Chatelaine (chain)

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Chatelaine, 1765-1775 Victoria and Albert Museum no. C.492:1 to 7-1914

A chatelaine is a decorative belt hook or clasp worn at the waist with a series of chains suspended from it. Each chain is mounted with a useful household appendage such as scissors, thimble, watch, key, vinaigrette, household seal, etc.[1]

"Chateleine bag: a bag suspended from a waistband by cord or chain, very popular from the 1860s until the end of the century."[2]

Chatelaines were worn by many housekeepers in the 19th century[3] and in the 16th century Dutch Republic,[citation needed] where they were typically used as watch chains for the most wealthy. Similar jewellery was also worn by Anglo Saxon women, as seen from the burial record, but its function is uncertain. The name chatelaine derives from the French term châtelaine and was originally used disparagingly, as it referred to a device designed to have all the tools necessary for the woman of the household to sort out any problem she may encounter in her day, like a fraying curtain.

Ancient Roman women wore chatelaines with ear scoops, nail cleaners, and tweezers.[4] Women in Roman Britain wore 'chatelaine brooches' from which toilet sets were suspended.[5]


  1. ^ "Chatelaine." Antique jewelry glossary. Adin antique jewelry. Accessed 29 Sept. 2012.
  2. ^ Victoria and Albert Museum, Natalie Rothstein, Madeleine Ginsburg, Avril Hart, Valerie D. Mendes, and Philip Barnard. 1984. Four hundred years of fashion. London: Victoria and Albert Museum in association with W. Collins. Page 174.
  3. ^ "Chatelaines." 1Earth Antiques Appraisals. Web. Accessed 29 Sept. 2012.
  4. ^ Eve D'Ambra, Roman Women (Cambridge U Press, 2007), 116-17.
  5. ^ Lindsay Allason-Jones, ed., Artefacts in Roman Britain (Cambridge U Press, 2011), 204.

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