A Private Collection: Cut Steel

Pieces featured belong to one of our collectors.

Steel Jewelry: Circa 1750-1830

Worn in the flickering glow of candles there are few diamond substitutes more effective than cut steel and none more unlikely, considering the material which it is made - The same steel that made horseshoe nails that littered the muddy lanes in 18th century English villages.

Making cut steel jewelry was difficult and time consuming. First the steel studs were individually faceted and polished then riveted through tiny holes into a base plate.

Cut steel first became fashionable in France in 1759 when the wealthy, who were asked to donate their jewels to the treasury, began wearing alternative jewels. Marie Antoinette's jeweler owned a celebrated Parisian boutique where he was known for sizable cut steel sets. It was here that steel jewelry would command higher prices than comparable gold pieces.

Cut steel reached its peak in popularity in the last half of the 18th century. Later mass production and poor quality led to its decline.

It is hard to find great examples of steel jewelry today because much of it has succumbed to the cruel fate of rust and dampness.

 rare set of 19th Century cut steel bangles


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