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  • Writer's pictureDarby Roberts

8 Early American Fashion Trends

With the Fourth of July well on its way, let's take a look at some of the fascinating jewelry and fashion trends that captivated society during 18th Century colonial America. From engagement rings to silver buckles, this list will give you an inside look at the symbolism and purpose behind these historical styles!


1. Heart-in-hand Rings

A tradition originally begun by the Romans, many men would give their betrothed “Heart-in-hand” rings as a symbol of their love and affection.


2. Pearl Necklaces

Colonial women loved wearing pearls, as they were a status symbol for the wealthy, and perfectly complemented the necklines of the gowns during this time period. Often, pearl necklaces were tied with a bow or ribbon, rather than a clasp or hook. Those who could not afford pearls, but wished to still appear affluent, would often borrow them when they had their portraits painted in order to secure a fashionable legacy.


3. Silver Snuff and Tobacco Boxes

Considered essential to the colonial man who wished to maintain a refined appearance, silver snuff boxes played a large role in distinguishing between those of the upper and lower classes. This largely stemmed from smoking being associated with soldiers, sailors, and other members of the working class, meanwhile "snuffing" was a pastime reserved for high-class members of society. These boxes often had hinged lids, as it was considered a mark of gentility to be able to gracefully hold a snuffbox in one hand while taking a pinch of snuff with the other.


4. Portrait Brooches

Colonial portrait brooches were often commissioned by the person in the portrait, and then given as a gift to their lovers, mothers, and dearest friends as a deeply sentimental piece of jewelry that was often passed down for generations.


5. Silver Hilted Swords

Popular among the officers in the army, silver-hilted swords were a popular--yet practical--fashion statement for men in colonial America. The swords often featured ornate detailing, such as scrolls, foliage, shells, lions, eagles, trophies, and gorgon heads.


6. Drop Earrings

Large drop earrings were all the rage in the 18th century, as they accompanied the style of dresses and hairstyles beautifully. There were three main styles of earrings during this period: single drop, Pendeloque, and Girandole. Single drop earrings often were made up of a solo gemstone or pearl, but were smaller than the Pendeloques, which were much longer and heavier. Girandole earrings consisted of three drops of stones, often in a variety of sizes.


7. Buckles

One of the most essential tokens of men's fashion during the 18th century was the buckle. Worn on the belt, knee, or shoe--or perhaps all three!--a man's attire was not complete until he had adorned himself with some sort of buckle. Available in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, most men owned different kinds of buckles for the various occasions in their lives.


8. Mourning Rings

Mourning rings were pieces of jewelry often adorned with skulls, crossbones, or coffins. These rings were worn as reminders of one’s passed loved ones, as well as the ever present possibility of their own mortality in the often dangerous and turbulent colonies.

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