US Navy Sweetheart Brooches – the penny is 20.3 mm in diameter. An American cent has a diameter of 19.05 mm for those of you who like to know these things.
Despite the need to spend money on the house, and to declutter, I am still browsing eBay, and still adding a few items to my collection. If you want to see other examples , I have written about Sweetheart Brooches in a previous post,
My collecting started over 50 years ago. I was about five or six when I started collecting badges. A few years later my Dad gave me his stamp collection (which had been untouched since he had left the Navy). I added a few to it, then went into coins, bird’s eggs (yes, I know this was bad) and military medals. I’ve carried on sporadically ever since. At times I’ve been busy or broke, so there have been long gaps between purchases. However, with eBay , a regular income and the time that comes from having no kids around the place, I have been slowly adding to the collection again.
The latest two are both American and Naval. I don’t collect Navy brooches to the same extent as I collect the army ones but I always like to add a different type when I find one. American brooches are often sentimental/patriotic rather than military in style, though there are some more military ones. They also tend to have more bracelets than we do. Generally I don’t collect brooches from beyond the Commonwealth forces, but if I see an unusual type I can be tempted.
US Navy Sweetheart Brooch – with PO Class II badge
A couple of months ago I was tempted by the brooch with the Eagle and Chevrons. I think it is the badge of a Petty Officer Class II but I’m relying on the internet for this, as I’m not sound on US Navy badges. I have a couple of other brooches with this sort of chain set-up but this is better quality, and it’s always nice to upgrade. Collecting sweethearts, you will never get every possible type, so there’s no point trying. Compared to the tyranny of trying to collect one of every known date of a coin, this is a very relaxed way of collecting. These days I just collect things that catch my eye, and where the price is right.
A couple of weeks ago, another one caught my eye. It’s exactly the same sailor and the same set-up but the device on the chain is the medal ribbon of the American WW2 campaign medal for Europe, Africa and the Middle East. It was sold by the same dealer and is out of the same collection.
US Navy Sweetheart – Europe, Africa and the Middle East campaign ribbon
I’m now checking them regularly to see if they have any other varieties. With coins and medals all the varieties are known and catalogued (with the odd rare exception) but with sweetheart brooches you can’t know everything. There might be sailors with different devices attached, or there may be marines, soldiers or airmen. You never know…
If you look up “Sweetheart Brooches” on the internet you will find a few links to eBay and a leading dealer, then you find a link to a post of mine. That is a ridiculous state of affairs, partly because there should be more information out there, and partly because I only made a couple of short mentions of them. The highest-ranked entry of mine isn’t even the most informative post I wrote about sweetheart brooches. The internet is indeed a mysterious place.
Cambridgeshire Regiment Sweetheart
The Cambridgeshire Regiment was a small unit and the badges are hard to find. This one is mounted on a wishbone, a symbol of luck, promise and potential. Nickel-plated brass.
As usual, when things have been slack, I have reverted to spending too much time on eBay. Whilst it is a pleasurable activity it can also be a disastrous way of spending time as I can’t resist buying things, and it soon starts to add up. Fortunately, having spent many years as a dealer in collectibles, I have a built-in aversion to paying full price, which tends to keep things within bounds. Despite this I’ve still managed to add eight items to my sweetheart collection.
Sweetheart brooches are strange things, because they weren’t even called that until the 1970s. Well, not in the UK – they may well have been called that in the USA, where there is a wide range of sweetheart items. Until that time, in the UK, a sweetheart brooch was a brooch bought for a sweetheart and they tended to feature motifs of birds, hearts or flowers. They were not military themed, as the brooches are that we now call sweethearts. These are mentioned in various news reports before the Great War, often cropping up in breach of promise reports. Those were definitely different days, when a man’s promise to marry could be enforced in court, and the gift of a brooch could be used in evidence.
Lancashire Fusiliers Sweetheart
The Lancashire Fusiliers badge is stamped “Sterling” on the back, showing that it is silver but offering no dating evidence. I would guess it’s late WW1.
In contemporary newspapers the brooches we now call sweethearts are known as Regimental Brooches or Badge Brooches. They are to be seen in newspaper adverts and feature in reports of weddings, when the groom gives a regimental brooch to his bride. These reports are mainly from the 1920s and 30s and I suspect they are the high-quality brooches which rarely feature in my collection.
The type of brooch known as white-faced enamel sweethearts (as featured in the header picture) are usually well made, and are made from brass and enamel. A cheap brass and enamel brooch could cost as little as 4d, the white-faced enamel type would cost you 1/6d. (That is fourpence and one and six (one shilling and sixpence) for those of you who don’t know.) Fourpence is worth 2 new pence and 1/6 is worth 7½p.
Yorkshire Light Infantry Sweetheart
Nickel-plated brass again. Cheapish quality but with the military motif of crossed rifles, which you don’t often see. This is the first of its type for my collection.
At that point I had better stop and deliver a quick word on British pre-decimal currency in 1914. There were 240 pennies in a pound, 12 pennies in a shilling and 20 shillings in a pound. We also had farthings (¼d) and halfpennies, pronounced ha’penny, (½d).
When we went decimal, with 100 pennies to the £1 a new penny (1p) was worth 2.4d. The abbreviation became p for penny rather than d for denarius (even though it was pronounced penny).
That’s about as clear as I can make it. I have condensed two thousand years of coinage into six lines, but I think I’ve covered the basics.
WW2 Aircrew Sweetheart – silver
RAF Pilot’s Wings are quite common, but the half-wings for other aircrew are not so easy to find. The style of this one is distinctively WW2 with the brooch bar and dangler style. The “S” for Signaller brevet was issued from 1944 onwards to the aircrew who used radar and similar technology, which was all developed during the war.
To put this in context, an infantry private in the British Army was paid a shilling a day (1/- or 5p in decimal terms). He was also fed, and got meat every day, which was better food than most of them got at home.
The header picture is a white-faced enamel sweetheart of the Scots Guards. It cost a day and a half’s wages and would have been bought by a new recruit for his mother, girlfriend or sister as he embarked on a great adventure. There are eight brooches pictured here. On average, one man in seven was killed, which means that it’s likely one of the men who bought these brooches didn’t make it back home.
This is a sweetheart brooch of the 10th (The Prince of Wales’s Own) Royal Hussars, consisting of a regimental badge on a cavalry sword. It is a nice brooch to obtain because the ones with swords are difficult to find, as are brooches to cavalry regiments. In 1914 there were 733,514 men in the British Army, with less than 16,000 being cavalrymen, so you can see why the cavalry brooches are difficult to find.
There is a fault with the brooch, which is probably why it was reasonably priced (I hesitate to say too much about prices because Julia reads this blog). The hallmarks on the reverse are, unfortunately incomplete.
You can tell that the maker is MB in two circles which is Marshall Brothers, that the item was marked in Birmingham (Anchor) and is sterling silver (Lion), but the final element, the date letter, is under the hinge. This is irritating, but not unknown, and it’s a nice addition to the collection, even without a date letter. It’s likely to be around 1912-16, based on the dates of similar items.
Finally, we have a sweetheart brooch of the Welsh Regiment, hallmarked Birmingham 1898 and again made by Marshall Brothers. The hollow silver horseshoe was a common design at the turn of the century and persisted until the early years of WW1. This is a nice early example.The regiment was known as the Welsh Regiment from 1881 – 1920 and the Welch Regiment after 1920.
Welsh Regiment Sweetheart
Hallmarks – Birmingham 1898
This example has the regimental motto on it – Gwell angau na Chywilydd (Better Death than Dishonour) – rather than a scroll with “The Welsh” on it as brooches sometimes deviate from the official badge pattern. There’s some minor damage to it, but what do you expect from a brooch that has survived for 122 years?
Along with the personal link, that this was originally a gift with a great deal of meaning to it, the wear is all part of the charm.
Silver Brooch HMS Celerol
Hallmarks – Birmingham 1915 Frank H Mannox
The final brooch says “Well Done HMS Celerol”. I’m not sure what they did well, and can’t find any record of it. Celerol was a Tanker/Oiler, a class of ship used to escort convoys, import oil and refuel other ships. Launched in Sunderland in 1917, Celerol stayed in service until 1958. She was a hard-working ship, serving in two World Wars and the Russian Intervention, but she seems to have avoided both fame and disaster. Although several of her sister ships were sunk by enemy action Celerol survived to meet her end in the breaker’s yard at Bo’ness.
The brooch in the featured image is one of the earlier ones you will see about. It is a hollow silver horseshoe with the dates of the Boer War on the front and a Victorian crown at the top of the badge. It’s actually hallmarked 1904 on the back, but sweethearts can be a bit like that, and aren’t always as accurate as you would like.
The earliest sweethearts date from the 1890s but the first surge of popularity took place during the Boer War (1899 – 1902) then in the Great War things really took off. This is logical when you think there were millions of men in the army, and consequently millions of wives and girlfriends to buy the brooches for.
At this time they also became cheaper and less well made. Brass and enamel sweethearts from this time are very common, as are the ones with plain mother of pearl surrounds.
Middlesex Regiment WW1
Sherwood Foresters sweetheart brooch
There were other styles, including ones mounted on rifles and swords (though you’ll have to settle for rifles at the moment as that’s all the photographs I have).
Royal Rifle Corps sweetheart brooch
Coldstream Guards sweetheart brooch on rifle
The next step up in terms of quality were the silver rimmed mother of pearl brooches, often stamped “Sterling Silver Rim” on the back. There were also silver badges and silver-rimmed tortoiseshell brooches. The silver ones are often stamped “Silver” or “Sterling” on the back, but the silver rimmed tortoiseshell brooches are usually hallmarked.
Machine Gun Corps – silver rim brooch
Royal Engineers tortoiseshell brooch
These two brooches demonstrate another feature of collecting – the Machine Gun Corps was a war-raised unit and existed from 1915-22. Their brooches are sought after by collectors of Great War memorabilia, despite the fact they shouldn’t be rare – over 170,000 men served in the corps during the war.
By contrast, the Royal Engineers aren’t a sought after unit as there were so many of them – in August 1917 there were 295,668 men serving in the RE. Despite being common, and made from tortoiseshell, the RE brooch does have a significant advantage over the more desirable MGC brooch – it is hallmarked on the back.
Hallmarks on the back of the brooch
This allows us to tell that it is sterling silver (the Lion), was hallmarked in London (Leopard’s head) and dates from 1916 (letter a). The maker’s mark “C Bro” is the mark of Corke Brothers and Co.
This is just a brief view of sweethearts – there are other types so, as my photography catches up there may be other posts on the subject.
They have a much closer connection to the men of the Great War than medals, for instance. At least you can be sure that most of these brooches were bought by soldiers and worn by mothers or girlfriends. Sometimes you find one still pinned to its original card, where it has been stored in a drawer for years, but most seem to have been worn.
Notts and Derby – still on original card
Contrast this with the medals from the Great War. Many, when sold by families, are still in the boxes, having never been worn. My grandfather kept his in a drawer and never showed them to anyone. We all thought that his mother had thrown them out when she threw away his brother’s medals. Having lost a son and a son-in-law, she got rid of everything connected with the war and refused to discuss it until the day she died in 1930. Those who died in the war, of course, never even saw their medals.