A $25 brooch turns out to be a rare Victorian treasure, that could be worth $19,000. Firstly, the brooch caught the novice jeweller Flora Steel’s eye. Steel acquired this striking brooch in an English vintage market in the 1980s for less than $25. She unintentionally scored a great deal. The BBC’s Antiques Roadshow disclosed the brooch is a very uncommon creation by William Burges, a Victorian architect.
A $25 Brooch: One of the Holy Grails of 19th-Century DesignS
The Gildings Auctioneers will present the piece this spring with an estimate $12,500–$19,000. It should come as no surprise that Steel fell in love with the brooch made of silver in 1988. The vibrant pendant has a magnificent lapis lazuli stone in the centre, encircled by fragments of green malachite whirling and bright orange coral.
“The brooch originally caught my eye for its strong design, strange lettering, and unusual stones”, said Steel. She hardly ever imagined that the brooch had such historical value until she chance to watch an Antiques Roadshow film on “Most Wanted Finds”. Geoffrey Munn, the show’s jewellery expert, displayed drafts for a collection of nine brooches created by Burges that are presently on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
Since then, the jewellery pieces individually became lost to time. But Munn described them as the “holy grail of 19th-century design”. “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 drawing and lo and behold, there was my brooch! I practically fell off my chair!”, Steel described.
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The Third Discovery
When Steel returned to the show a decade and a half later, Munn could barely contain his joy when he saw her brooch. “My pulse is racing. I’m thrilled to see it”, he said. Burges created the bridesmaid’s brooch as a custom order for a close friend’s wedding. Munn estimated its value at around $12,500. But, Munn had successful results in the past with his petition for Burges’s brooches. There was also a piece Burges’s friend and colleague architect John Pollard Seddon’s wedding.
Munn screamed, “It’s a Tutankhamun experience!” in response to the improbable finding. Additionally, he estimated that artwork to be worth about $12,500 but when it went up for sale at Gildings in August 2011, it brought in an incredible $40,000. “A Burges brooch has again been discovered via a chance sighting via the Antiques Roadshow”,commented Will Gilding, director of Gildings.
“For it to happen once, amazing. Twice, remarkable! A third time? Pinch me!”, he said. “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”, he added.