This brooch is made of gold and oxidised silver and in the form of a Zulu shield.  The design was registered by M J Goldsmid of Birmingham on 4th September 1883.  The British Museum has a Zulu shield brooch in its collection by the London jeweller John Brogden c1880.   In ‘Jewellery in the Age of Queen Victoria’ by Charlotte Gere and Judy Rudoe, (a fabulous book for any jewellery lover) they speculate the design could have been sold by M J Goldsmid to various jewellers for example Brogden.  The Zulu war was in 1879, various warrior trophies were brought back to England and put on display.  It is probable these were the inspiration for this brooch.  My brooch has no markings, so I think it is a fair guess to say it was made in the 1880s possibly/probably from the M J Goldsmid design.  On the brooch are depicted representations of spears and clubs.

1824 European artist’s impression of King Shaka with a long throwing assegai and heavy shield.


Zulu shields date back to King Shaka Zulu (c1787 to 1828) who is credited with creating the large Zulu Kingdom by 1825, it covered 11,500 square miles.  He reigned from 1816 to 1828 when he was assassinated by two of his half-brothers.


Photograph of Cetshwayo by Alexander Bassano in Old Bond Street, London



At the time of the Zulu war in 1879 King Cetshwayo ruled the Kingdom.




A Zulu warrior went into battle carrying a shield and spears, one for throwing and one for stabbing.  There were two classes of warrior: married men, who carried a light coloured shield and wore a headring (the photo of King Cetshwayo with a headring) and were called “whites” and unmarried young men who carried dark shields and were known as “blacks”, these were the elite of the warriors. The Zulu shield is a symbol of national identity, like a Coat of Arms or flag.  It was considered a disgrace for a warrior to lose his shield to the enemy.   There are several types of Zulu shield which are made of cow hide.  The Isihlangu, a large battle shield used by the king, about 5ft long.  The Umbumbuluzo, a small battle shield which could easily be held in one hand when attacking, about 4 ½ ft by 2 ½ ft.  The Ihubelo, a small courting shield often dyed red, to illustrate the bearer’s manliness and courage. And the Igqoka, a small dancing shield used in traditional ceremonies.  Nowadays shields a purely ceremonial, used for weddings and funerals.

The Zulu war (1879) between the British and the Zulu Kingdom in what is now South Africa was essentially a boundary dispute.  Though short lived, there were some notable bloody engagements, one of the best known was at Rorke’s Drift, depicted in the 1964 film Zulu with a star studded cast and narrated by Richard Burton.  The mission station at Rorke’s Drift was successfully defended by 150 soldiers (30 of which were injured) against a Zulu force of between 3,000 and 4,000 warriors.

11 Victoria Cross medals (the highest award for valour “in the presence of the enemy”) were awarded at Rorke’s Drift.   The Victoria Cross was introduced on 29 January 1856 by Queen Victoria to honour acts of valour during the Crimean War.  To date only 1,385 have been awarded.