Historically, jewellery items made for gentlemen were quite scarce. Apart for pocket watches there were few “toys for the boys”. The watch chain served as the central focus for male adornment. Items that were attached to watch chains included medals, fobs, toothpicks pencils, vesta cases, Masonic balls and most commonly, sovereign cases.
Originally, a pocket watch was attached to a single strand of gold or silver chain, while a fob or decorative ornament was secured to the opposite end. Grasping the fob, the gentleman would be able to simply pull the watch out of the trouser pocket with great ease.
In the Victorian period, the fashion changed to the watch being carried in the waist coat. The chain was strung from the waistcoat pocket to a special button hole in the centre of the waistcoat. Originally this was a single chain, however, Prince Albert of England started the trend of wearing a double chain, thus utilising both the left and right waistcoat pockets while giving the gentleman more space for ornaments and gadgets. These double chains are known as Alberts, they were mainly used for day wear and featured a swivel on each end with a t-bar in the centre which passed through the buttonhole. A fine multi-stranded chain with an ornate slide and tassel was used for more formal occasions. Many designs were incorporated in the links, but the curb link was by far the most popular. In America a fine chain that passed though the button hole without the t-bar was also in vogue.
Watch chains were mainly crafted in gold and silver, in the 1920’s alternating gold and platinum links became the fashion. The watch chain passed into history with the advent of the wrist watch. Today, Albert chains often adorn the necks women, sometimes incorporating their original accessories such as elaborate engraved fobs, watch keys or lockets.
The Albertina was the lady’s equivalent to an Albert chain and will discussed in a future “Learning Lounge”.