These intriguing group of brooches, made by unknown jewellers, that were produced in the Australian goldfields, circa 1880–1915 are a peculiarly Australian innovation. These elegant pieces, which are made from gold, gold nuggets, quartz and garnet, employ mining motifs such as picks, shovels, buckets and prospector’s pan.
Following significant discoveries of gold in Australia in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a movement of making innovative gold jewellery began, with the earliest being dateable from the mid-1850s. Original examples were quite large, and most of these were melted down when smaller brooches were more in favour.
These attractive, wearable pieces in uniquely Australian designs incorporate mining motifs, and even small nuggets of native gold or fragments of gold-bearing quartz. Though the makers are unknown, the jewellery’s existence embellishes the story of the Australian gold discoveries.
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Featured image: Unknown Jeweller, Australia / Goldfields brooch (crossed pick and shovel with bucket) c.1880–1915 / Gold and gold nuggets / 3 x 5.2 x 0.7cm
All brooches purchased 2011 with funds from Margaret Mittelheuser, AM, and Cathryn Mittelheuser, AM, through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art