1880s. Short black silk satin circular cape with bands of black bead embroidery radiating from a Mandarin collar decorated with ribbon bows. « less
The cape is made from two half-circle pieces joined with a center-back seam and open at center front. It has a stiff 4.4 cm / 1.75 in. high collar in front which is very slightly higher in back, and is closed with one hook and eye at the base of the collar band and another placed 7.6 cm / 3 in. down along the opening. A black silk satin ribbon bow is sewn to the left front edge of the collar and another is sewn at its center back.
The collar is left plain while the rest of the cloak is embellished with eleven bead-embroidered bands alternating with ten shorter rows of single beads radiating out from the neck. The eleven bands widen toward the hem and are outlined in seed beads, with interior beaded scalloped shapes surrounding large faceted beads. Thirteen to fourteen rows of seed beads fan out from the base of each band, each capped with a large faceted bead. The ten shorter rows are made with seed beads interspersed with large faceted beads.
Many of the beads show evidence of corrosion, both with a whitish-gray powdery chalking or accretion on their surfaces and with yellow-brown stains where they have had prolonged contact with the acid-free tissue cushioning them in storage. This indicates that at least some of the beads are likely a popular jet substitute called Ebonite (also known as Vulcanite), an inelastic thermoplastic. This is a hard rubber, vulcanized (treated with sulfur) and susceptible to chemical deterioration as sulfuric acid is released. Other beads remain a polished black and may be jet or glass, while still others have a dark red glint suggesting they might be black garnet.
The cloak is fully lined with black plain weave silk. Professionally made. Machine-sewn and hand-sewn.