Undoubtedly the most fascinating part of my job is delving into the history of jewellery and on a personal level how the pieces link in to a family.
Who wore them? Who loved them?
I can help piece together the history of items by identifying gemstones testing dating and giving historical context to pieces of jewellery. It is also lovely to sit with clients and hear their memories and stories whilst looking through their precious pieces.
Last week I identified some lovely suffragette jewellery so I thought it might be nice to give it a bit of context here.
The suffragette movement was a pivotal moment in history when women fought tirelessly for their right to vote, left an indelible mark on society. While the struggle for equality took centre stage, a subtle yet powerful form of expression emerged – suffragette jewellery. These beautiful pieces became symbols of strength, solidarity, and the relentless pursuit of justice.
A Symbolic Tapestry
The suffragette colours, purple, white, and green, held profound significance. Purple represented dignity, white symbolized purity, and green stood for hope. Suffragette jewellery beautifully wove these colours together, creating a symbolic tapestry that conveyed the essence of the movement.
The Suffragette Badge
One of the earliest manifestations of suffragette jewellery was the suffragette badge. Crafted in the movement's colours, these badges became a unifying emblem, worn proudly by women advocating for their right to vote. The intricate designs often included symbols like the arrow and the portcullis, representing the tenacity and resilience of suffragettes.
The 1908 badge right sold at Bonham's in 2022 for £832 inc. premiums.
Brooches became a fashionable and discreet means for suffragettes to display their allegiance. Some designs featured delicate enamelled flowers in the movement's colours, while others incorporated gemstones like amethysts, pearls, and peridots, creating unique pieces that blended activism with elegance.
Empowerment in Adornment:
Suffragette jewellery transcended its symbolic roots, becoming a powerful means for women to reclaim their voices and assert their identities. To this day suffragette jewellery remains highly popular for resale and commands far higher prices than its counterparts that do not display the distinctive purple, white and green.
The Holloway Prison Pin
Given the frequency with which suffragettes found themselves incarcerated, the Holloway Prison pin became a poignant symbol of resilience. Also known as the "Portcullis badge" it was designed by Sylvia Pankhurst and made of silver, this pin was often given to women upon their release, serving as a badge of honour for their dedication to the cause. In March 2022 Bonham's sold a pin for £11,475 inc. premiums.
Jewellers also ingeniously designed prison door brooches, featuring enamelled bars and chains that opened to reveal a miniature photograph of a suffragette who had been imprisoned. These pieces allowed women to carry a piece of their incarcerated comrades with them, fostering a sense of solidarity.
Legacy and Enduring Impact
Suffragette jewellery, beyond its historical significance, paved the way for women to merge activism with fashion, a trend that continues to resonate in contemporary society.
Inspirations for Modern Designs
The legacy of suffragette jewellery lives on in modern designs that draw inspiration from its empowering motifs. Jewellers today incorporate the movement's colours and symbols into their creations, allowing wearers to celebrate the progress made while acknowledging the work that remains.
Suffragette jewellery stands as a testament to the strength and resilience of women who fought for their right to vote and remains a wonderful testament to the indomitable spirit that continues to echo through the ages.
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