Festive treats and the hair necessity

Yesterday I went for a hair cut. I go for a hair cut for two reasons. Firstly, because my family tell me to and secondly because I always feel that once my hair has been cut I will be more attractive, possibly debonair and definitely youthful.

Why else would I part with £7.20. When I get home and have the opportunity to study my transformation in private, the result is always disappointing. The same old long face, bushy eyebrows and large nose, just with hair that it too short.

As my visits to the barber are to say the least infrequent, they usually prompt discussions on either summer holidays (April, July October to go, going and gone) or Christmas (December).

This time, with my stylist the subject of Christmas presents and jewellery was touched upon. What a wonderful subject costume jewellery is.

Costume jewellery made of non-precious materials is often more evocative of its age than precious jewels.

Worn since antiquity when the Romans excelled at glass imitation gemstones, this ‘secondary’ jewellery exhibits impeccable craftsmanship and clever use of strong period style at relatively low cost. Costume jewellery sold now usually dates from late 18th, 19th and 20th centuries and is by and large British or European.

Jewellery set with cut and polished lead-glass in imitation of gemstones was first created in France in the 1730s by the jeweller Georges-Frederic Stress.

Paste (or ‘Strass’) was often cut and backed with foil to give colour and depth, and set in silver in dish-like coilet settings. Strass jewels were popular in France and Britain, and in Spain they were even worn in court.

Late 18th century riviere necklaces and stylised clusters gave way in the 19th century to figural designs, love birds and crosses.

Paste jewellery can often be identified by its imperfections. Air bubbles in the ‘gemstone’ are a strong signal to paste and condition can be affected as paste is easily scratched and the foil backing can become damaged.

Paste jewellery is very collectable and reasonably priced, although Georgian paste is considerably more valuable than the mid-to-late 19th century examples and will realise higher prices, especially earrings.

Pinchbeck, which is an alloy of copper and zinc, was invented around 1720 by the English watchmaker, Christopher Pinchbeck, as a substitute to gold. It was the perfect partner for paste; intricately chased, engraved and coloured like fashionable gold-work.

Popular designs included wide mesh bracelets, muff chains and hair ornaments. Other imitations exist but genuine Pinchbeck is characterised by its rich burnished colour and matt surface.

Later 19th century gilt metal, often erroneously called Pinchbeck was ideal for less expensive versions of fashionably extravagant jewellery, lockets, bracelets and brooches.