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Hand Coolers: From Victorian Accessory to Modern Decor

Outside of the steampunk movement, there isn’t a whole lot of Victorian fashion that has survived into the twenty-first century. High lace collars, crinolines, waistcoats, frock coats, and breeches just don’t lend well to our modern, on-the-go society. There is one element of Victorian fashion which remains popular, however: the hand cooler.

What Is a Hand Cooler?
“What is a hand cooler?” you’re probably asking. If you’re not a collector or an expert on the Victorian time period, you may not have heard the term. Chances are, though, that you’ve seen many a hand cooler displayed on a shelf, or used as a paperweight.

Traditionally, a hand cooler was used primarily by women to (you guessed it!) cool their hands. Hand coolers were made of cool glass or stone, and egg-shaped to fit in the palm of the hand. There is evidence of the use of hand coolers dating all the way back to the ancient Romans. In his Elegies,the poet Sextus Propertius wrote of the heroine Cynthia, “demanding the present of a peacock feather fan, and cooling balls for her hands.”

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, they were the must-have accessory. Women were expected to maintain a certain image, and to present a sweaty palm to a potential suitor during a dance would have been the biggest social faux pas one could commit. In modern times, this would be like walking out of the bathroom stall with your skirt tucked into your underwear. Unfortunately, the layers upon layers of heavy, constricting clothing made it very difficult to keep cool. As a result, women made sure to have their hand coolers wherever they went.

Hand Coolers as Gifts and Modern Decor
Today, hand coolers remain a popular collectable. The design has evolved to include some beautiful animal shapes in addition to the traditional glass egg. Hand coolers can act as a great statement piece in home decor. With so many different designs available, hand coolers are the perfect gift!