Flora Steel purchased the silver brooch 35 years ago not realising it was a ‘historically significant’ piece of jewellery dating back to the 19th Century – and was worth big money
A woman who picked up a brooch for £20 at a local market says she can’t believe it’s about to go to auction and is expected to fetch around £15,000.
Unsuspecting Flora Steel purchased the silver badge 35 years ago not realising it was a “historically significant” piece of jewellery dating back to the 19th Century. She contacted auctioneers after noticing the design was similar to one which appeared on the BBC hit series Antiques Roadshow – and later sold for £31,000.
Flora was left gobsmacked when experts revealed her brooch was also an original by the great Victorian Gothic Revival designer and architect William Burges, who is best known for designing Cardiff Castle and Castell Coch in South Wales. His designs remain on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
He has also been described as “the greatest genius of 19th-century design.” Flora’s brooch will now go under the hammer in the spring with an estimate of £10,000 to £15,000 at Gildings Auctioneers, in Market Harborough, Leicestershire. She said: “The brooch originally caught my eye for its strong design, strange lettering and unusual stones. I always loved it and thought that it was so particular in its design that sooner or later I would discover who had designed it.
“I’ve always adored the Antiques Roadshow, so when the clip popped up on my phone, I said to myself, ‘that reminds me of the brooch I found 35 years ago’. So, I decided to have a better look at the V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum) drawing and lo and behold there was my brooch. I practically fell off my chair.”
The silver, coral, lapis lazuli and malachite brooch was acquired at a Midlands antiques market in 1988 by Flora, who is a Rome-based jewellery enthusiast. Her discovery is the third time a William Burges brooch had been uncovered by Gildings and Antiques Roadshow jewellery expert Geoffrey Munn.
In 2011, pensioner Jill Cousins was watching Antiques Roadshow and saw Geoffrey revealing his decades-long search for brooch designs by Burges. Jill, of Market Harborough, recognised one of the designs as an unwanted item she had forgotten to take to the local market to sell just two days earlier.
The silver, turquoise and garnet brooch was later confirmed as a Burges design, probably made for the wedding of his friend and fellow architect John Pollard Seddon in 1864. Geoffrey described the find as his “Tutankhamen experience”, estimating it could make £10,000 at auction. It went on to triple this figure when it sold at Gildings for £31,000 in August 2011.
Later in 2011, another viewer realised they too had the same brooch while watching an Antiques Roadshow Christmas special. This owner also contacted Gildings, who arranged a private sale to the V&A, where this example is now displayed in the jewellery galleries. The same auctioneers has now confirmed Flora’s brooch was designed by Burges -this time for the wedding of an unknown individual named Gibson.
Gildings director Will Gilding said: “It was clear this was another one of the designs on the page of sketches. So, now a Burges brooch has again been discovered via a chance sighting via the Antiques Roadshow. For it to happen once, amazing. Twice, remarkable. A third time? Pinch me!
“Whether this brooch reaches the heights of the first one we auctioned or indeed results in any more examples being unearthed remains to be seen. However, as a fascinating piece of jewellery with an even more intriguing backstory, we’re honoured to be playing a part in its continued history as we present it to the open market next year.”