A stunning garnet

Resembling something designed and built by the BORG collective, the piece in question is a Spessartine/ite garnet from Brasil that has been etched by caustic fluids at some point in its geological history, probably by partial dissolution when the granite that parented it was slowly cooling and stewing in its own juices. Named after the town of Spessart in Germany that was the original type location they vary from orangey yellow (mandarin or malaya garnet) to red. 

Spessartine forms a solid solution series with other red garnets, with the mantle sourced pyrope garnets (along with chrome diopside a diamond indicator mineral that erupts in the same kimberlite that carries the diamonds up from the mantle), the mostly metamorphic iron Almandine garnets and these that form mostly in Earth distilled granitic rocks. Garnets in a rock are used as both geobarometers and geothermometers to gauge the ambient temperature and pressure conditions in which the rock formed, and hence the volcanic or metamorphic event. 

The colour is caused by manganese, and it can also be recognised by its inclusions in a hand lens, which consist of veil patterns of fluid and crystalline inclusions. Major sources include the Umba valley in Tanzania and Kenya (also famous for corundums), Nigeria and Namibia. Colours are natural as these gems are not treated. This crystal is a floater that grew without contact with the walls of the pocket, measures 7.5 x 6.5 x 3 cm and weighs around 215 grams. 


Image credit: Rob Lavinsky/


Welcome back to FRIDAY FASHION FACT! Today we’re talking about one of the most common pieces of historical dress: busks! Never heard of a busk? You’re not alone. Despite the fact that busks were worn for centuries, very few people today have ever heard of them. This is likely due to the fact that a busk is almost never seen.

To begin with, what exactly is a busk? Essentially, it is a narrow, stiff piece that is placed down the center front of a corset. They can be traced back to be beginning of corsets (which you can read here.) The busk added additional support to the weakest part of the corset, since the majority of pressure put on a corset occurs when a woman bends forward. Of course, with a busk, this movement becomes seriously hindered. The perceived benefit of the busk was that it aided in perfecting posture, which was key when presenting oneself as high class and proper. Additionally, busks shaped the front bodice to be perfectly flat, as was the style from the start of corsets through the end of the 18th century.

The preferred material for busks was whalebone, which was stiff enough to shape and support, yet supple enough to allow for slight movement. Wood was commonly used as well, as it was far more affordable, but it also tended to be more brittle. Bone was occasionally used, too. The busk was slipped into a pocket in the front of stays or stiffened bodices, which would then be laced closed with a piece called a “busk point.” Busks were often ornately decorated with etchings, just as most pieces of historical clothing were often decorated, whether seen by the public or not. As the piece was so hidden, close to the body, and personal, it became a common gift for a man to give his lover. Men would often take great care in carving personal decorations, typically with hearts, initials, and other romantic themes. The practice was particularly common among sailors on whaling ships, who would create busks while at sea for the women they left behind.

The shape of busks varied slightly throughout the centuries, becoming more straight or tapered, or longer or shorter, depending on what was the popular bodice shape at the time. It wasn’t until the mid 19th Century, though, that busks made a dramatic transformation. During the Industrial Revolution, it became common to use steel in shapewear- namely corsets and cage crinolines. It was soon discovered that this durable material could be used to split the busk into two pieces, with studs and loops that hooked together in the front of corsets, revolutionizing the way that they were taken on and off. This system is still used in corsets to this day, though often with hook and eyes instead of studs. With the front closure, it was suddenly far easier to put a corset on by oneself, without needing to significantly loosen the laces. However, since the studs and loops stuck out of the fabric, yet were attached to the busk itself, busks no longer were removable, and instead were permanently enclosed in the front of the corset.

In the 1870s, the spoon busk was created, which was wider and rounded at the bottom of the corset. This shape dispersed the pressure on the wearer, preventing the bulge that commonly occurred where the corset ended. Despite it’s visual appeal, the curved bottom of the spoon was not ideal as it would dig into the wearer. They therefore faded out of style by the end of the 19th Century. Shortly after, though, the busk faded away altogether, as corsets fell out of fashion in the late 1910s. Thankfully, a few of those early busks survive as reminders of otherwise long forgotten romances.

Have a question about fashion history that you want answered in the next FRIDAY FASHION FACT? Just click the ASK button at the top of the page!

etsyfindoftheday 1 | 2.5.15

theme thursday: golden love

modern hammered and classic vine his-and-hers gold wedding bands by palefishny

i’ve spent this week focusing on valentine’s day finds, and today is no different — but you’ll notice a decidedly wedding vibe this theme thursday. let’s kick things off with a pair of wedding bands in shining gold — his and hers, hammered and floral, gorgeous and special. you can even get something engraved inside.

etsyfindoftheday 3 | 2.19.15

theme thursday: animal pals

vintage elephant locket on long chain by freshyfig

detailed with etched patterns, this large brass elephant charm is actually a locket that used to hold a vial of cream perfume. now, the open space is the perfect hiding spot for your favorite trinkets.