This brooch is made of silver gilt with amethyst, peridot and garnet. It depicts George and the Dragon.
The original Saint George was a Greek soldier who fought for the Roman emperor Diocletian as a member of the Praetorian Guard. He died in 303 having been sentenced to death for refusing to recant his Christian faith. He is regarded as one of the most venerated saints and is the patron saint of England, Ethiopia, Georgia and the provinces of Catalonia and Aragon in Spain.
The George and the Dragon legend generally dates from the 11th and 12th centuries, it appeared in the ‘Golden Legend’ a collection of saints’ lives produced by Jacobus de Varagine in the 1260s. The legend goes – there was a village being terrorised by a dragon. To placate the dragon, the villagers sacrificed sheep, but when they ran out, the King decreed the local children be used. Each day, the sacrifice was chosen by lottery until the day the King’s own daughter was selected. By good fortune George happened by at this point, he was horrified. He offered to slay the dragon. George being a great solider slew the dragon and the princess and village were saved.
I believe this brooch may have been made at the time of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. There was a great upsurge of patriotism at the time. On the 20th June there was a service of thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey and a vast number of royal guests from around the world came. Afterwards at Buckingham Palace Queen Victoria distributed a Golden Jubilee medal to each of the guests.
Golden Jubilee Medal from 1887
Peridots were previously known as Olivines. Peridot is the only gemstone that is found in a single colour, green. It is a gem that has been used in jewellery since Roman times but rose to popularity in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It is often the green stone found in Suffragette jewellery representing hope. Amethyst can range in colour from very pale almost transparent lilac to dark rich imperial purple. The finest amethysts come from Siberia but in the 19th century the main sources were Brazil and Uruguay. Again, in Suffragette jewellery the purple represents loyalty and dignity is depicted by an amethyst. The final colour in the Suffragette trio is white for purity. The Brooch of the Month for March 2017 is a lovey example of a Suffragette brooch.
The image of George and the Dragon has been used in jewellery and art for centuries. In the V&A museum in London there are several pieces depicting this image.
A silver and silver gilt pendant dating 1475 – 1500 made in Germany
A woodcut of Saint George Killing the Dragon, Albrecht Dürer (1501/4).