Three important pieces of Australian gold jewellery will go under the hammer at Chorley’s of Prinknash Abbey Park, Gloucestershire on September 20-21.
These museum quality pieces illustrate the skill and innovation of goldsmiths during the gold rush era and are of huge cultural significance to Australia and its mining heritage. During this vibrant period immigrant jewellers turned their talents to the depiction of Australian flora and fauna leading to the development of a truly distinctive Australian style and identity.
The most important pioneers of this style were Julius Hogarth (1820-1879) and Conrad Erichsen, who were the first Australian jewellers to create gold brooches and bracelets which incorporated native flora and fauna and occasionally small Aboriginal figures. The sale at Chorley’s includes an oval brooch depicting an emu and a kangaroo beneath a grass tree and banksia and is estimated to fetch between £2000-3000. A pair of earrings depicting a kangaroo and emu (unmarked but thought to be by the Sydney jewellers) are £600-800.
Another key figure is Christian Ludwig Qwist (1818-1877), a talented jeweller as well as a photographer. Quist worked for Hogarth & Erichsen just prior to their 1861 bankruptcy and was involved in photographing their products as well as in goldsmithing. An elaborate gold bracelet carries his mark/ It is also likely that the little silver figures of emu, kangaroo and Aborigine would have been supplied by Julius Hogarth. Few bracelets of this quality survive and this example is expected to achieve between £6000-8000.
The pieces come with an excellent provenance: by direct descent from Hugh Hamilton (1822-1900) who was the younger son of the Hamilton’s of Sundrum in Ayrshire, Scotland. Hugh went to Australia as an early pioneer settler at the age of 19 in 1841, establishing the Tomabil and Boyd stations on the Lachlan River in New South Wales. He lost most of his cattle in a severe drought in 1849. He took on the post of assistant gold commissioner at Ophir, near Bathurst, during the gold rush but eventually returned successfully to farming.