The word chatelaine is French and described the wife of the lord of a castle. It is also used for a type of bygone jewelry item popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. The chatelaine was a souped up key chain bearing many useful items, not just keys. It was typically hung from ladies' waistbands and belts and was worn by many housekeepers. In the 18th century, it was known as "equipage".

The chains attached useful objects such as scissors, thimbles, tiny books of devotions and even small screw top containers called "etui" containing anything from penknives, bodkins for threading ribbon through lace, nail file and tweezer combos and even breath freshening sweets (halitosis being an age-old problem). If the owner wasn't particularly wealthy, the material used would be steel (upper left) or some other base metal or pinchbeck, a gold tone alloy made from copper and zinc (upper right).

Wealthier people might have upgraded versions like the one below made from silver, gold, marcasite (pyrite) and pastes (early rhinestones but with more lead).

Some consider it the handbag's forerunner. But the chatelaine is also reminiscent of manicure and sewing kits and the Swiss Army knife.

Picture Source : Courtesy of © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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