This brooch is made of cut steel and is seen as a precursor to marcasite.  Cut steel jewellery was popular during the 18th and 19th centuries and originated in Woodstock in Oxfordshire in the early 1700s where they specialised in making chatelaines.  A chatelaine is hung from the waist, made up of a series of chains holding a variety of useful items: watch, scissors, keys, thimbles etc. By 1760 production had moved to Soho in Birmingham where industrialist Matthew Boulton (1728-1809) expanded production by using women as cheap labour.     Early cut steel items were made of clusters of small faceted and polished individual studs riveted on to a base plate.  Making cut steel was  difficult and time consuming, in the 18th century each rivet would have up to 15 tiny facets.   These tiny facets on each stud would glisten, especially in candlelight.  By the 19th century mass production had come in, the rivets were punched out in strips, making them coarser and with far fewer facets, maximum five.  Counting facets is a good way of dating cut steel jewellery.

Much of the cut steel made in Birmingham during the second half of the 18th century was exported to France, but in 1780 a Yorkshireman called Sykes moved to Paris and began making cut steel there.  Cut steel was extremely popular in France, Napoleon bought his second wife Empress Marie Louise, as a wedding present, an impressive parure (set of jewellery designed to be worn together – e.g. earrings, necklace etc).  Factories in France continued to produce cut steel items into the 1940s.

The star is a popular motif in Victorian symbolic jewellery as it symbolises guidance and wisdom. Seshat the ancient Egyptian goddess of wisdom, knowledge and writing has a headdress of stars.