Collecting Articles and Features

Ornamental Scarf Pins

williamessexscarfpin1850A collection of ornamental scarf pins provides a very interesting subject for collectors in which examples are not too difficult to obtain. The scarf-pin was fashionable from the days of cravats to the early part of our own century, but perhaps the most interesting period from the collector’s point of view is that of the nineteenth century.

Pictured right: William Essex Scarf pin c 1850 – Mounted portraits of the young Queen Victoria made popular jewels. In 1841 Victoria herself gave a bracelet with her portrait to Princess Marie d’Orléans on her marriage to the Queen’s cousin Prince Alexander of Württemberg. Image Copyright V&A Collections. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Although the word scarf-pin usually conjures up a vision of a vertical long pin with an ornamental head, yet for the purposes of collecting, the seventeenth century cravat brooches can also be included. Some of these are long, oval-shaped brooches of gold and contain a topaz or other stone. And because they were so widely used, they are not difficult to obtain. This type of brooch persisted, especially in more remote places, until the end of the eighteenth century.

wedgwoodscarfpinc1795Yet even at that time and earlier, sporting gentlemen used a vertical long pin to fasten their neckwear. These silver pins were of various types, though the most popular displayed a small head of a fox, dog or horse.

Pictured left: Josiah Wedgwood and Sons  Scarf pin c 1795 – Scarf pin mounted with an oval blue jasper plaque with a white relief of two young princes of Russia, Alexander and Constantine. Mounted in a gold hoop. Image Copyright V&A Collections. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The scarf-pin had its place in more fashionable attire too. Josiah Wedgwood, the famous potter of the eighteenth century, made many cameos. And some of the smaller of these were gold mounted as scarf-pins. The Wedgwood cameos were beautifully cut and the designs were taken from classic art. It has been said that : ” The love of detailed miniature work led Wedgwood to devote much time to the production of fine cameos, so many of which represent classic subjects, and in the excellence of their workmanship rivalled almost the ancient cutters of gems and cameos from which they were taken.” Wedgwood’s cameo scarf-pins are difficult to obtain now and the collector has to be careful not to confuse them with the Victorian cameos which were of a later. date and inferior quality. In Victorian times, scarf-pins had heads made in almost every conceivable way including glass, cameos, solid metal heads in the shape of an animal or figure.

williamessexdogscarfpinsBut the best were undoubtedly the animal miniatures which achieved so much well-deserved popularity. Even before 1860, Edwards was decorating jewellery with portraits of dogs painted from life.

Pictured right: William Essex (British, 1784-1869) – A white Bulldog signed and dated ‘W.ESSEX/1862’ (on reverse) enamel diameter 5/8in. (1.5cm.) mounted as a scarf pin, with Head of a brown and white Bulldog; A white Terrier, after ‘Impudence’ by Landseer, by the same hand, both signed and dated on the reverse, both mounted as scarf pins. Sold at Bonhams, New York Feb 2014 for US$ 1,625 (£947). Image Copyright Bonhams.

But the artists most famous for scarf-pin miniatures were William Essex and his former pupil, William Bishop Ford. In 1839, Essex, already an exhibitor at the Royal Academy, became miniature painter to Queen Victoria. A scarf-pin with an oval head bearing a miniature of the Queen is in the Victoria and Albert Museum (pictured above right).

For the Great Exhibition of 1851, Essex prepared a series of animal paintings and these were so acclaimed that he decided to specialise in this type of work. Jewellers became anxious for him to make miniatures of the animals, especially dogs, for them. And because he worked from real dogs his portraits and miniatures were always so life-like.

williamessexdogscarfpins2The art of enamelling on metal -dates from early times. The process of covering metal with .enamel has been known for many years, but the basis of all enamels is the application of fusible colour less silicote or gloss in pattern, mixed with metallic oxides. The prepared surface has to be fired until the enamel adheres firmly to the metal. The processes vary, but the firing or fusing is the same.

Pictured left: William Essex (British, 1784-1869) – A Fox’s mask  signed and dated ‘W Essex 1861’ (on the reverse) enamel mounted as a scarf pin with Head of Terrier, after ‘Impudence’ by Landseer, by the same hand, signed and dated; Head of a white Bulldog by another hand, both mounted as scarf pins. Sold at Bonhams, New York Feb 2014 for US$ 1,500 (£874). Image Copyright Bonhams.

Essex was responsible for improving the art of enamelling. He wrote a guide on the subject which is still used for reference purposes. The enamels of scarfpins are only of a quarter of an inch to an inch in thickness and are best when painted on a white background covering a thin layer of gold. William Essex carried out most of his work in this way.  After the death of his son, he passed on his methods to his former pupil, William Bishop Ford. And for a time the two were both engaged on miniatures of animals. But each signed his own work, and as the back of the scarf-pins are not enclosed, the name and date on any pin head can usually be seen.

The beautifully enamelled dog miniatures were generally fixed in a plain circular 18-carat gold mount, though some scarf-pins have a narrow beaded edge. Essex died in 1869, but his portraits of dogs and his methods survived. And William B. Ford continued to carry out the making of miniature scarf-pins.

williambfordscarfpinsWilliam Bishop Ford was born in 1832 in Whitfield Road, of Tottenham Court Road, London. He attended the Somerset House of Design and won several prizes. Then just over a hundred years ago, in 1855, he was commissioned to do some paintings on porcelain at Minton works for the Paris Industrial Exhibition. Not very long afterwards he exhibited animal miniatures at the Royal Academy and these became one of his chief interests. He was also a well-known portrait painter.

Pictured right: William Bishop Ford (British, 1832-1922) – Head of a Newfoundland signed ‘W.B.Ford’ (on reverse)  enamel diameter 5/8in. (1.5cm.) mounted as a stick pin with Head of a Pug; Head of Bulldog; Head of a St. Bernard, all signed, by the same artist and mounted as stick pins. Sold at Bonhams, New York Feb 2014 for US$ 1,750 (£1020). Image Copyright Bonhams.

Like Essex, Ford was meticulous in carrying out his work. This devotion to detail is nowhere more apparent than in his miniature scarf-pin heads. Sometimes he was commissioned to paint a certain dog or horse for a scarfpin. In such a case the name of the animal together with his own name and the date, was given at the back. Many of his tiny animal studies are on gold and porcelain ; a few on copper. But each retains its original brightness and clearness.

Not all enamelled scarf-pins are dated, however, and sometimes this makes them difficult to place. Yet other details often supply the missing link and enable the collector to date the work. This is especially so with the work of J. W. Bailey, who for a time worked with Ford in his studio. Many of Bailey’s early miniatures are from Ford’s patterns, but signed with his own name. Yet after 1895 his work deteriorated and this has always been assumed to be the time when he set up on his own account. Bailey’s scarf-pins of this date were generally done on copper and mounted on cheaper mounts. The strict attention to detail and the beautiful finish found in both Essex and Ford’s miniature are also missing.

Apart from animals, miniatures, of famous people such as Shakespeare were often included in scarf-pins. These are not infrequently seen in various parts of the country and so a collection is not difficult to build up. And with search comes the experience of recognising a worth-while addition to the collection. A well executed miniature on gold has a warmth lacking in one done on copper, while an inferior specimen which seems to lack clarity has probably been marred by over-firing. The work of the best exponents bears their names. Ornamental scarf-pins certainly offer to the lover of delicate jewellery a fine subject for a collection.