This charming little treasure has led me on quite a chase. It struck me initially as a Scottish “luckenbooth” brooch from the early 19th century, and I could easily have let the issue lie right there – EXCEPT for its tantalizing row of hallmarks obscured by heavy tarnish. Normally, I defer to the purists among us and leave things in as-found condition, but in this case my curiosity got the best of me.
Lo and behold, those hallmarks told an entirely different story once they were restored to legibility! The brooch isn’t Scottish at all, but Scandinavian – crafted in Sweden and at least 100 years younger than suggested by its style, size and details of fabrication (T-hinge, open C clasp and thick, elongated pinstem).
It apparently dates from 1928, old enough to be antique by American 75-year standards, but it’s of a form consciously preserved without change for hundreds of years, in the same tradition as folkloric costumes. Again as with costumes (and worn with them on special occasions), these crowned heart jewels show minor differences from region to region and somewhat greater variations from nation to nation; for instance, the Norwegian version typically features filigree and the Scottish variation usually lacks dangling drops and may feature two hearts intertwined.
How Scotland got involved in all of this is simply a matter of geography becoming history, as it tends to do. Being just a short sail away in Viking days, much of Scotland fell under Norse rule and colonization created a Norse-Gael culture which is still reflected in many names and customs. As I was reminded by my research, the last Norse-held territory wasn’t ceded until the time of James III of Scotland, who married a Norwegian princess in 1468. Funnily enough, crowned heart brooches were soon (if not already) being sold as love tokens from lockable booths (so-called luckenbooths), located along Edinburgh’s Royal Mile from the 15th century until 1817.
That said, you’ll acquire a wonderful conversation piece, if you acquire this brooch which looks so utterly Georgian and Scottish but isn’t. Size is 1 ¾ inches by ¾, but it seems bigger, being sturdily built, with a nice heft to it, and extremely eye-catching due to the drops that dance with every motion.
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