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Steampunk Elements A-Z

Steampunk Elements The Definitive A-Z


Starting to dwell into the Steampunk genre is not an easy task – you will probably find yourself overwhelmed by the variety of items, concepts and settings that you can find. Here, however, there’s a simple list of 26 elements that would give you a more than welcoming introduction to this wonderful and amusing world. If you are looking for a list of steampunk costume accessories, however, you should click here.

 

Airships

B

 Bronze

C

Clockwork

D

Daguerreotypes

E

Electricity

F

Factories

G

Gunpowder

H

Harnesses

I

Ink

J

Jetpacks

K

Kevlar

L

Locomotives

M

Masks

N

 Nostalgia

O

Oil

P

Pocket watches

Q

Quill pen

R

Robotics

S

Steam

T

Toys

U

Uniforms

V

Vaults

W

Weapons

X

Xylopyrography

Y

Yttrium

Z

Zeppelins

⦁ Airships

Flying vehicles across the sky are always fascinating. They have an inherent majesty that inventors and engineers of the Steampunk world always used to their advantage. The materials, especially the metals and embedded jewels that are used for these epitomes of perfectionism, becoming an early concept of Steampunk since the very Vernian beginnings.



⦁ Bronze

Bronze is, without discussion, one of the most used alloys, essential in any sort of machinery. If you are centering a world around engines, clocks and factories, it’s more than normal to imagine that it would be universally present. Even its color is heavily associated to this type of aesthetic; just to name a few, the sepia tones of the cities and the oxide of the workshops are a very common example.


⦁ Clockwork

Steampunk enthusiasts have the heart of inventors – and that’s because they not only craft their own objects, but also because they are extremely creative while doing it. It is an extremely common trend not only to worship clocks as an object of design, but also to insert clockwork in other objects where it’s not very usual to see them. Hats, belts, corsettes, masks, cars, weapons, even coffee machines - almost all objects that have been related to any Steampunk universe have shown a very beautifully added piece of clockwork.



⦁ Daguerreotypes

The invention of photography is one of the most fascinating tales to tell – and Steampunk fans have always known how to make the best out of it. Daguerreotypes are the very first way in which pictures have been taken. These old depictions of reality involved a very tedious and complex process (which included, among other materials, silver salts) before the pictures could be revealed, but, regardless, these pictures have their charms, which explains why they are so beloved as part of the genre.


⦁ Electricity

As the industrial revolution was taking place, more and more inventions involved the use of electricity. Even if it was at its early stages (considering the Victorian guidelines), several items that required electricity to function could be merged in this universe alongside mechanical systems and steam-powered engines. Oftentimes, these combinations are simply not impossible in real life – but the genre (and a bit of fantasy) made it work in a very swiftly and aesthetically pleasant way.



⦁ Factories

The rise of your typical factories, specially oil refineries and carbon-processing plants, is a key element of the genre. Mostly with a negative connotation, factories in Steampunk are used to show how the idea of the artificial human progress can deteriorate not only the landscapes of a city, but also the life of its residents and their very own workers. Illnesses (due to the smog and the harsh working conditions) were not uncommon among blue-collar workers.

 


⦁ Gunpowder

Another topic that’s heavily criticized in Steampunk is war and violence. The message against the physical aggressiveness that can be developed in a corrupt system is more than evident. However, that doesn’t stop crafters and inventors to make the best takes on weapon designs. That’s why, naturally, gunpowder (and those who make it, by legal and illegal means) is a very common element in this universe.


⦁ Harnesses

Even if they are not unique of this aesthetic, it is not possible to deny that harnesses (and their main material – leather) are one of the most useful (and beautiful) pieces of clothing: they can hold test tubes, surgical tools, explosives, and even work as gun holsters. And it’s very common to use not just one, but many of them, just to exaggerate the materialistic feeling of the genre.


⦁ Ink

 

One of the most romantic parts of Steampunk is the literary aspect. Letters, whether formal or informal, are another key element. There has been imagery of different types of ink bottles, and different types of ink colors, all to show how eccentric and endearing the exchange of words could be, very obviously inspired in the most common means of communication during the 1800s.



⦁ Jetpacks

Hand by hand with something Daedalus would have wanted, jetpacks are a surprisingly frequent element. The idea of humans flying by themselves, imitating plains, airships or zeppelins was something more than ideal for the era of industrial progress. Steampunk inventors would wear these on their backs, propelled by steam, electricity, a system of pulleys or a combination of all three – and admire their cities in all their glories.



⦁ Kevlar

Even if this word is not heard very often, Kevlar is a very well-known heat-resistant material used in factories, in tires, and bulletproof vests. It is five times stronger that common steel. All the items that can be found made of it can either be perfectly functional or piled up in storage rooms. Also, it is possible for inventors to be creative with this as well – specially with the bulletproof vests, which proved to be almost transformed into a fashion piece.


⦁ Locomotives


What was once considered one of the most useful engines ever created by man (and one of the most dangerous for the environment) is indeed romanticized within the circles of the genre. Locomotives are such an iconic image of the Victorian era that it’s more than evident that these industrial icons of progress are almost always mentioned in the Steampunk fiction.

 

⦁ Masks

From the Plague Doctor to the venetian masks, these items are fundamental for any Steampunk character. They can be ornamented, painted and modified with almost every artistic element, and they are usually an appealing object for mysterious personalities, such as inventors, mad scientists, or even cold-blooded assassins. Oftentimes, they can also be seen as influenced by the design of Venetian masks.

 

⦁ Nostalgia

Of all the feelings and emotions that this genre can provide, the one that authors try to communicate about the most is nostalgia. Characters inside these universes, oftentimes, yearn for what life used to be, specially when a corrupt system has brought them nothing but misery and hopelessness. It is also about how harmful humans turned towards the environment, and about the inherent selfishness of the world they live in.



⦁ Oil

The most important fuel source in Steampunk universes is definitely oil. Being praised as the most effective way to fuel any machine or engine, it has been regarded as a symbol of the wealthy. Most aristocrats or members of the fine bourgeoisie usually were owners of oil refineries, which was also one of the most prominent ways to make money. It required, of course, offering workers nothing but inhuman working conditions.



⦁ Pocket watches

This is an obvious one. Even the most casual fans of Steampunk lose it over any piece of clockwork – especially because you can add a clock to virtually any other object. These elegant objects, that are not simply a way to measure time, have been held as symbols of the status quo since forever – and, considering that Steampunk focuses a lot in the frivolity of the wealthy classes, pocket watches or also known as Steampunk time pieces are fine objects of design and machinery that perfectly represent this concept. See here to buy your timepiece

 

⦁ Quill pen

A fine partner for the genre’s fascination with ink, quill pens are also a design object that crafters can ornament to make it as fitting to the Steampunk vision as possible. They are also collection objects, and therefore, expensive. They can also be used as a symbol of the wealthy, especially if they are made of gold or silver, or if they include the feather of a very exotic animal.

 

⦁ Robotics

Even if robots are something we tend to associate with science-fiction, they have had their own share inside the Steampunk universes. Oftentimes referred to as automatons (and built with rustier and simpler materials), they have had their own share in these worlds. They could be helpful apprentices of inventors, have their own consciousness, or just be machines that perform easy tasks. Regardless, if you are a fan of robotics, they are more than welcome here.

 

⦁ Steam


The use of steam was fundamental to make most of the new machinery work. Steam was used to power up vehicles, such as ships and locomotives, piston engines, and turbines. At the beginning, it looked more than promising – it was a way to evidence how humanity evolved from manual labors and open its doors to the future. The use of steam was pretty much harmless, but the industrial waste (like smoke) is what, unfortunately, endangered the environment, making it impossible to separate from the dangerous contamination that factories produce.

 

⦁ Toys

As it was mentioned before, inventors and toymakers are frequented archetypes in these worlds. Good or evil, mad or sane, Steampunk toys can be pretty much anything. Made out of scraps of metal or wood, electrical or analogic, or even making sounds – they are one of the ways for crafters to show off their imaginative skills. Puppets or little tin toys are just a few of many, many examples.

 

⦁ Uniforms


Fashion designers can also show creativity in these universes. As it was mentioned, war is a frequent topic, which is why extravagant uniforms are also part of the setting. The overuse of harnesses, leather accessories and gun holsters, plus the typically layered aristocratic clothing, made it into soldier’s and assassin’s uniforms that Steampunk features.

 

⦁ Vaults

In a world where the rich hold all the power, there are also banks. And banks have vaults; oftentimes very beautiful ones. Most of the time they are made out of precious metals, or they include extra jewels on their locks. Collectors of fine pieces of art also may have them at their homes and would even commission them to make them as extravagant and exaggerated as possible.

 

⦁ Weapons

Weapon crafters and gunslingers definitely stand out in the Steampunk universe. Whether it’s Western or Victorian, inventors can have fun and experiment on the design of the weapons quite a lot. Most of them do not resemble reality, as they have a lot of unnecessary ornaments and expensive metals, but the genre gave them the chance to be believably functional and be gorgeous objects of meticulous art as well.

 

⦁ Xylopyrography

Extremely related to the previous one, xylopyrography, as the word suggests, is an engraving technique mostly used on wood surfaces. It’s very common to see weapon handles (like rifles) with engraving made out with this technique – and it’s truly gorgeous. Art over wooden surfaces is, pretty much, cherished all over the genre.


⦁ Yttrium

Classified as a rare-earth element, Yttrium is found over the Earth’s crust. It can be found in electrodes, superconductors, batteries and lasers, which are objects that the Steampunk genre embraced and incorporated gladly, especially for scientists inside the factories. It is also, surprisingly, very harmful to human’s health, so it should be handled with upmost care.

 

⦁ Zeppelins

This German version of an airship was also adapted into this aesthetic. Zeppelins are majestic by themselves, but the Steampunk layer definitely helps it fit. The use of this flying vehicle, whether it’s for leisure or as a surveillance method, was so appealing that it made it to the genre even while being an invention of the 20th century.

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