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Plaid brooch 1848

RCIN 4806

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Circular gold brooch, with faceted pale pink cairngorm mounted within border of blue and white enamel scrolls and flowerheads formed from pearls and pink enamel. The reverse is marked 'Loch na Garr' and the date '27 September 1848'.

Like the jewellery made from pebbles discovered during country walks, this brooch was created from a cairngorm picked up by Prince Albert at Lochnagar in September 1848. Lochnagar, the highest mountain in the vicinity of Balmoral, was the objective of a walk taken by the royal couple on the last day of their visit to Scotland that year. Despite adverse weather they attempted an ascent of the mountain. The Queen rode up by pony but those accompanying her felt the mist was too severe for her to reach the summit. Prince Albert walked up by a shorter but less accessible route and managed the ascent.

A cairngorm is a form of quartz originally found only in the Cairngorm range. It was not mined but occurred randomly. This example, although slightly flawed, was almost immediately cut and set into a Celtic-style brooch for presentation to the Queen in November 1848 (on the birthday of Princess Victoria). The Queen's passion for all things Scottish sparked a general interest in both Celtic design and the use of cairngorms, which became highly fashionable during the mid-century. By the 1860s demand had exceeded supply and stones of a similar kind began to be imported from Brazil.

Prince Albert's accounts include several references to ‘Scotch brooches’ and ‘Perth brooches’ purchased in the 1840s.

Text from Victoria & Albert: Art & Love.