Friday, July 23, 2010

Victorian Jewelry: Cut Steel Buckles & Brooches

Victorian cut steel jewelry is made from faceted and polished steel studs that are riveted to a backing plate.  Originally made in Woodstock, England, these became a fashion in France as a replacement for the fine diamond jewelry the French monarchy confiscated to pay for the Seven Years' War in 1759.  The earliest pieces were made from recycled steel nails machined to have up to 15 facets.  Later production was more mechanized, used less facets and ultimately gave way to stamped pieces embellished with a few actual studs.  The tendency for early steel to corrode or rust has limited the availability of good quality examples today.
Modern marcasite, or pyrite, jewelry are successors to the cut steel jewelry of the 18th and 19th century.  One easy way to distinguish the old from the new is that, while the old cut steel was riveted to the base plates, the marcasites are set into place using either prongs or glue.

Shoe buckles came into fashion during the mid-17th century -- or should I say came back into fashion, as the Romans wore shoe buckles.  The shoe buckles of the mid-1600s were slipped on to a piece of material from the shoe and could be removed, so that they could be put on another shoe, or use different buckles on a pair of shoes to change styles.
We recently procured a nice collection of late 19th century French cut steel jewelry, mainly buckles and a few brooches.   These are available on our antiques shop online.
Belt buckle and brooch.

Example of rusted studs. This is a Haley's Comet brooch.
This is an example of a stamped "cut steel" piece.
Here are a couple of good references with more information and pictures about cut steel jewelry:  Antique Jewelry University & Steel Jewelerry and Toys.


  1. All this accessories are cool and classic in design. You have displayed your jewelry in a fascinating way with precious look and design.

  2. Thank you so much for this information. I just found a couple of these old buckles in my 99 year old Grandmother's belongings. Almost pitched them...oops! I beleive they must have been her mother's, who was born in 1872. They both kept everything.


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