbert Russell
V&A: M.10:1 to 12-1971

Souvenir from the Great Exhibition, The transept from the Grand Entrance

 


This elaborate chatelaine was made for the Great Exhibition of 1851, the first international exhibition to display manufactured products. Masterminded by Prince Albert, the exhibition was meant to educate the public in art, manufacture and design.

The view shows the transept of the Crystal Palace, an enormous glass structure in Hyde Park where it was held. More than six million people visited the exhibition.

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Souvenir from the Great Exhibition, The transept from the Grand Entrance


London, 1851
By William Simpson
Colour lithograph
V&A: 19627

Victoria & Albert Museum, London

 

Cynical observers suspected that the chatelaine’s decorative function outweighed (quite literally) any real usefulness.

As a fashion for increasingly elaborate chatelaines swept Britain, cartoonists lampooned ladies who insisted on hanging ‘an assortment of marine stores’ from their belts.

The Chatelaine, A Really Useful Present

 

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The Chatelaine, A Really Useful Present

Cartoon from Punch, 1849
By John Leech

Reproduced with permission of Punch Ltd