Queen For A Day-Pat Saling’s Transforming Necklace
In Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Marilyn Monroe as Lorelei Lee goes to put a tiara around her neck and says, “I always love finding new ways to wear diamonds.” Although I was only five at the time when I saw the film on TV, I felt the same way. As a young girl I became obsessed with jewelry that I could wear multiple ways. Maybe it was the trips with my grandmother to Woolworth’s where I would find diamante tiaras and figure out that I could wear them as a bib. I would also find sparkly trims that I would then rig into long necklaces, double as chokers, reinvent as sashes and drape into my hair- transforming me from a shy five-year-old into a princess from a far away land.
Today as an antique jewelry collector, I am still awestruck by the interchangeability of certain period pieces created for true royalty and the upper classes of society in the 18th and 19th centuries. So when Pat Saling, a Fred Leighton alumna and dealer in rare jewelry of Georgian through mid-century heard of my obsession, she handed me a blue velvet fitted box with a 19th century silver-topped gold necklace of foliate design. The necklace on its own portrayed a fine and rare example of 19th century jewelry, but as Pat suggests “always remember to look under the bottom of an antique box for fittings.” And then, with a twinkle in her eye, she said, “For you the fun is just starting.”
She was right. The blue velvet that held the necklace lifted to reveal many various lengths of pins –The necklace turned into a feminine, understated tiara—I was in heaven! I found that the shorter and longer pins turn all of the florets of the necklace into individual hair combs, originally designed to be worn scattered throughout upswept hair. I was now ecstatic realizing that when there are pins, there are brooches-my favorite versatile jewel. These brooches could be attached individually or worn in groups– on a sweater or a jacket–or use the largest flower on the waistline of a dress or the plunging deep-v on the back of a gown. They also could be worn on the straps of tank tops or, for this year’s big trend, in the middle of grosgrain fabric as a choker.
I was transported to the kid back at Woolworth’s who couldn’t wait to play dress up and the young girl singing along with “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend”. But unlike Lorelei Lee, I’d wear the necklace as the tiara.