This last weekend we celebrated my mother-in-law's 95th birthday. She showed everyone the brooch that is pictured in this email. We have all heard about this broach and there are pictures of her grandmother wearing it. One picture she is wearing it at the neck and another it is hanging from a chain. We are wondering if you can give any information about who maybe could have designed or made it by looking at the pictures. We see no noticeable marks on it. It is 1 1/2" across and hangs 3 1/2" long. Any information is greatly appreciated. It would make her day to know something about it.
Congratulations to your mother-in-law on her milestone birthday! And how wonderful to have a piece of jewelry that’s also a piece of family history.
I haven’t examined this brooch so I can’t test the metal nor can I feel the weight of the piece. I can’t give you a monetary value without a personal inspection but I can tell you a little about some of the history and fashion happening when this was made.
Victoria was only 18 when she ascended to the throne of England. A few years later, at 21, she married her 20-year-old cousin Albert of Saxe-Coburg. The young queen loved fashion and jewelry and, although as queen she boasted an extensive collection of court jewelry of court jewelry, she was particularly fond of the jewelry Albert designed for her. According to Charlotte Gere in Love and Art: Queen Victoria’s Personal Jewellery, she and Albert both kept informed of inventions, explorations and modernizations during the Industrial Revolution: both were aware of new techniques and innovations in metalwork and jewelry making.
Until the Victorian era, most gold jewelry was 18 karat, putting it out of reach of all but the very wealthy. By Victoria’s time, jewelry was being made with less expensive 9 and 10-karat gold and with composites. Industrial methods and inexpensive materials made jewelry affordable to the growing middle class. “Filled” or “rolled gold” comprised a thin sheet of precious metal layered over copper or brass; electroplating gold onto a base metal was patented in 1840. Jewelry making became industrialized, prices came down and nearly everyone owned and wore some pieces.
Jewelry fashions reflected industrial innovations, European colonialization, and archaeological fascinations.
Your brooch appears to have been stamped from thin metal and shaped. The floral decoration also appears stamped and applied; the wirework filigree and fringe tassel give the piece a sense of importance while keeping the weight of the piece low enough not to damage or pull askew fragile silks and taffetas. The tassel motif reflects the influence France’s occupation of Moorish Algeria. Archaeologists excavations of Etruscan and Greek civilizations inspired the granulation design and the filigree twisted wire-work. The hooks on the back of your brooch show how the piece could be worn as a pin or a pendant. The eye soldered at the bottom edge could have held another tassel, a pendant or a watch.
I believe this piece was made in the second or third quarter of the 19th century. Whether it is made in hi-karat gold, rolled gold or electroplate, it is a lovely piece of history and a precious family heirloom. I hope it enjoys many more birthdays!