Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mastery of Design: The "Mother" Brooch, 1916-1917

Sterling Silver with applied gold adornment
Sydenham &Tebbitt, London
The Victoria & Albert Museum

In the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries, silver novelty brooches like this one were considered sweet and fun gifts to be traded by female friends. These brooches often took the shape of flowers, cradles, rattles or other things which, at the time, were considered feminine objects. Frequently, the brooches were adorned with names which were characteristic of the period, such as “Florence,” "Victoria," “Maud,” "Louise," “Beatrice” and “Grace.” Sometimes, they would say, lie this one, “Mother” or “Baby” so that the pins could be given as gifts when a friend or relative had a child.

The majority of these brooches came from Birmingham England—at the time a large center of British jewelry-making. By 1913, it was speculated that nearly 80,000 people in Birmingham were employed in the jewelry trade.

These sterling novelty brooches were primarily made by the firm founded by George and Robert Sydenham and Claude Tebbitt. While the firm specialized in fine, gem-set and diamond jewelry, such novelty pieces introduced a steady and reliable income. While predominately silver, the brooches were sometimes accentuated by applied gold or gilt designs of flowers, birds or initials. Sydenham and Tebbitt offered customization, allowing a customer to pick individual elements to create a personalized piece.

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