Both beautiful and carnal, teeth jewelry spans across multiple eras and cultures, from ancient tribes to Victorian royalty and even into modern day alt fashion. Whether you find the practice grotesque or elegant, people have been wearing human and animal teeth for centuries. The original reason for creating these types of accessories is unknown, but this morbid fascination with wearing trophies of kills or preserving relics of loved ones has carried on through history and into today.
The first example depicted above is a Polynesian necklace made entirely of human incisors and canines, estimated to have been extracted from about 60 to 100 individuals. The next three pieces date back to the Victorian era. We have Queen Victoria and her impeccable taste for macabre fashion to thank for most of the unconventional style trends of the 19th century, including jewelry adorned with human hair and animal parts, as well as mourning rings embedded with children’s milk teeth (2) and trophy earrings ornamented with teeth from hunted stags (3, 4). Today, there are many alternative jewelers crafting fashionable wears from human molars, often inspired by eras past. These pieces by Loved to Death (5, 6) are just a few examples of the many modern artists currently creating Victorian-inspired jewelry with real human teeth.
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It’s been a while since I’ve posted an Odd Obsessions feature, but I’ve got a whole bunch of crazy gadgets, intriguing knickknacks, and fascinating places queued up for the next couple weeks. Today I’m featuring these pieces of Victorian jewelry adorned with real taxidermy hummingbird heads. Wouldn’t expect anything less strange from 19th century England.
Countering the Industrial Revolution, ladies of the mid-19th century ornamented themselves with bright feathers, fanciful stuffed birds, jewel-like beetle carcasses, and other ornitho- and entomological specimen in an attempt to reconnect with nature. These particular hummingbird pieces were created with traditional taxidermy methods and often include the skull still intact. The beaks were plated with gold and the eyes replaced with jewels like pearls or rubies. Fixed to gold settings, Victorian women then wore them as earrings or brooches as a statement of their naturalist sentiments.
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You guys asked for more personal posts, so we’re about to get real personal. Today’s Odd Obsession is about vintage vibrators. You read that right — “pelvic massage” gadgets from the 1880s and 1920s. I’m currently taking a Women’s Sexuality course this semester, and I have to say it’s been one of the most enlightening and intriguing classes I’ve taken my entire college career. The last two weeks we’ve spent discussing the female orgasm and recently delved into the fascinating history of the vibrator.
These crazy contraptions were invented to ease 19th-century women afflicted with “hysteria.” Hysteria was essentially a made-up medical condition in the 1800s to describe any and all symptoms stemming from women’s sexual dissatisfaction. Doctors “treated” women of their hysteria by, plain and simple, facilitating a “massage treatment” that stimulated them to orgasm. One of the first vibrators was this horrific egg-beater-like device that was manually controlled by turning a handle round and round. Mechanical vibrators were then ushered in with technological advancements in steam power and later the invention of electricity. Household companies like Sears and General Electric distributed home motors with vibrator attachments, and ads for such gadgets were freely marketed in everyday magazines. Only until these items starting appearing in stag films and erotic photographs did a sexual stigma develop and doctors and society began deserting them in fear of being associated with something overtly pornographic. A sad day for women indeed.
Anyways, hope you guys got as many kicks and giggles out of these as I did. Not only are the devices amazing, but check out that old school packaging design! If you’re curious about learning more, definitely check out the documentary Passion and Power: The Technology of Orgasm.
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Odd Obsessions is a new twice-monthly feature I’ll be doing about my current strange fascinations. Anything from unique jewelry, natural ephemera, unusual traditions or happenings, and other oddities. Hope you guys enjoy this new series!
On a recent antiquing trip, as I was perusing through the glass display cases, my eye was immediately drawn to these furry little feet sitting amongst the old jewelry and dusty treasures. I had to find out what they were! These grouse claw brooches come from Scottish tradition during the Victorian era. Scottish men would pin them on their kilts for good luck, particularly wearing them on hunting trips. The feet are often adorned with gemstones or colored glass, and some have additional embellishments like the stag head seen on 1, 3, and 4.
Grouse claws were also distributed as Mizpah brooches (these ones typically have an engraving of two hearts with an arrow through them on the back along with the word). “Mizpah” is a Biblical term roughly meaning “God watch over us while we’re apart.” The jewelry was given as a sign of love and remembrance during long separations. What could be more romantic than receiving a taxidermied bird foot upon your lover’s departure?
These are still manufactured today, so they’re not too terribly difficult to get ahold of. I’d love to snatch one of these up for my collection, or better yet, get one as a romantic gesture from Dave the next time he leaves on a big trip. ;)
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I stumbled upon the National Trust’s website recently and got lost in a magical world of vintage taxidermy displays and Victorian fashion. I’m embarrassed to admit how much time I spent perusing this site, taking a virtual tour through over half a million curious items. I love museums; I can get lost in them for hours. And this website was no exception. I mean, c’mon, how awesome is that 1850’s Irish wedding dress? Or that brooch made of human hair? Anyways, I’m obsessed, but I compiled a few of my favorite items together here for your viewing pleasure.
All photos courtesy of the National Trust