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Placomusophilia: A Hobby that Could Really Use a New Name

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Placomusophilia sounds like something that requires a course of antibiotics to clear up.  It’s actually a hobby — collecting the colorful, unique metal caps found on the tops of Champagne and other sparkling wine corks.  But the word, placomusophilia, makes me cringe.  And calling myself a placomusophile just sounds, well, sketchy.

-champagne-0033aa-lot-n17005Placomusophilia comes from the French words plaque, for plate, and muselet, which is the wire basket that holds a sparkling wine cork in place.  Invented by Adolphe Jacquesson (of Jacquesson & Fils) in 1844, the the muselet is a very important piece of wine gear. Prior to the muselet, corks were held in place with hemp twine and wax, which turned out to be rather unstable.  Corks had a habit of flying out of bottles willy-nilly.  This was somewhat problematic, because when a cork flies out of a Champagne bottle, it can reach speeds of up to 50 miles per hour.  If you get hit in the face with one,  it’s gonna leave a mark.

Jacquesson’s idea involved inserting a piece of metal between the top of the cork and its ties.  This metal piece has four notches in it, which balance the forces acting on the cork, and allow the wires to be tightened more securely.  Fewer flying corks.

The earliest Champagne caps were nothing special to look at, but today, they can fetch some pretty steep prices.  The blue cap shown above is for sale at €120.

I’ve been collecting Champagne caps for a couple of years now.  I started collecting them because I thought they were just too pretty to throw away (God help me, I’m turning into my grandmother).  Champagne caps are both fascinating and beautiful, perhaps even more so than wine labels.  Some are quite striking and unique . . . and some are downright uninspired.

So, what to do with the beauties?Show them off!  My favorite ways are either in a piece of wall art . . . or in a stunning statement piece of jewelry.

The wall art is just a fancy cork board I picked up at Home Goods decorated with giant Champagne cap thumb-tacks.  All you have to do is make the thumb-tacks.  If I can do it, you can do it.  Easy-peasy.

I’ve seen shadow box Champagne cap displays that are under glass, but that’s too much of a commitment for me.  The beauty with this board is that you can swap out caps if you get a more unusual one.  I’ve also seen albums for Champagne caps, but why hide them in a book?  What’s the point of a collection if you can’t see it?

You could also get a really cool vintage frame for this project, but then you’d have to measure, cut, and fit your own cork roll, and I don’t have the patience for that level of crafting.

To make the Champagne cap tacks, just buy a package of el cheapo plastic push pins and super-glue them to your caps.  Tip:  I tried the flat-head metal tacks — they don’t work.  Because Champagne caps are concave, the “pin” isn’t long enough once they are glued on to stick into the board.

The most frustrating thing about this project is that you don’t just open every bottle of bubbles and discover a beautiful, unique cap.  There are duplicates, boring caps, and the inexplicably beige:

But once you’ve collected all your Champagne caps and turned them into giant thumb tacks . . . Ta-da!I still have some duplicates on my board (and one cap that’s really annoying me), but I got impatient to finish the damn thing.  I’ll replace them as I get new caps.

A word of caution:  You’ll want to be a little bit careful about the size of the cork board you select.  My board is 18×22, with 130 Champagne cap thumb-tacks (it takes a lot longer than you think to collect 130 not-boring Champagne caps).  Too big, and it’ll take forever to finish the project.

On to the jewelry!

The caps on my board are beautiful, but I save my most stunning and colorful Champagne caps for (read in Gollum’s voice) my precious.

My Champagne cap ring is the statement of all statements.  It’s made by Wearing Memories, a bespoke jewelry company in Australia.  The ring is, at its core, a Champagne cap locket.  You can switch the cap for a different color/mood.  It’s pricey (the sterling silver version is $450), but it makes one hell of a gift, especially if you’re on the receiving end.  I’ve gotten miles of use and compliments out of mine.  Plus, I kind of feel like one of the Wonder Twins (Wonder Twin Powers: Activate!!) when I wear it.Are you a {cringe} placomusophile?  What do you do with your Champagne caps?


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