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Visiting the Lochbuie Brooch

Back in July we asked our team to reveal exactly what it was that inspired them to follow a career in bespoke jewellery. From symbolism to the shining stars of 20th century design, the results were varied and fascinating, but one tale told was yet to be finished…

Drawn to history, with a particular interest in early jewellery, a piece that had a profound influence on Richard was the Lochbuie Brooch. Currently held at the British Museum, our article inspired Richard to make time to see the brooch in person. Not one to do things by halves, he also invited some very special guests to join him for an exclusive viewing of this 400 year old piece.

Mary Corbett and Sara Nangle’s family have owned and farmed Lochbuie on the Isle of Mull for over one hundred years. On Wednesday 14th September 2022 Mary and Sara joined me at the British Museum to view the Lochbuie Brooch.

With a private room organised by the collections team we were able to inspect and handle this extraordinary piece of jewellery with historical, international, artistic and political connections far beyond the Atlantic bay of its “origin”. The brooch is much bigger and heavier than expected, to the extent that it may never have actually functioned as a brooch. Its weight alone would have been too much for the traditional hinged brooch pin tasked with securing it.

The detailed level of craftsmanship not only indicates a highly skilled hand, using tools we would recognise today, but adds authority to the idea that the piece was made elsewhere, perhaps commissioned by the Macleans of Lochbuie, or even the Campbells, connecting this piece to several other known examples. It would have been a huge amount of silver to discover, extract, prepare and work at source as the later inscription indicates, but it is wonderful to think that might have been possible.

Whether it really was crafted by a tinker at Lochbuie as a marital gift using native freshwater pearls and rock crystal, or commissioned in continental Europe by the Campbells to secure familial clan allegiances after the Jacobite uprising of 1745, is not clear and may remain unanswered. However, accepting what we are told, as a piece produced with ore from Mull, that has an almost unbroken provenance and documentation in print since 1772, it is unique. I truly hope at least one piece of jewellery that I have been responsible for will last as long and call a global museum home!

With our visit over we were able to pay our respects on The Mall as the Late Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin travelled from Buckingham Palace to lie in state at Westminster Hall. It was an honour to be in London and witness both great institutions.

 

 

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