The word ferronière means ‘blacksmith’s wife’ in French, and comes from the painting you see above.

Ferronières, generally associated with the Middle Ages, were also extremely popular during the early Victorian era, especially between the years 1830 to 1845.  With the early Victorian’s love of all things Renaissance,  ferronières must have seemed the height of nostaglia to the women of that era.  Generally, a ferronière consisted of a delicate cord or chain with a solitary gemstone in the middle of the forehead.  With the long hair-styles, parted in the middle, this would have been a very romantic fashion that would have also been quite affordable as it only required one gem for a simple version.

Portrait of Queen Victoria wearing a ferronière.

Portrait of Queen Victoria wearing a ferronière.

In the beginning ferronières were just worn at costume balls but the fashion soon took off and were even considered appropriate for day or night time wear. This is something I find quite remarkable as to me they really seem like something a fairy tale princess would wear, not something an ordinary woman going about her daily business would wear.  I think their popularity really illustrates the romantic and playful nature of the era. I suspect, although I am just surmising here, that it was only quite wealthy or young women who wore a ferronière during the day time, as it’s quite hard to imagine a practically minded woman going to all the shops and doing their errands wearing one.

Regardless, they are an absolutely lovely fashion and I hope to see them make a comeback as I would love to wear one.  There are many surviving ferronières whose cord has broken or eroded over time, so don’t assume that a single dangling gem is an earring part or pendant, it could also be a ferronière, particularly if it is quite small.

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