Aglets are metal tips for laces to prevent fraying and ease threading. Sometimes called a tag or a point, these rolled metal pieces were also used as a decorative embellishment for clothing or ribbons in the early 17th century. Aglets were occasionally used as attachments to fasten parts of a garment together, for example, sleeves to armholes. Possibly it is these “points” which Shakespeare plays on in Twelfth Night, likely written around 1601-1602. In Act 1 Scene 5, the clown or fool Feste declines to explain why he has been away from his home and employment for so long. Resigned to accept his punishment he claims, “I am resolved on two points”, and Maria replies, “That if one break the other will hold; or if both break, your gaskins fall.” In this case gaskins are loose breeches, likely held up by a tie or lace reinforced by the strength of aglets.
Most aglets found at Jamestown are made from copper alloy, but in the 17th century some more elaborate versions were made of silver and gold. Many of the Jamestown aglets are plain, but some are decorated with stamped patterns such as: repeating waffled lines, diapering or combination dot and diapering pattern, repousse patterning, ribbed pattern, or decorated with prunts. Most measure between 30-38mm in length (about 1-1.5 inches), and are identified as Type II, in which both sides of the middle seam are folded inwards to grip the lace along its length. Many of the aglets found at Jamestown still contain preserved fragments of the tie or lace to which they were once attached.
– Cuming, H. (1858). “On Aglets and Aglet-Hole Piercers.” Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 14(3), pp.262-266.
– Folger Shakespeare Library. Twelfth Night. Ed. Barbara Mowat, Paul Werstine, Michael Poston, and Rebecca Niles. Folger Shakespeare Library, May 2018. www.folgerdigitaltexts.org