The Cool Warmth & Beauty Of Shawls & Wraps

Highly decorative shawls and wraps date back to India and Persia in the third century. The earliest known manufacturing began with the looms of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The original Kashmir shawls are made of goat hair, and were often elaborately woven and decorated. By the eighteen hundreds these shawls became increasingly popular in Europe as well. They were a subject of much fascination, and became coveted outerwear for the most fashion conscious, as well as creative individuals attracted to wearable art. They were especially popular to be seen wearing at the live performance theatres and operas.

To keep up with the rising demand for beautifully designed shawls, France and Great Britain developed a mechanized shawl industry, in order to imitate the famous Kashmir shawls. Known as Paisley workshops, they were able to create a price competition for the shawls, which forced the original Kashmir production to cut costs and compromise on quality.

The shawl industry peaked in the eighteen hundreds and early nineteen hundreds before there was dip in the demand. The loss of interest at the time can ironically be attributed to the mass production. Regardless, from the twenties onward, shawls have continued to be worn by discerning and creative individuals. The sixties in particular, brought about a revival in decorative shawls, from Kashmir goat wool, to fringed piano shawls, and all kinds of capes and ponchos.

Just as it was hundreds of years ago, shawls can be worn over a plain wool jacket or sweater, or to offset a certain type of skirt. They can be draped over dresses and evening wear. A casual chic look with a hippie flair shows them worn with jeans, boots, and tank tops. They have been popular in warmer climates with cooler evenings, to drape over the shoulders as the temperature falls. They can be an elaborate addition to the little black dress instead of wearing a coat.

Below are some samples of different types of shawls and wraps. The Persian method of draping is shown in some of the pics below. To wear it this way you put one third of the shawl to one shoulder, and then drape the rest so the fringe or edge falls to one side.

Wool Shawl With Hand Knotted Fringe
Close Up Of The Weaving & Knotting
Ruffled Wool Cape Shawl With A Tight Weave – Italy
Lavishly Embellished Wool Shawl
Close Up Of Needlework On Embellished Shawl
This Image Shows The Extensive Amount Of Embroidery & Vibrancy
Woven Shawl With Vibrant Colours
The Reverse Side Of This Unique Woven Shawl
Beautifully Embroidered Silk Shawl
Close Up Of Floral Embroidery On Silk Shawl
Chanel 1980’s Shawl Decorated On Both Sides
Mid-Century Embroidered Kashmir Shawl

Ivory & Certain Types Of Fur Are Basically Banned From All Markets

For a long time, antique and vintage ivory and furs were in a different category from the new ones. It was generally considered okay and ethical to buy and sell these items if they were classified vintage or antique. I have never had much attraction to buying vintage fur, with the exception of some mink hats and headbands, and a few items with genuine fur collars. The list of banished furs includes fur from all big cats, all primate fur, and all types of bear fur. Sealskin products cannot be exported to the USA, European Union, Mexico, or Taiwan. Canada is one of the few countries that permits the sale of sealskin items.

Ivory has become a taboo product due to the poaching, endangered elephants, and the skill artisans have to make it look antique. Although it is not illegal to own inherited or antique ivory, it can no longer be exported or sold. Some of these laws are fairly recent and expanding to include other countries. The only way to identify the age of the ivory is through carbon dating. Recently an antique dealer in Toronto was fined and charged for having carved elephant tusks for sale. As it turned out, they were able to identify the age of the tusks, which placed them in the seventies when poaching was a real problem.

Over the years, I have picked up some ivory necklaces and bracelets but cannot be sure how old the pieces are. It seems the best thing is to donate them to a museum or educational institute. Different types of ivory can be identified by the pattern of the schreger lines. The location the ivory came from can also be identified because they can determine the diets of the elephants by the tusks.

One of the many sad things about the poaching, is that of all the elephants that die naturally, the ivory cannot be used because of the illegal activity associated with it. It’s too bad the elephants were not protected from poachers in the first place. There should have been a method of making sure all tusks were matched to the death of the elephant. The product made from the tusks of elephants that died naturally should have been hallmarked as such. It would be a good idea to have a method of marking during the creation of the piece, similar to what they did to help people avoid buying blood diamonds. Ivory is very beautiful, especially since it has often been combined with some of the most exquisite carving known to man.

As far as the example set in Kenya where tons of confiscated ivory was burned – on principle, I disagree with the destruction of artifacts. However, the issues surrounding the endangerment of these beautiful and intelligent creatures, the horrors of poaching, and the difficulty in accurately dating the ivory – makes the bans understandable.

There can be some confusion in terminology surrounding vegetable ivory and what is referred to as “French ivory”. Vegetable ivory is from tagua nuts and can be carved, decorated or dyed. French ivory is a type of celluloid or plastic that looks like ivory. French ivory and vegetable ivory have nothing to do with elephants or endangered species.

Now it’s time to see if any of the feathers on the hats are from endangered birds! I do have one hat with a real bird on it. It is a black hat embellished at the front with a small blackbird – dating it prior to the 1909 ban on such practices. The moral of this story is an anthropomorphic oxymoron. From an animal’s perspective – humans do some very strange things!

A few ivory sample pieces from the Quiet West collection:

Carved Ivory Necklace Featuring A Large Scarab

Carved Ivory From Hawaii

Antique Necklace Featuring Carved ivory Beads

Antique Carved Elephants From Africa 1920’s or 1930’s

Antique Asian Carved Small Bottle

Maker’s Marks

Example Of French Ivory Or Celluloid Antique Ring Box

Copyright Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage (2018). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.