Tag Archives: sweetheart brooches

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.

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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.

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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, 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.

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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”.