Vintage Jewelry & People Who Wore It: Introduction

three pieces of jewelry
Left to right: Ivory pendant, MCHS object 1991-031-0365, see Ivory Pins and Pendants; purple guilloché enamel cufflink, MCHS object 2017-301-0028-FIC, see Jewelry Made for Men; revolving brooch containing human hair, MCHS object 1992-010-0013, see Jewelry Made of Hair.

The Madison County Historical Society holds a wide selection of jewelry and photographs of people wearing jewelry. Some are spectacular, including solid gold cufflinks, sparkling rock crystal necklaces, and carved ivory brooches. Some are downright bizarre: pins and earrings woven from human hair, a photo of a woman wearing a large spider-shaped brooch at her throat, and a staggeringly heavy necklace made from 196 safety pins.

Each of these objects and photographs have a story, some of them known and some of them lost forever. In this exhibition you will encounter a lonely preacher’s bride living in a dismal one-room cabin and a blinded orphan’s friendship with a travelling salesman. The jewelry and photographs span across time from 1840 to 1950. They come to us from as far away as Switzerland, India, and New York City, but they all have a Madison County connection.

The six sections of this exhibition present just a small fraction of the Madison County Historical Society’s jewelry-related holdings. Please send your feedback and/or any questions about this exhibition, written and designed by Mary Z. Rose, Assistant Curator at the Madison County Historical Museum and Archival Library, to