As part of our upcoming comet exhibition at LASM, the museum acquired a collection of very interesting pieces of jewelry. The staff and I are quite fascinated by them. Their simple design is easily overlooked at an antique store if one isn’t familiar with the style. I will definitely be on the look out next time I’m at an antique store!!
In the late 1700s and early 1800s one might say that the astronomical community was gripped by “comet fever”. Many astronomers, including Charles Messier spent many nights at their telescopes hunting for comets. Messier himself discovered over ten comets, as well as many star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies (Later known as the Messier Objects) that he cataloged as “non comets.” “Comet Fever” also took the public by storm, leading to many interesting pieces of artwork.
My particular favorite are the Halley’s Comet pins. Inspired by the unique shape of a comet in the sky, these pins are often simple in design. They are often a horizontal brooch style pin usually about an inch and a half long, with a gem placed at one end to represent the comet itself, and a thin bar to represent the tail. To the untrained eye, the pins appear asymmetrical and somewhat strange. These pins were quite the trend in the mid 1800s to the early 1900s. They range in intricacy, type of metal, as well as type of gemstone.
Earlier pins tended to have highly ornate metal working in the “tail segment”.
The style evolved into a more streamlined, modern look in the early 1900s.
The comet pin underwent a radical change in the mid to late 1900s, pins became large and more compex.
Below is one of the pins from the LASM collection.
The pins in our collection all date back to around 1835. Note the detail in the metal tail.
The exhibition “Vagabonds of the Solar System: Comets Past and Present” opens at LASM on November 19th! Visit the museum to view our collection of comet pins and vintage comet memorabilia, and to learn the historical and scientific significance of comets.