Queen Victoria's heart was decidedly in the Highlands during her happiest years as a young wife and mother. Her passion for family holidays at Balmoral -- which she called her "dear paradise" -- made a rage of all things Scottish, from tartans to folk art jewels. We often see so-called "pebble jewelry" set with agates and more refined pieces with sparkling cairgorms, but items like this wildlife brooch are really the ultimate celebration of that time and place.
It's fairly easy to find rustic versions, crudely carved, and fanciful celluloid editions created later for the masses; however, the ideal is to possess a brooch that's one-of-kind and clearly fashioned by a master. This one, inarguably, fills that bill. Details of leaves, grasses and the musculature of the animal are exquisitely worked and the condition of the brooch is frankly amazing. I can't find a flaw, unless you count shortening the pinstem (a common and sensible practice after ladies gave up wearing layers of heavy underclothing and the extra-long pins began to draw blood).
After decades of collecting and more than 10 years as a dealer, I'm not often blown away by a jewel, but this one does it. Of type, it could scarcely be improved upon, short of museum-pieces.
Size is about 1.25 by 1, though the curved shape makes it appear somewhat larger. It's significant that early Victorian jewels of the so-called Romantic Period tend to be dainty, by comparison to later Grand Period designs. Despite all these references to Britain and Scotland, this treasure most likely originated in Germany, then home to the best wood carvers. Like Italian cameo carvers, those German wizards had a lively export and souvenir market. Provenance is a California estate.
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