Wedding Cake Toppers

Weddings have always induced a traditional way of thinking – from the extravagant white dress to the exchanging of vows down to the little figurines topping a stacked pearly cake.  Well, times have changed and so has the wedding cake topper!

Wedding toppers have become a key element of weddings over the years and have a more extensive history than you might imagine.  No wedding is complete without a beautiful and mouthwatering baked delicacy.  The concept of the wedding cake extends back to the ancient Roman Empire.  Cakes were made of whole wheat flour and were not so sweetly lavished. These bread cakes would then be broken, possibly over the bride’s head, and guests would excitedly consume the pieces for good luck.

Wedding cake toppers, or wedding cake ornaments are derived from various cultural traditions. Most significantly the toppers represent a symbol of togetherness for the bride and groom.  Another traditional symbol is the white wedding cake, white being a universal symbol for purity.

In the United States, wedding cake decorations started appearing in middle income and affluent families before the American Civil War.  Cake toppings, ornaments and toppers became even more common in the 1890’s.  At this time the decorations were minimal, often including flowers, bells and small objects associated with the bride and groom.  In the 1920’s, High Society incorporated the use of placing bride and groom figurines on top of wedding cakes, along with all the other frills.

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Once introduced, the popularity of cake topper figurines was fueled by two historical United States events.

First, in 1922 revered etiquette expert and Best-Selling author, Miss Emily Post published that, “The wedding cake is an essential of every wedding reception.”  She elaborated, commenting specifically that, “It is usually in several tiers, beautifully decorated with white icing and topped by small figures of the bride and groom.”

Secondly, American retail giants such as Sears and Roebuck & Company began mass producing and selling the bride and groom wedding cake figurines.  These toppers commonly depicted the bride in a white dress, either with or without a veil, and the groom standing beside her in a tuxedo.  Some were shown holding hands, others under a gazebo, but all in the classic wedding theme.

In a 2006 article entitled “Bride and Groom Wedding Cake Toppers,” author Robert Reed writes about deals on wax toppers advertised in wholesale catalogs in 1924: “The catalog listing offered them as a couple, or in groups of 100 for wedding favors.” Reed also comments on the significance of including cake toppers in the Sears 1927 mail order catalog, stating it included an entire page devoted to wedding cake ornaments.  This anecdote helps illustrate the significance of the toppers at that time.

Wedding cake toppers maintained dominance in the Unites States through the 1950s. The ornaments were a nonperishable piece of the cake that could be kept over years and passed down through families.  However, through the later half of the 20th century toppers declined in popularity, possibly by association of being “old-fashioned.”

Today, many couples continue to embrace the ceremony of a traditional wedding.  However, the modern bride is no longer expected to hold herself to the standards previously associated with weddings.  There is a transition happening, away from the traditional wedding formula, and toward weddings as a celebration of a couples’ individuality.  On track with this trend, cake toppers are becoming more reflective of a wedding’s decorative theme or specific reception style.

With this surge in non-traditional weddings, cake toppers are making a valiant comeback. Available now are toppers that reflect diversity in marriages including: multi-ethnic toppers, same-sex toppers, comical & humorous toppers and toppers that reflect a couples’ hobbies and interests.  Cake toppers are now outlets of self-expression, as opposed to simply being icons of togetherness.

Here at The Stamp & Coin place we’ve embraced the old and new versions of the wedding tradition.  Cake toppers are a wonderful keepsake from any type of wedding, and can make a great conversation piece or even a collectible.  We’d love to see any unique cake toppers you’ve come across, so please feel free to share!

By Clever Cupcakes from Montreal, Canada (Custom Wedding Cake Topper) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Clever Cupcakes from Montreal, Canada (Custom Wedding Cake Topper) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Collecting Vintage Hatpins

As some of the more obscure and intricate types of jewelry, hat pins have been all but lost in the memory of fashion.

Hats in history weren’t always made with practicality in mind. Many hats did not stick to their wearers’ heads without help. This is where hatpins came in.

Hatpins were invented in the 1850’s to pin down straw hats, and reached their popularity peak between the 1890’s and 1920’s. The stems of the pins reached as long as 12 inches at one point.

Hatpins are beauties of their own. Tiny, detailed ornaments on the end of the pins like flowers, leaves or jewels decorate the hatpins. They started out with simple designs and became more detailed over time. The most common was a black or white bead on a pin, a basic design that went with everything.

If you collect hatpins, it’s important to keep an eye out for fakes. Sellers will pass pins that are not genuine off as vintage or antique.

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Types of fake hatpins include (source):

Fantasies – hatpin styles that don’t come from any particular period, but are sold as if they are authentic historical pieces.

Reproductions – hatpins that resemble pins from a specific period, but are actually brand new.

Marriages – A melding of new and old, where either the stem or the top is an old piece combined with new.

If you’re wondering about a hatpin, check one of the best sources, The Collector’s Encyclopedia of Hatpins and Hatpin Holders by Lillian Baker.

 

You’d Be Surprised What Human Hair Can Make

Get this: Victorians didn’t just throw their hair away after brushing it out like we do today. They kept it as a household material.

Women kept tools called “hair receivers” on their vanity and put the extra hair that caught on their brush inside them. These pieces have small holes in the middle of the lid to put the hair in, and when they’re full the lid can be taken off. Many have beautiful patterns on them and are made of materials like glass and porcelain. These were used up through the 1950s.

Hair Receiver

From a 1900s catalogue.

 

Waste not, want not, right?

They put this extra hair to use for a variety of things. Big, tall hair was very popular at the time, and women put rats of hair into small hairnets to add major volume. It was like the BumpIt of the Victorian era.

From rubylane.com

From rubylane.com

Women also stuffed the hair into pincushions and pillows.

We’ve also written about Victorian mourning jewelry, which often kept locks of hair as keepsakes.

But one of the most unusual uses for hair was hair art. Women would put together art from locks of hair of their family members, creating a wreath that symbolized family ties. Other hair wreaths would mourn a lost loved one, and some art or albums even kept locks of friends’ hair in braided patterns.

It seems like an odd practice to us today, but to the Victorians it was a beloved tradition to honor loved ones.

Some people make art out of hair today too, although obviously it’s a rare find.

Sources:

go-star.com

Ruby Lane

Hidden Symbolism in Victorian Jewelry

No one loves symbolism like the Victorians loved symbolism.

 

 

In an age of complex manners and rules, Victorians used symbolism to speak a secret language.

Especially when it came to courting, jewelry held its own hidden messages. Men went through complicated processes to court women, closely guarded by their parents and chaperones, and jewelry conveyed more heartfelt messages than he was able to communicate in person.

Queen Victoria, the fashionable queen with more than a little influence on Victorian style, received an engagement ring from Prince Albert in the form of a snake, the symbol of eternity.

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The star symbolizes spirit and guidance in this Victorian star, moon, diamond and pearl necklace.

Sometimes it takes serious contemplation before figuring out the meaning behind a piece of Victorian jewelry.

There are plenty of complex symbols. Jewelry with different types of stones spell out a message as an acronym of the stones’ first letters. For instance, if a ring has a ruby, emerald, garnet, amethyst, another ruby, and a diamond, it spells out “REGARD”. This is one of the most common words in acronym jewelry, and carries a meaning like “with my regards” or “I highly regard you”.

And that’s just the start of the hidden meanings. Symbols abound in Victorian pieces. For instance, if a couple was on their honeymoon, the bride would wear a pin with a crescent moon and flowers. The flowers represented the nectar, or “honey” part of the word “honeymoon”.

290px-Victorian_WomanSome other symbols in Victorian jewelry:
Pearls – Tears
Forget-Me-Nots – Remembrance
Doves – Domesticity
Crowned Heart – Love Triumphant
Butterfly – Soul
Clasped Hands – Friendship, Lasting Love

Do you have any jewelry with hidden symbols? Go here for a comprehensive list of symbol meaning in jewelry, and tell us if you find anything!

A Brief History of the Cameo

The cameo is one of the most popular pieces of jewelry in history. But what exactly is a cameo, and how did it come to be so popular?

The history of the cameo goes way back. Cameos owe their origins to petroglyphs, figures carved into rock that recorded events and gave information as far back as 15,000 BC.

An example of an intaglio piece, showing Neptune and Amphitrite riding a sea horse.

An example of an intaglio piece, showing Neptune and Amphitrite riding a sea horse.

The intaglio, the reverse of a cameo in which the piece is carved below the surface, actually came before the cameo, when the intaglio was used in ancient times to seal papers or mark property.

There are disagreements on when the first cameo was made, however. Research suggests dates anywhere from six BC to 300 BC.

No matter what the right date, experts agree that the first cameos were made in Alexandria, Egypt, where people used them to convey a moral or declare a statement of faith or loyalty. Some of the earliest cameos were made of hard stones like agate and sardonyx (a stone like onyx, but with shades of red instead of black) before the use of more modern materials like gems, coral, and shells. People in cultures outside of Egypt soon came to love the cameo, too.

Contrary to what modern readers might expect, women were not the original cameo wearers and only started wearing them as a symbol of status during the Elizabethan era (1558-1603). This is also when the ruins of Pompeii rose in tourism and status-conscious women bought souvenir shell and lava cameos as evidence for their trip.

A charming cameo ring.

A charming cameo ring.

A cherub band playing accordions and a flapper wearing eyeglasses, smoking a cigarette, and holding a liquor bottle are just two rare cameo styles that have sold for huge amounts in auction.

Many famous figures popularized the cameo in their time. Napoleon himself wore a cameo to his wedding and created a Paris school to teach the art of cameo carving. Thomas Jefferson’s dining room fireplace mantel was inset with Josiah Wedgewood cameo plaques. Catherine the Great ordered all of glass maker John Tassie’s less expensive cameo models in triplicate. Queen Victoria not only created a greater wave of cameo popularity but also popularized the cameo with the woman’s profile carved in sea shell, creating the theme we’re most familiar with today. When she went into mourning after Prince Albert’s death, she wore black cameos until she died.

In the mid-Victorian period, cameo habilles came into being. These habilles featured carved women wearing their own tiny Caraglio_Cameo_of_Barbara_Radziwiłłdiamonds on necklaces, earrings or brooches, adding significant value to the pieces. This style gained popularity and can still be found in production today.

Today mass production means more easy access to cameos now that a modern carving machine makes them ultrasonically.

However, as you can guess, there is an easy-to-see difference between machine-made cameos and those made by hand. Today, only a select number of tradesmen specialize in cameo carving. The craft takes years of dedication to perfect.