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Jewellery & Silver 13 Mar 2013 10:00
AN EDWARDIAN ‘SUFFRAGETTE’
AMETHYST AND ENAMEL
Sold for £2,700 (Hammer price)
Jewellery is not just a finishing touch to an outfit but a powerful means of expression, enabling the wearer to make strong statements on their religious or political view without saying a word. The women campaigning for suffrage in Britain pre-WWI were masters in their use of jewellery as a tool for potent political expression (Elizabeth Goring, Wearing The Colours, 2008).
The Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) was founded in 1903 by Emmeline Pankhurst and took a more militant view on the campaign for women’s suffrage than other groups from the period. By 1906, the WSPU had become well-known for their extreme line – often resulting to arson, vandalism and hunger strikes to promote their cause – all covered extensively by the national press. In 1908 the government passed The Public Meeting Act, ‘to prevent disturbance of Public Meetings’ that effectively made the disruptive ‘Deeds not Words’ of the WSPU illegal.
Support for the WSPU had swelled over the years, something that did not cease even after the threat of arrest and imprisonment. In the same year as The Public Meeting Act was passed, the group devised an innovative way for supporters to show their allegiance by developing ‘corporate’ colours – purple (for dignity), white (for purity) and green (for hope). It did not take long for the colours to take hold and in June of 1908 30,000 women displayed their colours in a demonstration in London’s Hyde Park – thought to have been watched by up to half a million spectators – a dramatic scene in purple, white and green. This demonstration marked the beginning of a remarkable and persistent campaign for women’s suffrage that continued until the outbreak of war in 1914, at which point the members of the WSPU vowed to concentrate on the war effort. In 1918 women over 30 were granted the vote, with the voting age dropping to 21 years old in 1928. Over time the symbolism of the colours became less important than their instantly recognisable association with the cause, the bearer of a piece of jewellery, like the brooch/pendant shown above, was expressing an unmistakable political message to all those around her.
If you are drawn to amethysts of a slightly different fashion there was another dramatic piece in the March sale – the large rectangular cut amethyst shown below set in a high quality gold frame with enamel details.
A FINE EARLY 20TH CENTURY AMETHYST AND PEARLSET BROOCH 65MM WIDE
Sold for £3,400 (HAMMER PRICE)