Cut steel 101

Cut steel jewellery is made by riveting steel studs on to a thin plate. It was at it height of popularity from the 18th century to around the 1930's. The design cleverly mimics the appearance of diamonds, as the highly polished steelwork glimmers in the light.

The earliest records of cut steel production date to around 1720 in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. Pieces such as buckles and watch chains were made during this time, with the industry going on to produce jewellery items, belts and hair pieces.earliest items items such as buckles and watch chains as well as scissors.

0907 A pair of 19th Century French black leather lady's shoes, fitted with cut steel foliate buckles.

0878 A late 19th/early 20th Century cut steel and faux tortoiseshell ornamental hair comb, the hinged top with a central butterfly flanked by scrolling foliage, width approx 10.5cm, together with three other similar hair combs with butterfly mounts.

On of the godfather's of British manufacturing Matthew Boulton, who founded the Soho Mint, produced cut steel in Birmingham, which of course is renowned for its rich history of jewellery production.

A French Connection

France was one of Britain's largest export markets for cut steel, perhaps a result of Sumptuary laws prohibiting the wear of diamonds by the lower classes.

In the 1820's France began their own production of cut steel as a surge in its popularity occurred when Napoleon gifted his bride Marie Louise a Parure of cut steel jewellery.

Joseph Franque (1774-1833) Marie Louise with her son, the King of Rome Joseph Franque (1774-1833) Marie Louise with her son, the King of Rome

Parures are a suite of jewellery worn by royalty which often include a diadem, bandeau, tiara, comb, choker, necklace, earrings, brooch, bracelets and rings.

Today, collection of cut steel jewellery can be seen at Birmingham Museums Trust and France's Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen.

All items featured will be in Toovey's sale on 18th May, 2016. Check out the full catalogue on Barnebys here.