The whimsical form of this delightful English brooch identifies it as a souvenir from Lincoln (county town of Lincolnshire). The original owner would have visited its famous cathedral, the world's tallest building from around 1300 to 1549 but far better known for a piece of stonework called the Lincoln Imp. According to legend, the little demon was sent by Satan to make mischief in medieval England and outdid himself here -- dancing on the altar, tripping up a Bishop, knocking over the Dean, smashing furniture and tormenting the choir. It's said he paused to gloat atop a column, whereupon the fed-up angels turned him to stone!
For centuries, Lincoln's imp has been admired by pilgrims and tourists, who took home keepsakes featuring his likeness. Most date from the Victorian era, when railways made travel widely affordable, but some are earlier -- made for well-heeled Brits whose usual Grand Touring was curtailed by wars in Continental Europe.
Whether Victorian or Georgian, the brooch is an exceptional find, since imp items are generally useful things. Door knockers, bells, tea caddy spoons and toasting forks turn up in antique shops and at auctions, but I've never even seen a pin before!
Highly dimensional and beautifully detailed, it's in such splendid condition that it can't have been worn much. Given its dainty size -- just an inch long, as was suitable for for a girl or teenager in days when large jewelry was considered vulgar except on married women -- the first owner probably tucked it carefully away with the other treasures of her youth, where it remained long forgotten.
Now it's ready to become your favorite conversation piece, after a light polish. (I strongly advise against dips that would
remove the patina of age and the darkness of the crevices.) The metal appears to be of a grade slightly sturdier than sterling, since it's simply stamped "silver," lacking the usual array of British hallmarks. It has the elongated pinstem and open C clasp indicative of great age, along with a large hand-made hinge. Provenance is a Midwestern estate.
Please e-mail to confirm availability, order or request more photos -- and, if you like this, please run a search to see our imp door knocker, too. Should you be interested in both, we can work out special pricing. Thanks for looking!