Astronomical Fashion: A Georgian Garnet Halley's Comet Brooch

Autumn is here, and it's time to update your wardrobe with fall colours. What could be more suitable than the rich reds of Georgian foil-backed almandine garnets? Even better, what if those garnets were in the shape of Halley's Comet?

Astronomer Edmund Halley travelled through France and Italy during 1680, and while in Paris observed the appearance of the comet that would come to bear his name. “In Rome he would have met astronomers who had observed the comet in November 1680; they were of the circle of Queen Kristina of Sweden, and he may have met the queen herself, for she had observed an earlier comet with Cassini and had offered a prize for a calculation of the orbit of the comet of 1680. Halley discussed many astronomical subjects in the course of his tour; it is likely that comets were a principal topic, for their orbits were of great contemporary interest.” (ODNB).

Halley’s breakthrough was noting the similarities between the comet he witnessed and those that had appeared in 1531 and 1607. He realised they were the same object, and publicly predicted its return in 1758/59. The comet’s much-anticipated reappearance was a popular sensation, and brooches such as this one were fashionable accessories in the years following, as well as after the comet passed in 1835. You can see a similar brooch in the collections of the British Museum.

This example is completely original and in superb condition, and can be purchased here.

You might also be interested in our other rare books, instruments, and objects related to astronomy.


Laura Massey
Laura Massey

Author

Alembic founder Laura Massey holds a bachelor's degree in the history of science from Georgia Tech and a master's in book history (focusing on medieval and early modern scientific and medical books,) from the Institute of English Studies at the University of London. She has worked as a cataloguer, bookseller, and blogger in libraries and bookshops in the United States and Britain.



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