Vintage
  Chatelaine

Bobbie Ripperger    Contributing Features Writer           May 2009

Occasionally, having a reputation is a good thing!

A few months ago an email arrived from an old friend, Rik Chandler who had remembered my self-proclamation as a "Tool Queen" and my collection of antique and vintage needlework implements, he asked me if I was interested in seeing the Chatelaine that has been in his family for over five decades.

Would I?

The only thing better would be a fairy Godmother gifting me the thousands of dollars to purchase it.

During the 1950's Rik's father, William A. Chandler was in the Air Force, stationed in England for two tours of duty. He became interested in British antiques of all sorts  "from porcelain, especially Wedgwood, through silver to weaponry and everything in between", he explained.

By the end of his career military service he'd become very knowledgeable about a wide variety rare items and had acquired enough pieces to stock an antique shop, which he did upon retiring from the Air Force.

Rik's Mom, Jane received this Chatelaine gift during Bill's second tour of duty in the late 1950's.


Online search and an official appraisal has revealed the information that the 'Rampant' or Walking Lion hallmark does indeed guarantee English Sterling Silver over .925%.  The other stamps identify the country and/or city of origin, the designer, the date of manufacture and any other important information for authenticating provenance.

The earliest Hallmarks, nothing more than impressed marks to certify true metal content, the mark or marks stamped, impressed, or struck on gold, silver, or platinum which indicate fineness or karat (also called quality or purity marks) appeared in England and France in the 14th century, with the French having the most complex system, without numbers but utilizing symbols in the form of animals and heads of animals and people, insects and birds to indicate fineness, place of manufacture, imports and exports, which have changed over the centuries.

This is a partial explanation, while searching for the true value and placement in history of a piece, is utterly baffling, frustrating and the ultimate mystery!

 

Jane's chatelaine tells an intriguing tale, one that Rik has researched extensively to find this much.

The main clasp, worn on a belt or cord, usually by the Lady-Of-The-House or the Head-Housekeeper who may also have kept the keys to lock away the important rooms, foodstuffs, desks, trunks, documents and other things needing safekeeping, was made in London but all of the other pieces identified with hallmarks, were made in Birmingham by at least four different silversmiths.

 

The manufacturing dates of the components range from the mid 1890's, for the tiny coin purse, to 1912 for the main clasp. All are original Sterling Silver components that are in excellent condition as per the appraisal.

From the appraiser notes written in January 2007: "Chatelaine piece contains a pin keeper, crochet hook holder, note keeper/dance card, embroidery scissors, embroidery needle holder, needle sharpener, match keeper (or toothpicks?). thimble and thimble holder, coin purse with purple cloth lining" "Molded, no Chasing, with a market value of $3,000.00+  Expected replacement cost of $4000.00 to $5,000.00 with expected increase of 10 - 15% annually."

Now this is where my imagined fairy Godmother would come in handy!

 

The appraiser recommended that the following items be kept with the chatelaine, and this is good information for others who wish to establish provenance for an important piece of family history, be it jewelry or the brass bed where all family members were born in.

 

And on the appraiser's list, in all caps and red ink were written: NEVER SELL THE CHATELAINE

 

I would hazard a guess that once out of the family, all ties to its history/provenance are broken and it becomes just another nice antique which an avid collector and "Tool Queen" like me hungers for and would snap up in a nano-second.

 

I'm pleased that Rik's family honors and values Bill's keen and discerning eye for this wonderful old piece of antique needlework, purchased some fifty years ago, on an Airman's small salary with a family back home to support as well, and hope that they display it proudly so they can enjoy looking at it rather than having it packed away in a box.

  

Meet the Chandlers

"I received the chatelaine pieces, one at a time, as Bill found them in his browsing's through antique stalls and shops wherever he could find them in England while he was stationed there in the mid-1950s, first as a Captain, then a Warrant Officer and finally retiring in 1964 as Chief Warrant Officer (CWO-W4) on Active Duty and a Colonel in the Air Force Reserves.

It was most fascinating to me, trying to figure out what some of the individual pieces were used for, as I had never seen anything like it. Bill brought or sent home many interesting items from England. He was known to drive a very hard bargain. He could spend hours haggling over a single piece – he enjoyed the hunt as much as the bargaining!

I never wore the chatelaine as I’m rather small and felt that it was too large and would probably tip me over, even if I did have the right occasion to show it off! Son Rik has weighed it found the total to be 10.5 ounces. That's only a bit over half a pound but the length of the chains almost reach my knee and would tangle if I moved at all. The pieces must have been made for a much taller woman!" said Mrs. Chandlers

Treasures are meant to be enjoyed!

 

Bobbie Ripperger

Creative Design Studio

Member Since May 2005

Chatelaine
Chain details

Clasp

Rampant/Walking Lion Hallmark on Sterling

Crochet hook case

Note keeper or dance card closed and below shown open


Pencil case

Pin holder

Scissors

Scissors and pin holder

Purse closed

Purse open

Thimble details
Measuring tape case

Thimble case

Thimble fits in case

 

Editorial Credit and Photographs By:

Rik Chandler


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