With the ever increasing popularity of the wheel, bicycle jewelry has come into vogue, says an exchange, and it promises to be a busy fall and winter with the silver and goldsmiths in designing and making up small and dainty novelties of adornment for cyclers. In London and Paris there has been for some time a considerable demand for trifles in the precious metals that would indicate from their design that the wearer was a cyclist. Now the fashion is beginning to take root here.
Bicycle jewelry had its beginning in the fad among well to do wheelwomen of having a silver bell and a silver name plate upon their machines. While this plan has never become general, there are plenty of wheels adorned with these ornaments, prettily finished and in the name plates often of elaborate pattern and design. Next came the whistle bangle, a silver trinket from London, like the bell and name plate, useful as well as ornamental, yet a distinct piece of jewelry.
Gradually this bangle has come to be popular, and it is now is to be bought in many shops in gold or in silver, according to taste. In design it is a narrow band that snaps around the wrist, a link chain to which the whistle is attached and three rings. These rings fasten on the hand, and in them the whistle is slipped to prevent its dangling. It is the work of only a second to slip the whistle out of the rings and raise it to the lips with either hand.
From these beginnings cyclists’ jewelry has been evolved until now most of the novelties on the market are for ornaments, pure and simple, and have no used beyond decoration. The newest things out are the stickpins for bicycle riders. Though these are chiefly worn by girls, they make just as good scarfpins and are frequently used in that way by men. The tiny silver or gold bicycle set on a pin about two inches long was one of the first pieces of jewelry devised. This new pin is much more elaborate. On top of the tiny wheel the figure of a rider done in bright enamel is placed. Wheel and rider together are so minute that they hardly cover more than a thumbnail, yet every detail is complete.
The Wichita [KS] Daily Eagle 5 September 1897: p.12
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: To judge by the coverage in the newspapers, much of the joy of being a wheel-woman was not the freedom, fresh air, and exercise, but the shopping for bicycling costumes and accessories. Mrs Daffodil has already commented on a young lady millionairess’s costly wheeling wardrobe and discussed the importance of the proper bicycle lingerie.
Bicycle jewellery was also used in courtship and for more intimate accessories:
The variety of scarf pins of different styles of bicycles, made in gold and silver, have a special deep and unalterable significance. A small “bike” for a solitary individual means, “I intend to remain a bachelor;” a two-inch tandem, “We are only flirting;” a duplex machine [to quote a popular American song (written by an Englishman): “A Bicycle Built for Two.], “I’m matrimonially inclined;” a line of four or five tiny “scorchers,” “You are a flirt.,” while the presentation of an old-fashioned tricycle is intended to intimate that the receiver is considered passé—“out of the running,” to speak after the manner of wheelmen.
But the wheelman’s interest in bicycle jewelry undoubtedly centers in the bicycle engagement bracelet. There are several unique designs now in the market, of which the most fetching is unquestionably the wheel-link bracelet. This is made of a series of tiny bicycle wheels, linked together with precious stones, and clasped with a miniature lantern, of which the light is a glistening gem.
But the ultra-enthusiastic bicycle girl does not stop with this assortment of wheels for her personal adornment; she has especially designed for her use, or some one else has designed for her, the most bewitching of bicycle garter-buckles. The most economical of these fin-de-siècle buckles is a simple arrangement of tiny handlebars in gold or silver, and costing a few dollars, but occasionally the price runs up into the thousands, as, for instance, when each clasp is a single wheel in solid gold, with spokes and rim covered with diamonds and the hub a huge solitaire.
Denver [CO] Post 23 November 1896: p. 8
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes
You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.