Recently, on two occasions, I have been able to buy some miniature Georgian fobs. I now have five. They range between 2 cms and 2.5 cms in height.
In the context of antique jewellery, the meaning of the word ‘fob’ has changed over time. In the 17th century when pocket watches first began to be carried by men, they were held in a small pocket in their breeches called a ‘fob’ pocket. A small chain or ribbon was attached to the watch so it could be pulled out of the pocket. Attached to the chain or ribbon could be the watch key and some trinkets. However, in the late Georgian and early Victorian era, men began to place their watch in a pocket and the chain, which became longer, was attached to a buttonhole. Men continued to attach little objects to the chain – seals, charms and little decorative pieces. These little objects also became known as fobs.
The little fobs took a number of forms. Some fobs were seals, used to authenticate documents and seal letters. Others were double-sided, many able to swivel to show off the different sides of the fob. Others fobs contained the insignia of a regiment, a sporting club and some other allegiance.
Many fobs were purely decorative, containing a hardstone or gem engraved with the owner’s initials. The setting might be very ornate with a lot of rococo flourishes. The size of decorative fobs varied, although most were about 3 to 4 cms high. There were also miniature decorative fobs made like the ones photographed here. They are all different but show extraordinary detail in design, engraving and embossing.
Some of the miniature fobs I have came with their original split ring. These split rings are beautifully engraved rings which work like a key ring today but they are easily broken and hard to find.
The five fobs I have have different bases. One has an amethyst, two have bloodstones, one has translucent chalcedony and the last has a glazed panel. Two have incised images, one has initials, the other what appears to be a crude representation of a horse
Too small to really function as seals, these little fobs are still exquisite and work today as ornamental pendants and charms.