HISTORY OF HATPINS

By Maureen Timm

As seen in The Antique Shoppe Newspaper, October, 2003

     A woman's crowning glory, whether behatted or not, has always been her hair. Accessories include slides, ribbons, clasps, combs, pins and scratching sticks, but hatpins are the most highly collected items known as "hair jewelry."

     The key collectible period for hatpins begins around 1875 and ends with the Great War when button-ended pins bearing regimental crests were the essential accessory for patriotic women.

     In the 1890s hats sat upon a seemingly ridiculous height of hair that was the fashion of the time. The hatpin became the mainstay of every woman's coiffure and chapeau. These hats were decorated with buckles, beads, flowers and even fully stuffed birds and ostrich plumes. Three to six hatpins were required to balance them, some measuring eighteen inches long. Newspaper stories of that time tell of numerous accidents and at least one shopper being blinded in a buying frenzy at a sale. In some American states hatpins were judged to be lethal weapons and banned. Prior to the 1832 invention of the pin-making machine, the theft of handmade pins was a hanging offense. Taxes were levied to pay for the Queen's pins and the purchase of handmade pins by her subjects was limited to the first day of the New Year. Women saved for that 'pin-day," which was perhaps the origin of the expression, "pin money." Pins were so expensive and treasured, the handmade variety were named in bequests and legacies. The hat has been referred to as a "symbol of woman's emancipation. The hat, from the beginning of time, was more than a head-covering. It was the symbol of ones station in life--or more correctly--man's station. We are all familiar with the expression, "He wore many hats."

     At that time women didn't wear hats She wore a hood, wimple or a bonnet with strings drawn tightly under her chin. It was in the loosening and the eventual cutting of those bonnet strings that encouraged women to break away from the hearth and home. Prior to 1832, small handmade pins with decorative heads were used to secure lace caps, mobcaps, veils and other pinnings to heads and body attire, and it was not until the introduction of stringless "bonnets" that the Period Hatpin became popular.

     The first hatpins were simple base metal skewers; and later they were made with silver stems and studded with cairngorm, topaz, garnet, amethyst, jet, moonstone or pearl. Other examples featured a sea shell, glass, ivory or a ceramic ornament. Small or large, the hats worn by 'sportin' women sat on top the puffed hair or Psyche knot and securely fastened in place with hatpins. The most popular sporting hat was the sailor with its small, low crown and very wide brim which was held straight on the head by a pair of hatpins. Sporting hatpins were made with end pieces shaped like golf or hockey sticks as well as varieties bearing horseshoes, musical instruments or tiny animal forms. These following features are found on the most highly rated hatpins: Adjustable ends - however the pin had been inserted in the hat, the glittering stone could still be swiveled to catch the light. Crested porcelain button ends -look for famous maker, Goss. Some had screw-end containers. These might reveal a tiny mirror and powder puff, or even a vinaigrette, a container for smelling salts.

     A hair jewelry auction was held in 1980 when Clive Marchant, who had been a hatpinologist for 21 years, parted with his 2,000 "hatpins of filigree work, pique, simulated pique, mosaic, precious and semi-precious metals in both classical and Art Nouveau styles, souvenirs of Irland, birds modeled in glass, ivory, regimental badges."

     Millers price guide reveals five metal and paste bejeweled hatpins" 1900-15 at $50-$75 each. From the Fifties are a ball-ended filigree metal pin priced from $12 to $16, and three sequin-topped pins together worth a similar amount. Unusual hatpins which are rare finds for the collector are those carved in ivory and the 19th century art form of Satsuma with its mellow ivory tint. The fine enamel colors of Indian red, green, blue, purple, black and yellow with gilding and silvering, are excellent examples of the minutely painted hatpin ornament known as Satsuma-ware.

     Hatpins can be displayed in an original hatpin holder, often in the shape of a tiny umbrella stand or with a pierced top like a sugar shaker.


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