My object is a 9 carat gold brooch inset with ruby and garnet stones, handed down to me through the women in my father’s family. Probably originally a gift to my great grandmother, Ivy Lorne Cruckshank (1879-1947) presumably from her husband, Edward James O’Neill (1876-1962), it was inherited by their eldest daughter, Florence Mary O’Neill (1910-1985), then her only daughter Marea May Collins (1946-), then on to me as only niece who is interested in following the family tree and recording our family stories for future generations. I was also chosen as the recipient of this piece as Ivy and I share the same birthday of August 7th.
This brooch is still in its original leather case with the jeweller’s label inside. The label reads:
My research has revealed that the brooch is made from 9 carat gold, as identified on the rear by the “9C” marking stamped into the back of the lower horizontal bar. It weighs 2.3 grams.
The piece is comprised of two horizontal parallel bars terminating in a gold sphere. Surmounted centrally by a swirl of gold, mounted by two gold flowers, one with a garnet stone as the centre of the flower, the other with a ruby stone as the centre. Both flowers are etched on the gold petals. Mounted further towards each end is a gold etched leaf. The top and bottom of the two bars have gold swirl patterns attached, made of gold that has a corrugated texture. Each bar is made of a fine layer of gold worked into a bar shape and then filled with wax to give the bars strength. The fine holes on one end of each bar are where the wax was poured into the bar (see photo below).
There are no hallmarks on the brooch to date it accurately, so I have relied upon research done on other similar brooches that have the same look and feel as my piece. In an email (1) from estate jeweller, Tom Muir, from Morpeth Antique Jewellery Gallery he says: “my opinion is that the brooch is before 1920”.
Further research using Carter’s Price Guide to Antiques (2) into gold bar brooches indicates that the brooch was made between 1910 and 1915, as it is similar in look to other Australian brooches made around that time.
The brooch being in its original leather display case is a bonus, as the case bears a sticker with the name and location of the jewellery store it was purchased from: E. HENNINGS, Jeweller, CESSNOCK.
Research into the Sands Directories: Sydney and New South Wales, Australia, 1858-1933 (3) has shown that EH Hennings was a jeweller in Cessnock, NSW, from 1914 to 1934.
Hennings’ arrival in Cessnock was mentioned on page 3 of The Cessnock Eagle and South Maitland Recorder (NSW : 1913-1954) on Friday 2 Jan 1914: “Mr. E. Hennings, a prominent resident and business man of South Grafton has purchased Mr.Voisey’s Watchmaking and Jewellery business.” (4)
His departure was also written up in The Cessnock Eagle and South Maitland Recorder (NSW : 1913-1954): Mr. E. Hennings, who has carried on business as a jeweller in Cessnock for the past 20 years, and who is leaving the district to establish a similar business in Scone, was farewelled...” (5)
Knowing when the store was operating in Cessnock helps to date the case, and therefore the piece itself. The case looks to be of the same vintage and appears almost tailor-made to house the brooch.
Other dating evidence is the tube hinge, and its simple “C” clasp, which was used before safety catches became commonly used on pinned jewellery. The blog www.jewellerymuse.wordpress.com states that:
The ‘T-bar pins and c-clasp’ types were used from the 18th Century up until the around 1910s, after which they fell out of favour.” (6)
Practical and symbolic uses
In the previously mentioned email from Tom Muir (1), he says: “it has many uses it can be worn on the front of the neck or on the front to hang a watch or attach a muff chain”. In symbolic terms it may have been a gift or token of love, or possibly even peace offering after a tiff. Maybe Ivy bought it for herself after falling in love with it in the shop window.
The manufacturing jeweller’s name is unknown. It may have been Ernest H. Hennings himself, an employee of his, or the brooch may have been bought as retail stock to fill his new shop in 1914. It may have been brought over from his previous South Grafton store when he moved to Cessnock, and been placed in the leather brooch case with his Cessnock store’s label on it. There are no other identifying hallmarks on the piece or the case other than the gold carat marking of 9C.
This brooch may have been commissioned for or by Ivy, or could have been general retail stock purchased for Hennings’ jewellery store.
Alteration and damage
Some of the gold swirls have become slightly straightened, most likely from them being caught on clothing over the many years of its use.
Preservation and treatment
This brooch has been kept in its leather case for the past 100 years. Repairs will only be carried out by a specialist antique jewellery restorer. It has had no other treatments or repairs in its lifetime.
Effects, feelings, messages created
I am thrilled to be the current custodian of the brooch, and plan to hand it onto one of my daughters. I am impressed by the workmanship, and feel that the jeweller may have been showing off his skills in fine gold sculpting. It is an exquisite piece which is well crafted, showing layers of detail and craftsmanship.
How and why stored
It has been stored in its original leather case (which measures 85 mm x 34 mm x 22 mm) in a dressing table drawer, and now in a desk drawer. It is away from sunlight and potential water damage.
Oral history provenance
My aunt, Marea Smith, informed me in an oral history interview (7) that it was her mother’s. It would have been given to her by her mother, Ivy, & Ivy was most likely given it by her husband, Edward.
1. Tom Muir, e-mail message to author, July 17, 2016.
2. Carter’s Price Guide to Antiques "Bar - Brooches - Carter's Price Guide To Antiques And Collectables". 2016.Carters.Com.Au. Accessed August 10 2016. http://www.carters.com.au/index.cfm/index/4556-brooches-bar/.
3. Sands Directories: Sydney and New South Wales, Australia, 1858-1933 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010. Accessed August 10 2016.
4. "Current Notes - The Cessnock Eagle And South Maitland Recorder (NSW : 1913 - 1954) - 2 Jan 1914". 2016. Trove. Accessed August 10 2016.
5. "POPULAR TOWNSMAN FAREWELLED - Mr. E. Hennings Going To Scone. Presentation From Rifle Club - The Cessnock Eagle And South Maitland Recorder (NSW : 1913 - 1954) - 2 Mar 1934". 2016. Trove. Accessed August 10 2016.
6. "Five Tips On How To Date A Vintage Brooch…. With Pictures To Help!". 2013. The Jewellery Muse. Accessed August 10 2016. https://jewellerymuse.wordpress.com/2013/05/11/tips-on-how-to-date-a-vintage-brooch/.
7. Smith, Marea. Interview by author. iPhone recording. Point Frederick, New South Wales, March 5, 2016.