This is another lovely example of early British Sterling silver butterfly wing jewellery. This brooch was made by the Shipton Company, Birmingham, England before 1923 (please see below for a brief history of this type of jewellery). It depicts a kingfisher, sitting on a branch overhanging the river. The iridescent Morpho butterfly wings are peacock blue and yellow on the body of the bird and a lighter blue for the water. There is also a tiny butterfly in the sky, done in lime green butterfly wing, a lovely little detail. The reverse painted scene – all done by hand – has some very nice detailed work on the body and face of the bird, the branch and vegetation and the tiny butterfly. This brooch measures 1 9/16 inches from side to side. It is marked on the reverse `SILVER, PAT. APPLD. FOR', meaning it was made before the Shiptons were granted patent 202213 in 1923. This brooch is in excellent condition; the butterfly wings are undamaged and of a beautiful colour. The painting of the tree and the bird is in excellent condition. There are some small unpainted patches in the reverse-painted black of the sky, but I believe this to be original to the design, a deliberate effect. In any case, it does not interfere with the main elements of the picture or detract from its beauty.
A little bit of background about this fascinating jewellery! Butterfly wing jewellery originated in England around the 1920's. UK patent number 202213 was granted to the Shipton company, Birmingham in 1923 (although the Shiptons had been making this jewellery for some years previously). It became really fashionable, when the firm Thomas L. Mott mounted an exhibit featuring it at the British Empire Exhibition in 1924. It seems that the Shiptons stopped producing this jewellery in 1939, at the outbreak of the Second World War – more modern examples produced elsewhere are inferior in quality and the designs are not hand-painted. The designs were reverse painted on glass, backed with iridescent Morpho butterfly wings from South America, covered with a glass dome and (with the early British examples at least) set in Sterling silver. Commonly found themes are tropical scenes, ladies in crinolines and Dutch scenes. Jewellery featuring kingfishers is harder to come by, and some very unusual pieces can also be found – for example, I own a pendant depicting two Egyptians on the banks of the Nile, with the Pyramids in the background. This delicate and beautiful jewellery is very collectible.
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