What is Alençon Lace? - The Queen of Lace

April 25, 2022 4 min read

French handmade Alençon lace

 

Alençon is an intricate type of lace that originated in 16th-century Northern France. In its early years, it was made by hand, increasing the demand for this luxurious product. It was highly coveted by royalty and upper-class members as an opulent commodity. Coined the queen of lace, Alençon lace is the most popular choice for wedding dresses. It’s identified by a twisted corded outline that creates the defined look, with a subtle pop to every small detail.                  

Nowadays, Alençon lace jewelry is a lovely way to add a timeless and elegant addition to any outfit. Wedding dresses can be repurposed into jewelry that lasts a lifetime so that you can hold onto those memories forever. Alençon lace is highly versatile and still popular to this day. It’s delicate yet resilient enough to support beading and eccentric shapes.

Silver lace lapel pin made from weddingdress Alençon lace

 

What is the history of Alençon lace?

The creation of lace started in Alençon during the 16th-century when Louis XIV  established a Royal Workshop to reduce the need for foreign imports. St. Marie-Azélie Guérin Martin was an accredited lacemaker in Alençon known as the mother of St. Therese. During the 19th century, the industrial shift towards machine-made lace began to grow. The Carmelite nuns in Alençonhelped preserve the hand-made lace production that has since carried generations forward. This lace production is extensive, taking about seven hours per centimeter. It’s a slow burn craft woven with a small needle to create a unique design. Below is a photo of a vintage French postcard depicting Alençon lace and a women in headdress and costume from Alençon in lower Normandy. The postcard is from the designer's private collection.

Original French vintage postcard with Alençon lace

 

How is Alençon lace made?

Alençon lace is made of design elements bound together by finely stitched netting. There are multiple stages to a successful production, starting with drafting. Artists draw and prick the design into parchment. Then the outline of the design is created alongside the background netting. The primary stitching of the pattern is completed, followed by shading and fill stitching. The lace is decorated with designs and embroidering to create relief to finish it off. The lace is then removed from the parchment with a razor blade, and the stitches are polished with a lobster claw. It’s said that becoming an Alençon lace-maker takes years of apprenticeship, averaging around 7-10 years before perfecting the method. The skill and dedication required to complete this process are remarkable. Below you see the Alençon lace being made and polished with a the lobster claw.

Alençon lace being made and polished with a lobster claw

 

How do you create Alençon lace jewelry?

While Alençon lace is still worn in fine attire and wedding dresses, it’s become a popular option for jewelry repurposing. Individuals can indulge in the luxurious look every day while incorporating these pieces into their outfits. We like to repurpose Alençon lace to make jewelry because a distinct corded outline frames each flower, leaf, and detail. The jewelry has a unique look and exquisite definition that make it a lovely gift for any special person in your life. We create cufflinks, brooches, and lapel pins from unique vintage lace designs. The original material is dipped in 24k gold, sterling silver, or rose gold to immortalize the one-of-a-kind design. Repurposing these lovely Alençon lace pieces is a way to replenish history in the modern world and share the sacred gift of this divine product.

Jewelry made from Alençon lace dipped in sterling silver and 24k gold

 

What are the most popular moments to gift Alençon lace jewelry?

If you are looking for a special gift to give a loved one to commemorate a day, year or just to show your love, Alençon lace jewelry is the perfect option. Our pieces are popular for birthdays and holiday celebrations. We can also repurpose your wedding dress into lace jewelry for the bride, groom, and bridal party. So if you’re wondering what to do with your wedding dress, consider lace jewelry as a beautiful memento.

Traditionally, lace is gifted on a 13th wedding anniversary. While not everyone will want to wear lace, a handsome cuff link or gorgeous necklace is highly versatile. The woven strands of lace symbolize the strength and dedication of such a long union. Lace jewelry is a thoughtful way to share your love and devotion on your 13th anniversary.

 

The Queen of Lace

Centuries ago, lace was seen as one of the most prized possessions someone could have. This quote is from a U.S. doughboy in France during World War I, writing letters to his wife, Vera. He kept this piece of lace with him through deployment and brought it home to her when he returned. It became a family heirloom for generations to come.

 

           I still hang on to your Point dAlençon lace. I show it to people, and they all say it is pretty, so I guess it is. The women rave over it, so I am sure I got my $47.00 worth even if it is so small you cant hardly find it.”

 

One of the most notable depictions of Alençon lace being worn is in a painted portrait of Marie Antoinette, the last queen of France before the French Revolution. This makes the name ‘queen of lace’ all the more fitting. Alençon lace has been a noteworthy part of history and artistry for years, and we hope to continue the treasure of Alençonlace pieces forever.

Alençon Lace worn by Marie Antoinette

 If you are looking to adorn your loved ones with the delicate art of Alençon lace, you can browse our lace jewelry options here at Monika Knutsson. We have a wide selection of hoop earrings, cuff links, bracelets, bridal earrings, drop earrings, custom and heirloom jewelry, and much more.