The $25 pin is a rare Victorian treasure
The $25 pin is a rare Victorian treasure: A woman was left stunned after a brooch she bought at a market for less than 20 pounds ($25) during the 1980s turned out to be a rare Victorian treasure—worth 15,000 pounds (approx. $19,000).
Flora Steel, a Rome-based jewelry enthusiast, purchased the silver brooch 35 years ago not realizing it was a “historically significant” piece of jewelry dating back to the 19th century.
She contacted auctioneers after noticing the design was similar to one that appeared on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow and later sold for 31,000 pounds (approx. $39,000).
Ms. Steel was left gobsmacked when experts revealed her brooch was an original by the great Victorian Gothic Revival designer and architect William Burges (1827–1881).
Burges is best known for designing Cardiff Castle and Castell Coch in South Wales, and his designs remain on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum. He has also been described as “the greatest genius of 19th-century design.”
Ms. Steel’s brooch will now go under the hammer in spring this year with an estimate of 10,000 to 15,000 pounds ($12,000 to $19,000) at Gildings Auctioneers, in Market Harborough, Leicester, England.
“The brooch originally caught my eye for its strong design, strange lettering, and unusual stones,” she said. “I always loved it and thought that it was so particular in its design that sooner or later I would discover who had designed it.
“I’ve always adored the Antiques Roadshow, so when the clip popped up on my phone, I said to myself, ‘That reminds me of the brooch I found 35 years ago.’ So, I decided to have a better look at the V&A [Victoria and Albert Museum] drawing, and, lo and behold, there was my brooch. I practically fell off my chair.”
Ms. Steel had purchased the silver, coral, lapis lazuli, and malachite brooch at a Midlands antique market in 1988. Her discovery is the third time a William Burges brooch has been uncovered by Gildings and Antiques Roadshow jewelry expert Geoffrey Munn.
In 2011, pensioner Jill Cousins was watching Antiques Roadshow and saw Mr. Munn revealing his decades-long search for brooch designs by Burges. Ms. Cousins, of Market Harborough, recognized one of the designs as an unwanted item she had forgotten to take to the local market to sell just two days earlier.
The silver, turquoise, and garnet brooch was later confirmed as a Burges design, probably made for the wedding of his friend and fellow architect John Pollard Seddon in 1864. Mr. Munn described the find as his “Tutankhamun experience,” estimating it could make 10,000 pounds ($12,000) at auction. It went on to triple this figure at Gildings, selling for 31,000 ($39,000) in August 2011.
Later in 2011, another viewer realized they too had the same brooch while watching an Antiques Roadshow Christmas special. This owner also contacted Gildings, who arranged a private sale to the V&A, where this example is now displayed in the jewelry galleries.
The same auctioneers have now confirmed Ms. Steel’s brooch was designed by Burges—this time for the wedding of a person named Gibson.
Gildings Director Will Gilding said: “It was clear this was another one of the designs on the page of sketches.
“So, now a Burges brooch has again been discovered via a chance sighting via the Antiques Roadshow.
“For it to happen once, amazing. Twice, remarkable. A third time? Pinch me!
“Whether this brooch reaches the heights of the first one we auctioned or indeed results in any more examples being unearthed remains to be seen.
“However, as a fascinating piece of jewelry with an even more intriguing backstory, we’re honored to be playing a part in its continued history as we present it to the open market [in 2024].”
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