Tag Archives: sweetheart brooches

Day 208

What, I ask myself, marks out today from previous days. Not much. The details are a little different, but the essentials stay the same. We were nearly hit by an idiot on a roundabout but I realised he wasn’t going to stop, so I stopped despite having right of way. I was already half way round and could have carried on but there is little good to be had from a situation where you are in the right but have a bent car and an insurance claim.

It barely seemed to register with him as he sped by the front of the car and even the sound of my car horn produced little effect, apart from provoking him into using his own. Not enough brain cells to use his brakes but enough to feel outrage at having it pointed out that he had done wrong. Clearly a child of the 21st century, for they can never be told there is the possibility they may not be in the right.

I hope that when he has the accident he is clearly destined to have he doesn’t injure anyone else. I don’t particularly want him to injure himself either, just give himself a big enough shock to realise drivers have responsibilities. Having said that, if he did injure himself, I wouldn’t particularly mind, as a little less vigilance on my part would have seen him smash into Julia’s door. If only we had the ability to live our days over again.

In the alternative universe I would be driving a tank, and I wouldn’t stop for him.

Of course, in a really alternative universe, I wouldn’t be driving Julia to work at 8.30

Another unusual thing that happened today is that I made a list of things I must do, and actually made a start on doing some of them. I am, for instance, writing this post instead of snoozing in front of TV. It’s not going to change the world, but it is a start . . .

RAVC Badge

RAVC Badge – penny for size comparison









The featured image is a sweetheart brooch of the Army Gymnastic Staff. It is probably from the Great War, which was when sweethearts became popular. It is 1919 at the latest, as they changed the name to Army Physical Training Staff in 1919, a name it kept until 1940.

The other pictures are a sweetheart of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, Carved in mother of pearl, probably in Palestine. It dates from between 1919, when they adopted the “Royal” and the centaur badge, and 1952, when they changed the crown.

I added these to my collection last week.

Day 197

I switched on the computer after watching the World Athletics Championships. It brought back a lot of old coaching tips and I was brimming with good intentions and sports-based motivation. This survived until I went to look at my emails and found I had one from eBay. It was a reminder that I was watching something. I clicked on it and spent the next eight minutes glued to the screen, eventually adding another unusual brooch to my collection of sweethearts. Or another piece of junk that Julia will have to sort out when I die (according to her jaundiced view). Though the way she moans about my collections I might not be the first one to die. Just saying . . .

So, Computer 1 Good Intentions 0.

Cambridgeshire Regiment Sweetheart

Yorkshire Light Infantry Sweetheart

This was a pattern that continued as I stuck a couple more bids into my sniper programme and then browsed 300 more brooches. Most of them were common, over-priced, damaged, or a combination of those three. One is described by the vendor as “good condition” when it clearly isn’t, even from the (deliberately?) blurred photographs he has used. I’ve been caught that way once already in the last few weeks – it seems to be becoming a common sales technique. Not quite a lie but far from accurate.

Some are beautiful but outside my price range – these, when you read contemporary newspaper accounts were often wedding gifts of well-off grooms to their wives, and not necessarily hasty purchases before being sent overseas.

Scots Guards Sweetheart 1914-18

If I won the Lottery (which we all know I won’t, it’s just a convenient figure of speech) I would collect them. However, despite the cost and precious metals I wouldn’t necessarily value them more than the shilling and half-crown brooches that Private Smith bought for his girlfriend or his Mum before going overseas.

Apart from every story being unique, it’s a reminder that although rich people leave better stuff behind, and more written sources, theirs isn’t the real story of history.

Sweetheart Brooch – 10th Royal Hussars

Two New Sweetheart Brooches

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…


US Navy Sweetheart – fine work


Shipwrecks, Spiders and Sweethearts

What a literary shop we are.

One shop assistant used to publish photos widely as Eddie the Bugman. Whatever I say about his inability to keep his hands off my stationery, there’s no doubting that the “genius” tag applied by several people is well-deserved. Unfortunately he’s stopped doing it at the moment.

The other shop assistant is of course, a slightly known blogger and poet of niche forms that most people have to look up, such as haibun and clerihews.

Finally, we have the proprietor, a man who once won an award for his article on serial numbers on Bank of England banknotes. In case you are suffering from insomnia I can reveal he’s recently been back to the archives and another sleep-inducing slab of text on early serial numbers is in progress.

Don’t worry, I’m not being hypocritical here, I’m actually less subtle when discussing them when he’s listening.

Fortunately he redeems himself with the odd article about medallions, numismatic curiosities and, in this month’s Coin News, an article about the shipwreck coins of the little known SS Elingamite. As a result of the article and, of course, this blog, it’s now better known.

The coin that started his search was from the childhood accumulation of an Australian, and it has the ship’s name and the date of the wreck engraved on it. When I find my photos I will show you.

In the meantime, the header picture is stamps and the others are a sweetheart brooch I bough off eBay last week – it’s the central part of the 56 Squadron Crest – the squadron Albert Ball and many others flew in, though the hallmarks are late WW2 period so Ball was long dead by that time. It’s smaller than the photos suggest, only about an inch wide.

Sweetheart Brooch 56 Squadron RAF

Sweetheart Brooch 56 Squadron RAF

Hallmark 56 Squadron RAF sweetheart

Hallmark 56 Squadron RAF sweetheart

Hallmarks are for Birmingham 1944 and the maker is Thomas Fattorini. You could write a book about the Fattorini family, but I will resist the temptation.

Another Day in the Shop

I did quite a lot of things this week, but it was mostly boring or requires too much tedious detail to describe it.

This morning I mounted a few medals, having finally remembered to take some cotton to work, and for the rest of the day, with a few stops to serve customers, I prepared things for eBay.

These are the medals – a British War Medal from the Great War that is being given to another member of the family, a Burma Star group mounted for the family and two Ambulance Service medals mounted for someone who embarrassed his family by using safety pins on Remembrance Day.

These are three styles of Second World War sweethearts of the Royal Army Service Corps. The one below is First World War – you can tell this from the fact it’s Army Service Corps, as they weren’t made “Royal” until 1918. It’s also made in WW1 style, using tortoiseshell, which wasn’t popular in WW2.Finally, as you can see, it’s hallmarked for London 1917. That’s why hallmarked silver brooches are always more sought after, as they can be dated precisely.

The marks are an indistinct maker’s mark, a lion passant for Sterling Silver, a leopard’s head for London and a “b” for 1917.

It’s not a bad job when you can spend all day handling things that are also the basis of your hobby. And I get paid…

Military Sweetheart Brooches

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.

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).

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.

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.




The ebay Diaries (Day 6 – Part 4)

I bought some tie pins/sweetheart brooches last Saturday using the Buy It Now button. They seemed very reasonable. This should have been the first warning.

They arrived yesterday, I looked at them and I left feedback. It was only when I looked at them in strong sunlight today (yes, we had some!) that I noticed all the faults. Two of the tiepins are twisted and one seems to be lacking any sort of silver mark. I really must remember my own rules about being careful when buying.


Later in the week I bought an enamel badge. It’s clearly a cheap modern copy. It cost me just over £3 so it’s not even worth the time to complain. The tiepins are slightly different, but it’s just as easy to straighten them as it is to send them back.


Royal Artillery tiepin

That, I know, plays into the hands of dishonest dealers but I can’t be bothered with the bickering that ensues. In truth they probably don’t know what they are doing. That’s the levelling influence of ebay – all you need to do is press buttons on a computer and repeat what is written on a badge. The bidders do the actual work. It’s a subject I may return to.

I may also return to the question of ethics.

Note to self –

Reasonably  priced ebay lots on Buy It Now are rarely as good as you think

Reasonably  priced ebay lots on Buy It Now are rarely as good as you think

Reasonably  priced ebay lots on Buy It Now are rarely as good as you think…


The ebay Diaries – Day 4 (but only Part 3)

Don’t look for Day 3, there isn’t one. Day 3 was a bit quiet and there wasn’t much to see so I spared you the tedium. that’s why Day 4 is only Part 3.

There’s an interesting Naval silver sweetheart brooch for sale in the shape of a torpedo, hallmarked for 1917 and engraved to HMS Patia. She was an armed merchant cruiser taken from her normal peacetime trade of carrying bananas and used to enforce the blockade against Germany. In her time on patrol she boarded or met 595 ships to ensure they were not carrying goods to Germany.

She was torpedoed by UC 49 on 13th June 1918 in the Bristol Channel.

Details from the ship’s log are available on this site. It includes this interesting snippet:

Cautioned Lt Charles Jacobson, Temp Eng Sub-Lieut RNR, for conduct unbecoming an officer in that on the night of 4th November 1917, in company with Mids Thomas A Onions RNR he introduced clandestinely two females into the ship.

Cautioned Midshipman Thomas A Onions, Royal Naval Reserve, for disobedience of orders and conduct unbecoming an officer, whereas on the night of 4th November 1917, he returned on board after 11 pm, contrary to orders, and introduced clandestinely two females into the ship.

There’s a lot to be learned, even from the details on a brooch.

I bought a naval sweetheart yesterday, so I’ll pass on this one, interesting as it is, It’s also rare, as the Patia only had a small crew. Interesting to speculate as to whether Jacobson or Onions ever gave a brooch to one of their clandestine females.

As for the rest of the day, I was underbidder on a number of lots and way adrift on a couple of rare ones – I just didn’t appreciate how rare until I saw the prices.

The ebay Diaries – Day Two

Today I have mainly wasted time in a variety of displacement activities. Apart from writing a post and a book review I wandered around ebay looking in various web-based nooks and crannies. By the end of the day I had been unsuccessful in a number of bids and had failed to find anything of interest.

After spending days watching the progress of sales I also had three items snatched from under my nose at the last minute. Frustrating but par for the course.

I also saw one of the worst ever description of a sweetheart brooch. It’s “Canadian silver”, whatever that is and hallmarked 1915, except for the fact that there are no hallmarks to be seen and the badge depicted was only used from 1946. Either they had a time machine in 1915 or the seller is an idiot. I think I will leave it at that…

It’s not been a wasted day because I looked up the story behind Mizpah brooches. I thought I knew what they were (either two hearts or the word Mizpah, and often the verse And Mizpah; for he said, The LORD watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.) Looking at what are described as Mizpah brooches on ebay I was seriously beginning  to doubt myself.

Checking back on ebay I find that Mizpah is being used as a trademark by a company that makes Scottish style jewellery, including the appalling grouse foot brooches.  I may register a jewellery company called Real Silver, because people will then waste a lot of time on ebay checking up on “Real Silver brooches”.