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Watch chains from braided hair

Every now and then you'll find a peculiar watch chain on the antic market made from braided hairs. Often they have a locket attatched containing a photo from a young woman. Judged from the garments these women are wearing and the fact the photos are real, this wach chains appear to be from about 1870 to 1910. Most of them are from brown or black hair, about 20 centimeters long and 10 to 16 millimeters broad. The first of them I bought about 1980 and wondered if it was made of horse hair.

Later I was told from my old friend Ernst Grütter, that these braided watch chains were presents from brides to their grooms as keepsakes of their engagement day (wich was celebratet publicly, then). The brides had made them from their own hairs by their hair dresser or a barber. If the hair was long enough then the chain is from one piece, if not, then we find it made as a two-piece chain, connected by some link. The fittings usually are from silver or galvanized bronze. Ernst Grütter reported that, as a boy, in the early 1930s he knew a barber on the country (Siebnen SZ, where he lived then) who still made them. Part of the apprenticeship of a barber then was to learn how to make them. To the barber it was a welcome side-line occupation while waiting for customers.

Two watch chains from women's braided hair
18 to 20 cm long and 10 to 16 mm wide.
Origin: .Easten Switzerland, ca. 1900
Hair Chain fom southern Gemany,
Key wound watch ca. 1870. The chain could have the same age.

Photo courtesy Cindy Dodge, Virginia USA

Last updaded June 07