Antique Jeweled Gilt Suffragette Brooch circa 1900
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Directory: Estate Jewelry: Costume: Rhinestone: Pre 1910: Item # 1109724
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This antique Suffragette brooch is among largest I've seen, proudly featuring the colors so important to early feminists: green, white and violet, the first letters of which stood for "Give Women (the) Vote". Green also represented hope; white signified the purity of their intentions; and violet was a reference to dignity ("the royal purple").
Here, in a highly dimensional, domed mounting of gilt filigree, two inches round, a huge cabochon of amethyst paste is framed by a panoply of faux moonstones and jade sets, also cabochon-cut. These are wonderful stones, almost certainly Bohemian (technically Czech, if made after World War I).
As you know if you collect Suffragette jewelry, it was worn from Victorian times until around 1920 in the U.S. and nearly 1930 in the U.K. Dating the jewels can be a puzzle, because of this and also because they usually show little wear. Most women wore them only occasionally to meetings and marches, then tucked them away after the vote was gained.
In the case of this brooch, which is in such lovely condition you could almost mistake it for new, we can rule out the Edwardian era based on size. Edwardian jewels tended to be delicate and airy, as you know, and they often featured white metals. Thus, it must be Victorian or post-World War I. Obviously it has a Victorian look and shows both Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts influences, but some Victorian styles were revived in the 1920s. Either way, it would be antique by American 75-year standards. I'm persuaded to a circa 1900 dating, based on the findings. The safety clasp is of the type introduced around 1890, with two levers instead of one; the hinge is the old 19th century type, which lets the pinstem wobble a bit from side to side; and the pinstem shows evidence of being snipped and filed down at some time -- not a bad idea since the extra-long ones could so easily draw blood, which is why they phased out during the earliest years of the 20th century and seldom appeared after World War I.
This is a very substantial brooch, so it's something you'd want to wear on a jacket or coat rather than delicate fabrics. The original idea must have been for it to appear on outerwear during women's marches and to be big enough for onlookers not to miss. It may well have been present at the historic female suffrage parades in New York City, being from a New York estate.
Forgotten for decades, Suffragette jewelry has been rapidly gaining value since the movie "Iron Jawed Angels" appeared in 2004, revealing what the gals went through (including hunger strikes and beatings). Wearing Suffragette jewels is a great way to show your pride and appreciation and, now that the genre has been rediscovered, they're getting much harder to find. We try our best to maintain a good selection, but demand keeps growing. The last time we had a Suffragette brooch of truly grand scale and in pristine condition, it quickly found its way into the collection of Madeleine Albright (former Secretary of State and author of "Read My Pins"), who often made diplomatic statements via the brooch she chose to wear.
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