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Italian Diadem (c. 1560) – Laura Battista

I’ve wanted one of those lovely Italian diadem headpieces for ages, and being made a Baroness seemed like a perfect excuse to finally make one. I decided to make my own, because Cesare was (is always) busy with many other things, like in this case making our actual coronets, and I didn’t want to put more on him.

Originally I was going to cobble something together with fabric and maybe leather, but it was simply not going to have the right look, At All. Also the pattern which I found online for the shape, while it had good head shaping, was HUGE and silly. The period ones are gold and gem-covered and not what you’d call modest, but they are at least kind of discreet in size. So I came up with this, which seemed to be going to work:

Now, these diadems were all the rage in Florence, but I finally found one in Venice, thus justifying my desire for one. It’s in the right period (c. 1560) and it’s relatively simple in shape and design:

Girl with a Basket of Fruits (Lavinia), 1555 – 1558 – Titian

I gave Cesare my pattern and he cut the metal – I was willing, but I imagine he was pricing out the saw blades I was likely to break and decided he’d better do it himself. He also bent and twisted it slightly to fit my head – fabric or leather wouldn’t have to be shaped like that, but of course metal does. The metal is just an old chunk of aluminum – it polishes up to a nice silver, and is of course very light and easy to work.

I then (all by myself!) drilled holes along the outside edge to put on a border.

The border is also something Cesare made, leftover from another project, it’s a ‘simple’ hammered wire braid, which I attached with little loops of wire at regular intervals.

Then I had to drill LOTS more holes to put all the pearls on. They are all beads, and all held on by twists of wire on the back. Usually there is one central large gem and they get progressively smaller towards the sides, but I needed six, so I put a seahorse in the centre to represent my badge, six large carnelians on either side, interspersed with tiny pearls that are just there to make it fancy.

Before putting the pearls on I had to make it shiny. First there was a LOT of sanding, with increasingly fine sandpaper. Then Cesare gave me a buffing compound of some kind, which turns black when you rub it on, then you polish it all off and scrub the thing with toothpaste, after all of which it is pretty darn shiny! (I think the polishing compound is Mother’s, it is found in the automotive section!)

Here is the back, once all the pearls are in place:

I glued a piece of leather on the back once it was all finished, so the wire twists would be hidden, and more importantly wouldn’t tangle in my hair!

And here is the finished Rigid Thing! I wore it all day on Saturday and it was perfectly comfortable, couldn’t really feel it at all, and it stayed in place quite well. Further testing will be conducted at events where I am not just sitting at my computer, but initial results look promising!