This is the first cameo I ever bought. I had to fight off several dealers at an auction in Oxford who also had their beady eyes on it. It is a large shell cameo, set in gold. The overall brooch measures three inches across (7cm) with the actual cameo measuring a full two and half inches (6cm). It is mid-Victorian in date with a long sharp pin, long pins are characteristic of 19th century brooches and they do not have ‘roll over catches’. I have to be careful how I position the brooch otherwise it has a tendency to stick into me. I call it my lucky brooch.
Firstly, I like to wear it when I go to an auction. I often find I’m lucky in my purchases especially if they are jewellery. I wore it once to an auction and was lucky enough to buy an adorable miniature bronze statue of a giraffe. It doesn’t always work, the last auction I wore it to I missed out on a wonderful shell brooch, it went up, up and away in price leaving me holding my bidding paddle firmly on my lap. But I did have a chance to try on the wonderful shell brooch at the viewing, so not all bad.
Secondly, this was the brooch I was wearing when I first met Mel Ashby, the wonderful person who designs and does all the technical side of The Casket of Fictional Delights. We were sitting at Newcastle University café having a cup of tea, by the way tea is our beverage of choice, discussing the website and Mel asked about a theme. It had never occurred to me I would need a theme. My husband pointed out I loved jewellery, especially brooches. Mel asked how many I had; at that point I had no idea. When I went home and counted them all up I was utterly amazed, I thought I only had a few, but I had hundreds. So it is down to this very brooch that the concept of The Casket was born.
The brooch itself depicts a woman with a child on her lap and two men. She is holding the hand of the younger man and the older man has his hand on her knee, he also has a shepherd’s crook. I’ve tried to find out exactly what the brooch might mean. There are several possible interpretations. The ages of man, fidelity, infidelity, it’s a wise man who knows his own father. Take your pick. Or if you know let me know.