OK here is the deal. Had an individual look at a gold chain, nothing special, nothing out of the ordinary, linked gold chain, and declared that chain wasn't available until after 1900. Am I missing something?
It's a chain, it's made of gold, is their distinct characteristics that can make them that recognizable or easily dated without seeing clasps, watch fob, watch etc...? Even so, how does the date of the fob, watch, or clasp clearly identify the date of the chain?
While this is on the plate can any of you horseman tell me about curb chains on bridles? Like how far back are their usage? And when were they used for jewelry?
There are dozens of styles of links. A real expert on the subject will know when a certain style of link was first introduced. I have a modern-made chain with 1880s-style links. The fob I wear--just a gold disk--almost has my initials on it. The initials are CLE rather than CFE. It belonged to my paternal uncle, who was killed in a wreck before I was born. The fob probably dates to the 1920s, but fobs like it were in use as early as the 1860s.
Exotic types of chain links go back to the early days of forging steel, and gold/silver chains all the way back to pharos of antiquity. It just seemed odd to me that unless it has some sort of modern significance (Mickey Mouse stamp on it) that somebody could see a chain on a watch from 20-30 feet away and be completely sure it was not or could not be an authentic piece from the 19th century or earlier, made by a craftsmen.
Everything didn't come out of the S&R catalogue, and there are always exceptions to the rule. Seems like the minute somebody says it couldn’t have existed somebody else comes along and shows a picture or a patent that shows it very well may have. Just thinking out loud, thanks for the comments Charley.
Anthony what’s your take on watch chains?
Hey Anthony do you know of a place to look at different styles of 19th century watch chains?
Boy,did you ever ask the right guy!The single most common style of watch chain in the 19th century was the curb chain,either with rounded or squared off links.I n the 1870 -90's period novelty chains consisting of mixed long and short links were very popular as well.Two and three strand chains with a slider were big,showy items too.Up into the 1870's most chains had a winding key where the fob is usually located but after this a decorative charm occupied that space.Really our use of fob interchangably with what the Victorians used to call watch charms is a bit of a misnomer as fbs were understood then to be complete hanging units that dropped straight down from thr pocket whereas chains always engaged the vest buttonhole,I favor double Alberts that go all the way across from pocket to pocket with a T bar and charm in the middle.The chain attached tothe watch at one end and a small knife,mechanical pencil or some other useful contrivance in the other pocket.A single Albert goes only from one pocket to the center and is usually supported with a T bar.I've a big pile of period catalogues from various jewlry and general mercantile establishments that show hundreds of different style chains as well as charms,many figural or even occupational.One excellent resource that I could recommend is Dover's excellent reprint of the 1895 Montgomery Ward catalogue which shows dozens of chains and charms.As far as curb chains are considered I have a 1730's silver English pair cased verge fusee watch on a silver curb chain of graduated size links and have seen older examples,so it is a very old style.Icollect old pocket watches and chains and sell some at events.
On a related topic-watch size:18 size was the most popular size between about 1845-90 and measured about 2 1/4 to 2 3/8 across and was rather thick.16 SIZE,about 2 inches across and about 3/8 in. thick was starting to come on strong in the mid 1880's and by the late 1890's was outselling the size 18's.About 1895 a new size was introduced-12,which was 1 3/4 inches across and was the most popular size by about 1910.Alittle later size 10 came along and is what one generally sees in the 1920's.Nothing looks stranger than a re enactor wearing a size 12 or 10 watch on a big chunky 19th century chain and you don't want to know what I think of modern battery watches in a re enactor's pocket!If you haveany other questions on the subject I am at your disposal.
A bit of extra info-Boston style curb chains with either round or flat surfaced links probably accounted for fully 50% of watch chain sales but rope twist and snake chains were also seen.Trace link chains were also popular but a huge variety of novelty links were available-engraved,S links,spiral links,fancy combinations of 2,3 or more link styles,combinations of different colors of gold or mixed metals etc..The variety was mind boggling.There are some 1870's and 80's chains where the links were huge and very complex,each link put together out of multi parts and frequently of mixed color metal.In Gilded Age decorative arts it was almost anything goes,limited only by the designer's imagination.Have you ever seen 1870's or 80's aluminum watch cases or chains?Before they developed a cheap and efficient process for extracting the ore the price of aluminum was rather high and it was a status symbol to have jewelry made from it.By the 90's it was commonplace and utilitarian items were being made from it.Imagine someone who paid a premium price in 1882 for a case and chain in it who found that his former rarity was virtually worthless by 1895!
Thanks Anthony, as usual your comments are extremely helpful and informative.
You answered quite a few questions including the varied sized links, aluminum products, and the main question about the curb links being used for jewelry, and not just horse bridles.
I do have to admit that in my gunfighters costuming I usually use a battery powered watch (not that it does any good since my body will drain the battery within a few hours of wearing it), strictly for show, but in my defense, the falls, punches, and stunts that we do, an antique of any value at all wouldn't last a season. Don't think to less of me for being too protective of true antiques. ;-)
When I was still doing shows, I never used an actual antique (except, of course, for myself) in any of 'em. Everything was repro--clothes, guns, boots, you name it. My specs were 1880s-style frames w/scratch-proof plastic lenses to keep 'em from getting damaged. My watch was a battery-powered repro & I used a brass chain which I polished before each show so I didn't damage an actual gold chain. When somebody asked me why I used repros, I said "I can replace a repro if it gets broken or damaged. An antique is irreplaceable."
O.K. boys,I'm not advocating using a 23 jewel railway standard watch here.A big,chunky silverine watch with a heavy,beveled crystal containing a 7-11 jewel movement is both pretty dust tight and was working man's wear in the 19th century and will take a lot of punishment.I save my really fine pocket watches for hanging out in the saloon after the daytime festivities.Most modern repros are too small and the case designs look too self consciously "old timey" without a real reference to the real McCoy.The ones emanating out of China are especially cheesey.Asize 10 watch(what most of the new ones pretty much all are)would have looked like a woman's pendant watch to most 19th century men's eyes.
As for using antiques-if they're fragile or very rare no,but if they're sturdy,utilitarian and fairly accessible then yes,use them.I use some antique guns and keep and use a number of antique accoutrements in my camp including a working Edison cylinder phonograph.