• Well I never! Find out about some of the more unusual treasures in the Wedgwood Museum’s collections.

Fascinating Objects

  • by the Wedgwood Museum team

H&M Rayne shoe with heel in Blue Jasper

Theme

From the time of Josiah I through to the present day, Wedgwood has produced items for function and items for show. The intense marketing activities of the Ornamental Ware partnership of ‘Wedgwood & Bentley’ revealed outlets for jasper everywhere. Cameos and small-size medallions were ideal for setting decoratively into bracelets, belt buckles, chatelaines, and other items for personal ornament. Although jasper shoe heels were not thought of in the 18th century, jasper cameos could be set into both belt and shoe buckles – with the cameos providing the focal point, and the cut-steel mount the ‘frame’. In the mid-twentieth century Wedgwood collaborated with H&M Rayne shoe manufacturers, in the production of a fashionable range of footwear where the leather shoes had jasper heels and occasionally featured jasper cameos.

The company’s in-house magazine, ‘Wedgwood Review’, in November 1958 extolled – ‘Mr. Edward Rayne famous shoe manufacturer, is always good for a surprise. This time it is shoes, some with heels made of jasper and some trimmed with Wedgwood cameos.’ The entry went on to describe how – ‘Exhaustive trials, long to be remembered…were necessary before the first perfect batch was delivered hot from the oven to H&M Rayne. Within a few days they had been made up and were on their way to a special fashion show in America.’ The heels and cameos were produced in pale blue, and sage green with white bas reliefs. Rayne revealed their ‘Wedgwood Collection’ at the New York’s Plaza Hotel, and also at the National Shoe Fair held in Chicago during October 1958.

In the winter of 1977 Wedgwood and Rayne briefly reintroduced jasper shoe heels in new, vibrant colours including primrose, pale blue, sage green and lilac. These were launched in the USA in January 1978.  

This original 1958 Rayne shoe features a small, round, white on pale blue jasper cameo, with the head in bas relief of a vestal. The stiletto heel bas relief is of ‘Hebe and the Eagle’ surrounded by a laurel wreath. Hebe was the female cupbearer to the gods of Olympus; she had superseded Ganymede who had fallen from favour. The eagle was sacred to Jupiter, king of the gods, and often symbolised Jupiter himself. Although bas reliefs on jasper have been used to represent many subjects, the classical subject matter on these shoes is very typical of Wedgwood production since the 18th century.

Catalogue

For those dedicated followers of fashion there was nothing quite as unique as the Wedgwood shoe. Developed in conjunction with footwear company H&M Rayne in 1958, these leather shoes had hard-wearing jasper heels. Made in a variety of colour ways, the most ‘English’ being Wedgwood’s iconic blue and white.