Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Martha Washington's Garnet Earrings

     I was blessed today to be able to go to George Washington's Mount Vernon here in Virginia - what I like to call the 8th Wonder of the World - to look at the garnet earrings owned and worn (and cherished) by Martha Washington.  Martha Washington had an amazing, simple, and elegant style.

     A year or two ago, I recreated the garnet cluster teardrop that had been converted into a screw back earring in the early 20th century.  The reproductions are currently being offered in the George Washington's gift shop as well as my Etsy shop.  Mount Vernon also offers my reproduction garnet necklace and another style earrings in their shop.  (Go check it out!)

On the left is the original pendant (turned screwback earring) and the right my 
reproduction with an earwire back - Courtesy Mount Vernon Ladies Association

     In 1760, George Washington recorded the receipt of an invoice dated December 26th, detailing his latest purchases from London. Therein he listed "A pair 3 dropt Garnet Earings" bought from a jeweler named J. Grymes to grace the ears of his wife, Martha. Martha Washington was no stranger to garnet jewelry, having received a necklace and hair ornament the year before. In the 18th century, "dropt" earrings referred to earrings with removable dangling pendants. Prized for their versatility and elegance, the earrings could be changed to accommodate the occasion for which they were worn.

Rosette Forget Me Not Earring and Chinese Bow drop next to the teardrop 
cluster that was once a pendant and hung from the rosette

     My point in going was to measure the rest of the earring and pendant - above left - in which to reproduce it.  It was absolutely amazing to hold the earrings that Martha Washington actually wore - and subsequent generations of owners until they ended up to be preserved for posterity.  This was the opportunity of a lifetime, and I am very grateful to the Mount Vernon Ladies Association and Associate Curator, Amanda Isaac.  Thank you!

Garnet moon shaped brooch (converted and originally started out as a hair ornament and a future project of mine) next to the earrings