Jane Austen’s bracelet

Object name: Beaded bracelet

Object number: CHWJA:JAH15

Category: Object

Description: Turquoise, ivory and gold-coloured glass bead bracelet with a pinchbeck (gilt metal) clasp. The clasp features a design of flowers arranged around a rectangle with a symmetrical foliage motif.

Made: c. 1810 – 1820

Dating the bracelet is problematic. Experts at the V&A have considered in particular the decoration of the gilt metal clasp, which features densely arranged flowers around a rectangle with a symmetrical foliage motif, a decoration which was fashionable between 1810 and 1815. A gold watchcase made in Liverpool and a London gold box both made 1815 – 1818 have similar features. The conclusion is that if it is correct to identify a Neoclassical element in the catch which was falling from fashion, and to date dense floral decoration as arriving in the years before 1815-16, then it could be argued that the most likely date of the bracelet is 1810 – 20  rather than later.

Context: Family tradition claims that this bracelet belonged to Jane Austen, although there is no mention of it in her letters so we cannot be sure.

It was presented to Jane Austen’s House in 1973 by Jane’s great-great-niece, Helen Wilder. She had been given it by her great-aunt Mary Augusta Austen-Leigh. How the bracelet came to Mary Augusta is unrecorded, but the likeliest explanation is that Cassandra either left it to her, or to Caroline Austen. Caroline’s will specified that various ‘trinkets’ were to be divided between three nieces, including Mary Augusta. Given that the bracelet had little monetary value it would have counted as a mere ‘trinket’ albeit one of great sentimental worth.

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