During the Regency, acrostic jewelry came into vogue. These brooches, rings and other ornaments used gemstones beginning with each letter of the alphabet to spell out sentimental sayings such as LOVE, DEAREST, of REGARD.
First created by the Mellerio Jewelry company (they claim to be the oldest family company in Europe) in Paris in 1809, the idea was mentioned by Étienne de Jouy in an article in an 1811 edition of Gazette de France, which in turn led to the style being adopted in England.
Edward and Frank are both gone out to seek their fortunes; the latter is to return soon and help us seek ours. The former we shall never see again. We are to be at Astley’s to-night, which I am glad of. Edward has heard from Henry this morning. He has not been at the races at all, unless his driving Miss Pearson over to Rowling one day can be so called. We shall find him there on Thursday.
Jane Austen to Cassandra
Philip Astley (8 January 1742 – 27 January 1814) was an English equestrian, circus owner, and inventor, regarded as being the “father of the modern circus”. The circus industry, as a presenter of an integrated entertainment experience that includes music, domesticated animals, acrobats, and clowns, traces its heritage to Astley’s Amphitheatre, a riding school that Astley founded in London following the success of his invention of the circus ring in 1768.
She went after dinner to shew her ring…
Pride and Prejudice
The Telegraph recently reported on a gold and turquoise ring belonging to Jane Austen which sold for more than £150,000 at an auction in London – more than five times its estimate.
The turquoise gemstone was actually quite popular in the Regency. Easy trade routs from Egypt and Africa ensured that this bright blue stone remained both an affordable luxury, and easily available.
According to Amy Willis, “The ring, which featured a large oval turquoise gemstone, was sold alongside a handwritten letter by her sister-in-law Eleanor Austen (Henry Austen’s second wife) bequeathing the rare jewel to her niece Caroline. The note, dated 1863, confirms the item belonged to the 19th-century British author.
“My dear Caroline,” Eleanor wrote. “The enclosed ring once belonged to your Aunt Jane. It was given to me by your Aunt Cassandra as soon as she knew that I was engaged to your uncle. I bequeath it to you. God bless you!”
“Jane Austen’s simple and modest ring is a wonderfully intimate and evocative possession,” said Dr Gabriel Heaton, a manuscript specialist at Sotheby’s auction house.”
It is interesting to note that original appraisers of the turquoise ring assumed it to be odontalite, a much less expensive stone that was often used to imitate this luxury item. Sotheby’s first description stated that the ring reflected both Jane Austen’s “taste in jewelry” and “modest income”. A second examination, however, proved that the stone was indeed genuine gold and turquoise, raising speculation as to whom it came from and that the ring might even have been an engagement ring. No one seems to know how the turquoise ring came into Jane’s possession, but it has been in the Austen family ever since, until its recent purchase by an anonymous bidder.
In any event, it is a beautiful piece and adds a bit more to our knowledge of Jane (note that the colour is a beautiful match to the bracelet owned by the Chawton Cottage Museum) and raises even more questions, revealing how much we really just don’t know about her private life.
Visit our giftshop to purchase your own turquoise jewelry, and be sure to check out Jane Smith’s Regency Reproductions, inspired by Jane.
Barmbrack (sometimes called Bairin Brack), a rich Irish fruit bread, is the food most associated with ancient Halloween customs. The “charms” baked into each loaf would fortell the future of the recipiant. Placed in the barmbrack were: a pea, a stick, a piece of cloth and a ring. Whovever received in their slice the pea, would be unmarried; the stick, would be a fighter (or wife beater!); the cloth or rag, would be poor; and the ring, would be wed within the year.
The word barm comes from an old English word, beorma, meaning yeasty fermented liquor. Brack comes from the Irish word brac, meaning speckled – which, of course, it is, with dried fruit and candied peel.
Barmbrack is usually baked in a round (20 cm or 8″) cake tin with a loose base, but this recipe works just as well with a rectangular loaf tin. The quantities given here will make one large loaf.
- 2 tea bags, or 3 tsp. loose tea (a strong black blend works best)
- 3½ cups (12 oz, 350 g) mixed dried fruit (raisins, golden raisins/sultanas, currants, candied peel)
- 1 cup (8 fl oz, 240 ml) milk
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 2 tsp. dried active yeast (not instant yeast)
- 3 cups (1 lb, 450 g) strong bread flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- ¼ cup (1 oz, 25 g) brown sugar
- 1/3 cup (3 oz, 75 g) butter or margarine
- 1 beaten egg
- 1 tsp. mixed spice
Oven: Pre-heat to 350F (180C).
Start by making two cups (16 fl oz, 480 ml) of strong black tea. Remove the tea bags, or strain the tea to remove the leaves. Soak the dried fruit in the tea. Ideally, the fruit should soak for several hours or even overnight, but if this is not possible, don’t worry – just leave it soaking for as long as you can.
Warm the milk until it is hand-hot (you can do this in the microwave). Stir in the teaspoon of sugar and the yeast, and leave in a warm place for about 15 minutes or until it becomes frothy.
Mix the flour, salt and brown sugar in a large bowl. Rub in the butter or margarine. Add the frothy yeast, the beaten egg and the spice. Drain any remaining liquid from the fruit, then add the fruit to the mixture. Mix well to make a smooth dough (add extra flour if the mixture is too wet).
Turn the dough onto a floured board and knead it thoroughly. Place it in an oiled tin, cover with a cloth, and leave in a warm place to rise for 45 – 60 minutes; the dough should have doubled in size.
Place the tin in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes. Remove the loaf from the tin, turn it upside down and put it back in the tin or directly on the oven shelf. Bake for another 20 minutes or so. The loaf will be ready when it sounds hollow when you tap on each of the sides. Cool the loaf on a wire rack before serving.
Recipe written by Mike Lewis, courtesy of veg-world.com
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