Birth - Baptism

French traditional jewellery - baptism



le retour de baptême, par Hubert Salentin, 1859


click on the photos to enlarge them in high resolution



baby medal, 1928 (200%)

The arrival of a baby in a family has always been a special moment.  Before the 20th century, the rate of neo-natal mortality was quite high and it was considered important to baptise the newborn as rapidly as possible. Before or during the ceremony, the immediate family and very often the god-mother or god-father would offer a small gift: a brooch for fixing the bib, a baby bracelet, a gold or silver medal, a silver beaker or possibly a silver rattle.



antique baby bib brooch,
silver, circa 1920

very rare pair of silver midwife's scissors
has antiseptic properties and can be boiled
without rusting)



Antique baby cups or beakers


Old baby cups or beakers were always made of solid silver, because the malleability of silver permitted a very fine and light result, therefore easy for the baby to hold.  A baby cup in brass would be heavier and likely to turn green, while wood, glass or china would be broken within a few days.  The numerous dents one sees on antique cups show clearly how many times they fell to the ground.

Tulip shaped silver cups, with a shape similar to the 19th century loving cups illustrated on the mariage page of this site, but a bit shorter, are often found with 18th century hallmarks.  These are also mariage cups, as they would have been far too expensive to be given to children in the 18th century and they rarely have many dents.

Baby cups are still sold today to maintain the tradition, generally in silver plate.  Don´t buy them to offer as a baby gift!  Too heavy and not designed to be held easily by a baby´s hand, they are doomed to blacken in a cupboard.  Far better to offer a dozen bibs to the new parents, they'll never have enough!


  silver baby cup or beaker c1880

silver baby cup or beaker c1880

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  silver baby cup c1900

  silver baby cup engraved 1903

  silver baby beaker c1930



antique silver baby cup

antique silver baby beaker

antique silver baby cup




antique silver baby cup or beaker
antique silver baby-cup or beaker

antique silver baby cup or beaker



Antique baby rattles and teethers


The older teether/rattles, from the 18th century to the start of the 19th were often very finely worked, with little bells and with a handle of mother-of-pearl or coral, reputed to have protective effects for teething.  These elaborate rattles were not normally left with the baby but instead were worn by the nanny or the mother on a long chain around the neck and used to distract and amuse the baby when necessary.

The large ring in ivory or bone of the later rattles was designed to be chewed by the baby to help with teething.  Sometimes the baby was given a necklace of balls of ivory, amber, bone or horn with the same purpose. 



baby rattle / teether / whistle

in gold and coral, France circa 1810



  antique baby rattle, teether and whistle in silver with its chain, 18th century   18th century portrait of child with wooden baby rattle  




antique baby rattle/whistle
in silver with ivory teether

antique baby rattle/whistle
in silver with mother of pearl

baby rattle, whistle and teether in
silver and Celluloid, circa 1920



silver rattle/teether, brush and comb for baby


necklace made of horn



antique baby rattle
in silver and Galalith

antique baby rattle
in silver and Galalith

baby rattle and teether in silver
and Galalith, circa 1930

antique art nouveau baby
rattle in silver and Galalith

antique baby rattle teether
in silver and ivory



pearl-set brooch in gold with stork motif


  baptismal medal

diamand-set stork stick-pin,
worn by a proud father

     baby medal in gold





silver christening medal engraved with the dates of baptism (25 Decembre 1869),
first holy communion (4 May 1882) and confirmation (12 May 1882)

click on the photos to enlarge them in high resolution



 medal for baptism, first communion and confirmation of Pauline Dupoirieux, bronze,
engraved 1845, 1857 & 1858, designed by Roquelay Desaide

click on photo to enlarge



 medal for baptism, first communion and confirmation, bronze, engraved 1858, 1870 & 1870
click on photo to enlarge






silver baby service


Another traditional gift often offered for the baptism was a cutley set, more or less extensive.  At a minimum it would consist of a spoon and a fork, but one sees more complete services which have, in addition, a serviette ring, baby cup, plate, feeding spoon and an egg-cup with its spoon.  The feeding spoon, with its silver handle and ivory bowl (after 1900 generally in Celluloid) was often given at the birth of the first child and used later to feed the subsequent siblings.

A basic cutlery service comprising a spoon, fork and cup was required for entry into a boarding school and one frequently finds them engraved with the name of the child or some numbers for identification.




child's cutlery set




baby silver service with ivory hanfled saucepan, ivory porridge spoon and silver plate



child's cutlery set (75%)



Baby tooth jewellery



ring set with baby teeth

ring set with baby tooth

The first baby teeth to fall out were sometimes mounted in a ring or brooch and worn by the mother. 

These rings were often given or lent by the mother to a sister or friend having trouble conceiving, the belief being that the wearing of this ring would aid in conception (and that it was up to the woman to remedy the problem, not the man......)




 brooch set with baby's tooth

ring set with baby tooth

ring set with baby tooth

gold ring set with two baby teeth

gold ring set with two baby teeth


gold ring set with two baby teeth




pendant with
baby tooth

gold ring set with a baby tooth



gold baby tooth rings



 gold brooch set with four baby teeth and diamonds


pendant set with a baby's tooth and a pearl, gold





For the baptism a medal in gold or silver was offered for the baby to wear around its neck during the ceremony and sometimes an angel or cross in ivory was suspended above the crib.


christening medallions in gold, two with plique-à-jour enamel (150%)





christening medal in gold

guardian angel
medal in silver

baptismal medal in gold,
Saint John




ivory angel for crib




ivory cross for crib


Galalith cross for crib


Galalith cross for crib


An ivory or Galalith cross without its suspension loop is not necessarily incomplete.  The loop was sold as an optional extra and many people preferred to avoid the extra expense and hang the cross directly on a pink or blue ribbon.  Galalith (or Erinoid in England), from the Greek gala - milk - and lithos - stone, was one of the first plastics made: it was created using milk casein and formaldehyde.



Ecotée cross in ivory for use during the christening ceremony and placing over the crib.
The workmanship of this cross is astonishing - imagine the effort required to sculpte and polish it all the while leaving the raised knots intact......
Gold écotée crosses, designed to look like unfinished wood, are typical of the Limousin region;
I don't know if the same is true of crib crosses as this is the first I've seen.



Baby bib brooches


gold baby bib brooch

gold brooches for fixing a baby's bib
one pink, one blue


gold baby brooch


gold baby bib brooch



gold baby brooch (200%)


gold baby brooch

gold baby brooch

gold baby brooch

gold baby brooch

small baby brooches like these were offered to the mother and used to fix the baby's bib (200%)



rare baby bracelet in white enamelled gold (200%)



boxed silver egg-cup with its spoon in silver, mistletoe motif, Art Nouveau period






Contact me with your suggestions, corrections, photos, questions and comments!


table of contents

jewellery ring brooch set with baby teeth tooth, silver baby cup, silver baby beaker, baptism medal, birth medal, antique silver baby rattle, antique baby teether, baby bracelet, médaille bébé en or, médaille de baptême en or, timbale en argent, timbale de naissance, broche bébé, hochet en argent, hochet en argent et ivoire, croix en ivoire, croix de baptême en ivoire, angelot de berceau, angelot de baptême, cuillère à bouillie, ciseaux d'accoucheur en argent, ciseaux de sage-femme en argent, épingle à cigogne en or, bijou régional, bijoux régionaux, bijoux des régions de France, les bijoux traditionnels Français, bijoux et orfèvres en Haute-Normandie - collecting baby rattles and teethers par Marcia Hersey- Streeksieraden in Zeeland - traditional French jewellery jewelry, French regional jewellery - antique French jewellery - silver egg-cup - gold baby brooch- Brabantse klederdrachten en streeksieraden, le retour de baptême by Hubert Salentin


French traditional jewellery - baptism