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THE girdle of elaborate workmanship formed no inconsiderable part of the jewelry of the wealthy in the Middle Ages. Though actual examples are extremely rare, there is scarcely an effigy or picture from the thirteenth century to the beginning of the sixteenth which does not supply us with some varied form of this indispensable article, while the wills and inventories of the period often contain descriptions of girdles of extraordinary richness.
By the poor, too, the girdle was habitually worn, but with them it frequently dwindled down to a few metal knobs sewn on to leather or on to coarse cloth. In addition to the upper girdle for fastening round the waist, a lower girdle was worn, both as an ornament and as a belt for the sword. It was a broad and sometimes stiff band which loosely encircled the body about the hips, and in the case of male attire was sometimes attached to the lower border of the tunic, with which it converged.
Of the narrower and more pliable species of girdle, the portions reserved for special enrichment were the ends, one of which terminated in the buckle, and the other in the pendant or mordant. Always a favorite field in former times for the display of the jeweler’s art, it was likewise richly adorned by the goldsmiths of the later Middle Ages.
At the other end of the girdle was a metal attachment which gave it consistency where it was most required. This girdle end, which hung down and was known as the tag or pendant, was decorated with various designs frequently of an architectural character and sometimes set with precious stones; but whenever such decorations projected beyond the sides of the strap the buckle was made wider in like manner, and if tassels and other ornaments were added they were always of such size that they could pass easily through the buckle.
The metal shape thus covering the end of the belt was also called the mordant, especially if in the absence of a buckle it was so constructed as to hook on to a clasp to facilitate securing the belt round the person. The mordant often forms with the buckle-plate a single design, its decorated front being either as large as the plate, or of such a shape as to form with it a regular figure.
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