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jewelry glossary

Antique jewelry glossary

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Aiguillette

aiguillette

A shoulder knot often jeweled, but also an ornamental braided cord most often worn on uniforms but may also be observed on other costumes such as academic dress, where it will denote an honor.

It is French in origin and goes back to the use of horses in battle. A general's aide-de-camp carried a loop of cord to tie up the general's horse during dismount. As a practical approach, the aides would loop the cord around the epaulette flap on the shoulder of their tunic.

From: An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry, autor: Harold Newman, publishers: Thames and Hudson

Aiguillette

An aiguillette is an ornamental braided cord most often worn on uniforms but may also be observed on other costumes such as academic dress, where it will denote an honor. Originally, the word "aiguillette" referred to the lacing used to fasten plate armour together and particularly to support the arm defences. As such, a knot or loop arrangement was used which sometimes hung down from the shoulder.

A series of fanciful legends have developed about the origin of aiguillettes. One account relates that when certain European troops behaved reprehensibly on the field of battle, their commander decided to hang certain of them. The troops asked to be given a chance to redeem themselves and started wearing a rope and spike about their shoulders with the promise that if they ever behaved badly again, they were ready to be hanged on the spot. It is further related that these troops covered themselves with glory thereafter. Another tale recounts that aiguillettes originated with cord and pencil worn by Generals and staff officers for writing dispatches. Still another account has it that the idea is French in origin and goes back to the use of horses in battle. A general's aide-de-camp carried a loop of cord to tie up the general's horse during dismount. As a practical approach, the aides would loop the cord around the epaulette flap on the shoulder of their tunic. All such accounts have no basis in fact.

Further, it has been argued by gunners that the aiguillette originates with the practice of carrying a pick on a shoulder rope, with which a gun captain would clear the touch-hole of a fouled cannon. Musketeer arguments suggest that the "tags" on the aiguillette are representations of wooden charge-carriers. Another discounted gunner related origin suggests that the "tag" represents a spike carried by the gun captain with which he would "spike" the gun if capture was imminent. Finally it has been suggested that the aiguillettes derive from the shoulder decoration worn by standard bearers in the French Imperial (Grande) Armee under Napoleon. The standards were topped by the imperial eagle or "aquila". The standard bearers were known as "aiglettes" to their comrades-in-arms. (From Uniforms of the Sea Service - R.H. Rankin)

From: Wikipedia

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