The word “chatelaine” means keeper of the castle. The person trusted to have the keys.
For many years, ladies wore the tools that they needed for the day’s activities. These tools or implements were clasped to the waist because clothing of 1780 did not have pockets. A clip or a brooch with chains were used to suspend the tools. If you are interested in buying a chatelaine, do your homework, as chatelaines have been reproduced for years.
Chatelaines might be comprised of items all used for one task…sewing, for instance… or a combination of various tools that suited the wearer. The later chatelaines of the 1900’s era were dance chatelaines. There was a finger ring with chains and they could hold a compact for powder, a perfume vial, aide de memoire (a note pad), pencil, and perhaps a coin holder. The finger ring chatelaine especially was the precursor of today’s purse.
Chatelaines were made of precious and non-precious metals; they could be simple or very ornamented with embossed work, pierced work, enamel and gem stones. They were made of materials such as gold, sterling, gold wash, and cut steel.
Chatelaines might be comprised of items all used for one task, sewing, for instance, or a combination of various tools that suited the wearer. Some were matching sets, like cut steel chatelaines, and others were compiled over time by the owner, especially the sterling chatelaines. Sometimes a chatelaine would hold a single watch. Most fashionable from about 1870 to the 1920’s, they remain popular with collectors today.