Admire, Crafty stuff

A set of Baroque pearl accessories

One of the reasons I love 17th century fashion so much is the jewellery.

18th century jewellery is very pretty, but it tends to get a bit heavy on diamonds and overly ornamented, and just too bling-y.

Mid 17th century jewellery is fabulous though.  It’s all pearls.

Maria Maddalena Rospigliosi (1645—1695) by Carlo Maratta, ca. 1663

Maria Maddalena Rospigliosi (1645—1695) by Carlo Maratta, ca. 1663

Throat skimming  pearl necklaces, round or baroque.

Young Lady by a Fountain, Nicolaes Maes 1664, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Young Lady by a Fountain, Nicolaes Maes 1664, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

And pearl drop earrings the size of pigeon eggs, with more pearls twined through the hair.

Sophie of the Palatinate, electress of Hanover, ca. 1645, by an unknown artist

Sophie of the Palatinate, electress of Hanover, ca. 1645, by an unknown artist

Pearl trimmed clothes, and large hanging drop pearls dangling off broaches.

Élisabeth (Isabelle) d'Orleans, Duchess of Guise by Beaubrun, 1670

Élisabeth (Isabelle) d’Orleans, Duchess of Guise by Beaubrun, 1670

(sings) Pearls, Glorious Pearls!

Whenever I’ve worn Ninon, I’ve faked the pearls from my stash of random pearl necklaces, but have always intended to make a set of jewels that captured the look a little better.  With the masquerade ball coming up, I thought it was high time I did it.

I had a set  of really beautiful, high quality faux pearls, still unstrung, so I strung them, and added a vintage clasp (not 17th c HA, but still very pretty, and it gave the effect).  I remembered reading somewhere about women in the 17th century having strands of pearls that they just added to, and twined around their neck multiple times, so I made mine long enough to go around twice.  Having looked back over the visual evidence, I’m now beginning to doubt that a double necklace is correct for 17th c.  (Plus, I am struggling to remember the source, though I recall it vividly, because it reminded me of the story of  the Elizabethan noblewoman who assembled her pearl necklace one pearl at a time, until it was a full rope of pearls, and quite famous (and my brain has completely given up the ghost this time, because I can’t remember the name of the noblewoman either, and I KNOW I know this!))

17th century pearl accessories thedreamstress.com1

In any case, the necklace is beautiful, and looks lovely on, and will be accurate for SOME period.

And I do have a very nice strand of very large, real baroque pearls in pink, and as Maria Maddalena shows, baroque pearls are Baroque appropriate!  So I can always wear those…

17th century pearl jewellery thedreamstress.com1

For the earrings, I had more baroque pearls: beautiful pink baroque teardrops that I’d purchased in the Cook Islands on holiday almost 8 years ago, intending to make into earrings.

Six years ago I got organized enough to purchase sterling silver hooks (I can’t wear any other), and 18 karat gold beads for the earrings.  And two sets of sterling silver headpins.  One of which I managed to loose!

17th century pearl accessories thedreamstress.com2

So for now my earrings are held together with rubbish wire, and it’s off to Tiger Eye beads for me for new headpins (it turns out they come in gold too!  As do the French hooks.  I rather like the mix of gold and silver, but I think that all gold might be more accurate).

But I’m counting them as done, because they were worn, and they could be worn indefinitely, they just don’t look very good up close!

Side note: my hair turned out reasonably well, and if you compare it to the Maes portrait, and this portrait, and  this portrait, and this portrait, it’s really quite good.  And a very popular colour for the period.  Next time I’ll get it even better.

The last sort-off accessory I made was my mask.  There are very few depictions of masquerade masks in the 17th century, but early 18th c depictions show masks just like this, so I figured it was close enough.  And the paint colour is ‘Bastille!’

1660s Ninon bodice thedreamstress.com1


The Challenge:  #7  Accessorise

Fabric:  All notions

Pattern:  None

Year:  1660ish – but could easily be worn in most periods

Notions:  faux pearl beads, 1930s clasp, foxtail wire (necklace).  Baroque pearls, sterling silver french hooks, gold beads, wire (earrings).  Paper mask  & paint.

How historically accurate is it?:  Materials and techniques are probably pretty spot on for period jewellery, and 17th & 18th c masquerade masks were probably painted papier mache, so it’s all close, but still feels like cheating!

Hours to complete:  3.  Pretty quick and easy.

First worn:  Sat 11 July, to a French themed Masquerade ball.

Total cost:   Around  $30 for all.  I’ve been collecting the jewellery bits for years, and don’t remember exact pricing.  The mask was $4 including paint  

OK.  So this is a really soft HSM entry.  But I’ve got a better one planned too!


  1. Tegan says

    Neil Stephenson’s The Baroque Cycle trilogy is one of my favorite things to read; and the incredibly powerful dowager Sophie is a strong character in it. How pretty to see the painting of her as a young woman!

    I wonder why pearls were so big (both physically and in terms of cultural impact) during the 17th Century. I guess physically just because they hadn’t been overfished, etc. Maybe it was new contact with the pearl divers of Japan?

    • No contact with the pearl divers in Japan yet – pearl sources were limited to freshwater pearls from Scotland (peaked in the 16th century) and saltwater pearls from Spain and the Mediterranean. Pearls were actually more valuable than diamonds right up until the 1920s, when Mikimoto in Japan developed the technology to culture pearls in a commercially viable way. Before that all pearls were naturally occurring, and thus incredibly rare (truly incredibly rare, unlike diamonds, which de Beers has stockpiled to create an artificial rarity, to keep the prices high), and thus incredible expensive – especially as you had to get them to match.

      In 1917 Cartier purchased the building for the Cartier shop on 5th Avenue in NYC from Morton Freeman Plant for $100 and a two strand pearl necklace, valued at a $1 million.

      • There’s also that Agatha Christie story about Tommy and Tuppence, in which an eccentric old lady invested all her money in pearls (which they then help her heiress to find). 🙂

      • Tegan says

        Pearls are my favorite, so I’m happy we have cultured ones now. 😛 Thank you for the info!

  2. I got through two different HSF challenges by making beaded jewelry–so I certainly can’t quibble about your doing so! They look lovely. Perhaps they do not appear so polished up close–but then period jewelry did not always look elegant up close, either (at least not in the early periods I favor). 🙂

    Thanks for the details about the mask–I was wondering how it was made.

  3. Tegan, as I understand it, pearls were so valued because it was quite difficult to match the sizes. A set of pearls that matched well were an expensive rarity, and really showed your social status.
    Leimomi, you look so lovely with the dress and jewelry combined. Bravo!

  4. It seems you and I share a love of pearls. These accessories are really lovely and go perfectly with Ninon.

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