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Click to enlarge. Queen Elisabeth of Spain by Sofonisba Anguissola. She is holding a Zibellino fur in her right arm.
Zibellino (zibellini is the plural form) is an entire pelt of animal popular in the 15-16 Century. The pelt was originally left plain, but later on they became extremely richly decorated with precious metal and gemstones. The head if the pelt is often replaced with a gold or crystal head.
Some say the purpose of zibellini are worn so fleas would bite into the fur instead of the human, but others point out that fleas are only attracted to blood, therefore a dead animal with no blood would not be attracting much fleas. Not to mention, advertising one's personal hygiene issue back then was as unpopular as it is now, carrying a body-bug repellent would be akin to proudly toting a prescription grade deodorant. The more logical explanation is that they are simply decorations with little purpose other than showing off the wealth of wearers.

I bought some vintage whole pelt mink stoles from ebay. They cost about $15 with shipping included and they usually have multiple pelts attached. Vintage furs in pelt form are generally in better conditions than ones already made into coats. The $15 for 2-6 price tag is much more affordable than the $125 (per piece!) price tag for new garment-grade mink pelts. 
I am no goldsmith, so I made the head with polymer clay instead. This is the head pre-baking.
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Post-baking, painted with gold nail polish (gold paint is so much more expensive!)
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The best pelt of the 5, with head amputated ready for head transplant.
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I used the glass eyes from the pelts for the eye and a black bead + headpin for the nose.
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Head transplant was successful. The vital signs are good.
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For decoration, I used some pre-mounted plastic gems and a length of silk ribbon. I decided to do a Gwen Stefanie for the head.
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Made two more piece of "gold" for the rest of the body. I sewed the ribbon to place instead of gluing them directly onto the fur in case I change my mind and decide to do something else with the fur.
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Anonymous
12/28/2010 12:47

I might want to do that for my next renaissance fair costume. (although I don't know if I can make the head).

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