The Story of our Pocket Dial Inspired Jewellery

Posted by Adam Sherratt on

Model wearing our Brass Pocket Dial bangle, sat on a bench in the Shakespeare Birthplace garden

'To carve out dials quaintly, point by point, Thereby to see the minutes how they run: How many make the hour full complete, How many hours bring about the day, How many days will finish up the year'

Henry VI Part 3

Our gold plated pocket dial pendant and bangle are inspired by a pocket dial dating from around 1600 in the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust's collection.The pocket dial was used as a portable device to tell the time, and is an object Shakespeare would have been familiar with. In As You Like It, Jacques recounts how the fool he meets in the forest carries a dial in his pocket, or 'poke':

And then he drew a dial from his poke,
And looking on it with lack-lustre eye
Says very wisely, "it is ten o'clock."

A late sixteenth/early seventeenth-century pocket dial. This consists of a flat brass ring, engraved inside with the hours of the day and outside with the initials of the months. A pierced sliding ring runs around the middle of the outer ring covering a slot. When the hole is opposite the date, and the dial turned towards the sun, a ray of light passes through the hole. This forms a bright spot on the inner ring, indicating the time.

Image: Pocket dial from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust's Collection.

The original dial in our collection is made from brass, with the hours of the day engraved on the inside and the initial letter of each month marked on the outside. It has a sliding ring running around the middle, pierced with a small hole. In order to tell the time, this was lined up with the month's corresponding letter and the dial held up to the sun. The light passed through the hole and where it fell on the inside of the dial indicated the time of day.

In Shakespeare's time, pocket dials were regarded as luxury items and, as symbols of wealth, they would have been worn to be seen. Known alternatively as ring or 'pendent' dials, they were often worn suspended around the neck.

A Wax model for our Brass Pocket Dial jewellery, photographed on the technical drawings from the original.
Image: (Above) Wax model and drawings for the brass pocket dial pendant 

Our decorative jewellery pieces don't tell the time but we hope they retain the original's sense of luxury and style. They are reproduced in solid brass using the lost wax process, gold plated, blackened, and then polished by hand. We have made a virtue of the dial's original features, adapting the fixings and the slide hole into an ingenious hinge and clasp for the bangle. The pendant is modelled to actual size and we have even reproduced the accession number engraved on the inside of the dial (SBT 1870 - 1).

Our Brass Pocket dial pendent on a ribbon on a white background


 Take a look at our Brass Pocket Dial Jewellery 


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