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 Originally made in Woodstock, England, these became a fashion in France as a replacement for the fine diamond jewelry the French monarchy confiscated to pay for the Seven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 centuries before. 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.
Over the years we have procured a nice collection of late 19th century French cut steel jewelry, mainly buckles and a few brooches. Some of these are available on our antiques shop online. Others have been used to create fantastic, one-of-a-kind cuff bracelets ... more on these soon.