The main body of this brooch is made from opaque glass. In its centre is a small cluster of seven garnets forming the stamens of the flower. The glass has been carved to give texture to the petals. I bought this brooch from Hanson’s auction. Hanson’s is run by the charismatic auctioneer Charles Hanson, whose flamboyant character is often seen on television in programmes like Bargain Hunt, Flog It and Antiques Road Trip.
My brooch arrived nestled in old soft cotton-wool, in a vintage Hudson’s Bay Company cardboard box, so I am surmising this is its origin. The Hudson’s Bay Company has a long history. The company began in the 17th century, founded by two French fur traders, Pierre-Esprit Radisson and Médard des Groseilliers.
Sketch of Pierre-Esprit Radisson
The first fur trading post was established in 1670 by Royal Charter from King Charles II. For the next 200 years the Hudson’s Bay Company dominated both the trade and the governance of about 2/3rds of modern-day Canada. In 1869, after rejecting an offer of $10m from the US Government, the company sold all their land back to the British Government who gave it to the newly created Dominion of Canada. During the 19th century the company diversified into general merchandise setting up general and department stores and in the 1920s the company expanded into oil exploration.
The Hudson’s Bay Company have been the official clothing outfitter for the Canadian Olympic teams in 1936, 1960, 1964, 1968, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016. Red mittens sold at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver were sold for $10 and proved extremely popular, selling in excess of 2.5 million pairs.
In March 2020 the company was delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange and returned to private ownership. Today the company is known as The Bay with both an online presence and a number of luxury department stores across Canada. Perhaps the most iconic item sold is the point blanket.
The recognisable striped wool blanket has been traded by the Hudson’s Bay Company since 1779 and can still be bought today.