In the middle of the 19th century all things Scottish enjoyed a level of incredible popularity in England. Against Robert Burns' melodic poetry written a century before, the romantic setting of lochs and mists blanketing mountains provided by the Highlands enthralled Victorian society. Stones from Scotland - agates, citrines, cairngorms, amethysts and bloodstones - made into jewellery served to remind one of a favourite holiday or location.
Clean geometric lines usually define Scottish agate jewellery and motifs include the endless knot, the thistle, shield shapes both open and solid and kilt-securing brooches that resemble miniature dirks in their own ornate sheaths. Large sculptural brooches (Torc, ring and the penannular shapes) featuring the varied hued agates secured tartans, plaids and paisley draped over the shoulder. Because so few pieces were signed before 1883, the weight and construction often must serve as clues to its origin. Early pieces were heavy, sometimes slate-backed, on occasion mounted on pitch or so that the barest slip of silver frame showed, and less frequently on gold. As the jewellery gained popularity, the English began making it as well, and volume production shifted from Edinburgh to Birmingham. English makers continued with the old themes but also introduced motifs such as arrows, bows, butterflies, padlocks and snakes, symbol of eternity, and these later pieces will often be hallmarked to identify them.
Yet again, fashion catches up to history. These pieces were simply made for wearing on tweeds and tartans and their extraordinary beauty would make them equally suitable on a silk dress or with a white blouse and blue jeans. There is always choice to be made between adorning oneself (or gifting) with something wonderful, unique with handcraftsmanship or purchasing "a trend" from the local department store or specialty boutique. Everything about Thistle & Broom promotes the former and here you will find that every piece of Scottish Agate jewellery offered is a work of art at least a hundred years old. Celebrate the difference.