Women's Rights and Amethysts
I have fallen deeply in a rabbit hole reading all about the suffragette movement. But why? And how does it relate to jewellery? Well as often happens, it also goes back to my reading, I was talking The Kew Gardens Girls by Posy Lovell, a historical novel about women in wartime with lots of references to the suffragettes. I won't say anymore as I don't want to spoil it if you choose to read it. Also, I knew about the colours they wore and have seen examples of the little round pin badges, but didn’t realise that also women commissioned much more expensive and elaborate jewellery to make their point – in a subtle and tasteful way! Many of those pieces of jewellery feature amethysts – a February birthstone.
But firstly, who were these fearless women? How did you spot a suffragette? Well… firstly take a look at their jewellery! They wore little pins, flags or brooches with the purple, white and green colour scheme. They carried their style of wearing those colours in style. They loved a good rally, they also had many brushes with the law, if there is a history of arrests, disturbances of the peace, then it is likely she was a suffragette. Some women took charge in the suffrage movement and they were those ‘organisers’ – women who organised events, led groups, they were also writers- articles or pamphlets supporting women’s rights. All power to the pen!
The colours were carefully chosen and used in their jewellery, banners, sashes and clothes – do you remember the scene in Mary Poppins where Jane and Michael’s mum comes back from a march dressed in these colours? (The actress Glynis Johns died last month aged 100! Another trailblazer?!)
Purple symbolised loyalty and dignity, it reflected how they felt about fighting for their rights and the respect and determination they had. White represented purity and purpose, the fight for the vote was right and just and also showed that it wasa peaceful movement (although arguably that wasn’t always true!) Green symbolised hope and the emblem of spring. Green meant optimism and positive change. The women of the early 20th century chose amethyst, pearls and peridot to represent these colours in their jewellery.
How much do you know about the Suffragettes? Here is my potted history.... It was the late 19th and early 20th centuries when the suffragettes were important figures in the fight for women’s right to vote. These women were all about equality and getting their voices heard, they were not part of the ‘women should stay’ quiet train of thought! They were led by fearless leaders like Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel, and they weren’t afraid to make a scene.
They used a variety of strategies to make their demands heard; peaceful protests, marches and advocacy firstly, but as their frustrations grew with a lack of progress, they turned to more radical methods like hunger strikes,window smashing, chaining themselves to railings, and, for some extra drama,even burning down empty buildings. Their efforts were met with considerable resistance, both from the government and members of the public, but the turning point came after World War 1, when the contributions of women to the war effort showed just how unfair it was that they were not able to vote.
In 1918, the Representation of the People Act granted voting rights to women over 30. It wasn’t until 1928 that women gained equal voting rights with men. These womens’ struggles left a huge mark on the history of gender equality. I am fascinated by what these women achieved and how much perseverance they demonstrated in working towards their goal.
So whilst February marks the anniversary of the Representation of the People Act, let's look at the jewellery that women were wearing to tell the story of their beliefs 106 years ago. These ladies weren't just fighting for voting rights, they were doing it wearing some fancy accessories.
Jailbird brooch or pendant - if a suffragette was imprisoned, she got a Holloway brooch - it shows the gates from the prison, emeralds and an amethyst, think of it as a little trophy for surviving jail!
Votes for women pins - bold designs, purple, white and green, simple enamel or flashy design, but they were stylish!
Gemstone glamour - amethysts, pearls and peridot were the gemstones of choice
Ring Time - gemstones in those colours again and also VFW initials featured on them, wearing your politics on your finger!
Enamel Elegance - wearable art, and they could get really creative with their designs
Medal Moments - chains with medals and pendants were really popular - especially long chains, it made them more obvious and also said 'I am in this for the long haul'
Suffragette jewellery wasn't just pretty jewellery, it was telling a story. It represented strength and a fight for equality.
Let's look at those amethysts then...
Pretty in purple – amethysts are a regal purple colour, they range from light lavender to deep violet
Quartz Royalty – they are part of the quartz family
Old School Charm – the greeks believed that wearing an amethyst could prevent drunkenness
Rock of Serenity – they are associated with calmness and balance, some people believe that they bring a sense of peace and help with stress
Suffragette Sweetness – read above for their links to suffrage
Birthstone brilliance – You’ve hit the jackpot if you are a February baby – what a beautiful choice you have!
Healing – some people believe amethysts have healing properties. Whether it is improving sleep, boosting clarity or just spreading good vibes, these gems are more than just pretty.
Whether you like deep purples, soft lavenders or even a hint of green, there is an amethyst for everyone.
I've used amethysts in my new ring collection. Take a look at my Sea Lavender Ring for the lavender amethyst, or the Marsh Orchid ring for a traditional dark amethyst.
Finally, let's look at royalty and amethsyts as that purple is a royal colour - well the late Princess Diana had favoured amethyst jewellery. She had a striking amethyst and diamond necklace which she wore on several occasions including during a state visit to Canada in 1985. She wore it with a coordinating amethyst and diamond brooch, it was apparently one of the memorable moments in her fashion choices - but I would struggle to say which one, she looked stunning all the time! Does an amethyst in the crown jewels top that though? I think it probably does! Go take a look at the Delhi Purple Sapphire which isn't actually a sapphire, but an amethyst. It was considered to be a curse, bringing misfortune to the owners but its more of a historical story really and brings a touch of mystery to a stunning piece of jewellery.