Bijoux Electriques!

crownIn 1879 Scientific American reported “…there is nothing more curious than electric jewellery.”

A Parisian watchmaker who enjoyed creating mechanical birds, Gustave Trouvé also invented the Lilliputian battery that could be tucked inside a pocket or hidden within an evening coiffure to power-up various forms of illuminated and mechanical jewellery. Trouvé’s bijoux electriques made their debut in 1879 at the fiftieth anniversary celebration of the Ecole Centrale des Arts et Metiers at the Hotel Continental in Paris. A journalist from La Nature that attended the event reported:

bird“Some of the guests are wearing Trouvé’s charming electric jewels: a death’s head tie-pin; a rabbit drummer tie-pin. Suppose you are carrying one of these jewels below your chin. Whenever someone takes a look at it, you discreetly slip your hand into the pocket of your waistcoat, tip the tiny battery to horizontal and immediately the death’s head rolls its glittering eyes and grinds its teeth. The rabbit starts working like the timpanist at the opera. The key piece, a bird, was a rich, animated set of diamonds, belonging to Princess Pauline de Metternich…the princess could at will make the wings of her diamond bird flap.”

In 1884 The Folies Bergère commissioned Trouvé to create illuminated crowns and brooches for twenty flower costumed dancers for their Le Ballet des Fleurs. In England, Trouvé provided illuminated helmets, shields and spears for 50 Amazon women costumes for London’s Empire Theatre’s production Chilpéperic: Grand Music Spectacle. The audience, which included a young Oscar Wilde, burst into deafening applause in the final act when the Amazons appeared on stage.

Most of Trouvé’s bijoux electriques were destroyed in 1980 when the building in which his archives was held burned to the ground. For more information about Trouvé and his electrical jewellery see this article:

Electric Jewellery and the Forgotten Genius who Lit Up Paris

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
This entry was posted in fancy dress, Miscellaneous and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Bijoux Electriques!

  1. Gosh, the only extant piece is in the V&A?

    I thought that maybe the headdress to the 1883 Electric Fancy Dress by Worth also survives in the Museum of the City of New York – I’m sure I remember it was an electricified headdress, and thought I remembered having seen an image of the whole outfit mounted up, but I don’t see that it has on a quick search….

    • Interesting, I see another skull pin sold at Bonham’s last year. How curious that if there are only two extant pieces, they should be the same model.

      https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/22642/lot/15/

      • Jonathan says:

        Great link – thanks! It seems there are at least another three of those skull tie pins in existence. I bet there are more around in private collections and unpublished in public collections. They may not even be recognized as electrically animated, if the wires and battery are gone. They may just be identified as ‘en tremblant’

    • Jonathan says:

      I forgot about that piece. I think the Museum of the City of New York showed it in their groundbreaking exhibition about Worth done 35 years ago, but they may have borrowed it from another institution.

  2. Pingback: Ballet outfit with lights … in 1873 | Studio Contrechoc

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *