Goldfield brooches: Uniquely Australian

 

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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Goldfields bar brooch (dark quartz with applied flowers) c.1880–1915 / Gold and dark gold bearing quartz / 2.2 x 4.5 x 2cm
Goldfields bar brooch (gold bearing ore) c.1880–1915 / Gold and gold bearing ore / 1.5 x 5.3 x 1.5cm
Goldfields bar brooch (three bars with four nuggets and garnet) c.1880–1915 / Gold, gold nuggets and garnet / 1.5 x 5.3 x 1.5cm
Goldfields bar brooch and chain (two bars with large nugget) c.1880–1915 / Gold and gold nuggets / 1.5 x 6 x 2.2cm
Goldfields brooch and chain (boomerang with gold nugget) c.1880–1915 / Gold and gold with red ore / 5.3 x 2.2. x 1.2cm
Goldfields bar brooch (two bars with large nugget) c.1880–1915 / Gold and gold nugget / 2 x 6.7 x 2cm
Goldfields stick-pin (crossed pick and shovel with garnet) c.1880–1915 / Gold, gold nugget and garnet / 5.2 x 2 x 0.5cm
Goldfields pendant (crossed pick and shovel) c.1880–1915 / Gold, gold nuggets and garnet / 3.3 x 2.2 x 0.5cm
Goldfields brooch (crossed pick and shovel with nugget) c.1880–1915 / Gold and gold nugget / 2.5 x 4.8 x 1cm
Goldfields bar brooch (two bars with pick, shovel and prospector’s pan) c.1880–1915 / Gold and gold nugget / 1.7 x 5.5 x 1cm
Goldfields brooch (shovel with suspended nugget) c.1880–1915 / Gold and gold nuggets / 3 x 5.5 x 1cm
Goldfields brooch (crossed pick and shovel with nuggets) c.1880–1915 / Gold and gold nuggets with gemstone / 3 x 5.8 x 0.7cm
Goldfields brooch and chain (crossed pick and shovel with bucket and nuggets) c.1880–1915 / Gold and gold nuggets / 3.5 x 5.8 x 1.2cm
Goldfields brooch (crossed pick and shovel with bucket) c.1880–1915 / Gold and gold nuggets / 3 x 5.2 x 0.7cm

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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

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