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Objects in focus

Chatelaines and étuis

An elaborate and eye-catching waist-hung chatelaine would have been a desirable female accessory in the second half of the eighteenth century.

The chatelaine featured in this video has an étui - an ornamental container packed with miniature implements for everyday domestic tasks and personal hygiene. Étuis could either be carried in a pocket or attached to a chatelaine.

This particular étui with hinged lid contains a pair of scissors, folding knife, pair of ivor memorandum leaves hinged with a gilt button, nibbed pen, spoon and combined tweezers and ear-spoon. See how it opens in the video above.

Trade bills

In the eighteenth century, shopping became more than just about acquiring goods. It was a pastime and leisure activity, especially for the rising middling classes. London shopkeepers were at the forefront of marketing innovation. They advertised their wares and services in newspapers and through trade cards and bill heads given to customers that often recorded their purchases. Trade cards also reminded customers of specific shops.

In this video Elenor Ling discusses the trade cards at the Fitzwilliam Museum and the social history relating to them. Some of the trade cards discussed are on display in Treasured Possessions.

Mourning Rings

In the period from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, even as everyday material comforts became more widely available, life remained uncertain, with mortality rates remaining high across Europe’s population. Around 1650, the popularity of mourning jewellery as a coping mechanism began to increase, especially in England. Dressed in sombre black for the mourning period, usually only those closest to the departed wore memorial jewellery, often a ring.

In this video Victoria Avery, Keeper of the Fitzwilliam’s Applied Arts Department, talks about the collection of mourning rings at the Museum and some of the personal stories they reveal.


Watch and clock conservator Brian Jackson shows some of the rarely seen watches in the Fitzwilliam’s collection and selects his favourites.

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