Victorian Hand Coolers (glass eggs)

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Victorian Hand Coolers

As you probably already know, I make glass paperweights. However, you may not know that I also make glass hand coolers. Similar to paperweights, only smaller, hand coolers have an interesting history. Following is a short story explaning a little about them and their history. I provide a card with a similar story (though shorter, due to space limitations) with all the hand coolers I sell.

A Short History of Hand Coolers

Appropriate dress was very important to proper women of early Victorian times. Every event, whether a formal ball, garden party, or a quiet evening at home, required acceptable costume and matching accessories. A lady always made sure she wore the right gown, appropriate hat, suitable gloves and parasol - and, she invariably kept at least one hand cooler nearby.

Hand coolers were small glass eggs held by Victorian women to - as the name implies - cool their hands on hot summer days. It would have been considered a glaring social error to present a sweaty palm to a guest or a potential beau. In an age when medicine was still a fledgling science, it was also believed that holding a hand cooler helped ward off passing fevers.

Seldom used now as originally intended, colorful glass hand coolers have become very collectable as a decorative item. I make mine in a variety of styles and colors.

While hand coolers of the Victorian era were typically egg shaped, small round glass hand coolers are believed to have been used more than 2000 years ago by the ancient Romans*.

* Small spheres of solid glass have been made for at least 2000 years. There is evidence that they were used as juggling balls in the baths of ancient Rome. (This sounded a little suspect to me until I found out the baths had sand floors.) And, as glass eggs were 1900 years later, they are also thought to have been used to cool the hands of ladies. The poet Propertius, 51 BC, describes "Cynthia, demanding the present of a peacock feather fan, and cooling balls for her hands". The general consensus seems to be (at least in the glass books) that the cooling balls were made of glass.

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