As They Were

“Yet in these ears, till hearing dies,
One set slow bell will seem to toll
The passing of the sweetest soul
That ever look’d with human eyes.”—Alfred Lord Tennyson


Ann Longmore-Etheridge Collection

This poignant American brooch, which measures about 1.75 inches tall and dates to the late 1860s, contains a tintype image of a boy of about eight years wearing a wool jacket. Around the inner rim of the viewing compartment is a thin braid of blond hair, presumably that of the child in the photograph.

The brooch has a unique swivel mechanism that I have never seen before. Usually, the brooch body revolves to bring to the front a second viewing compartment (in this case the back side contains only checkered silk). On this brooch, however, it is the pin mechanism that rolls to whichever side will serve as the reverse.

Courtesy Jack and Beverly Wilgus Collection.

This lovely American woman, who is pictured in fashions of about 1850, once looked out at those who loved her from the black enamel setting of this mourning brooch just as she now studies us, the denizens of an age perhaps unimaginable to her. The daguerreotype is delicately tinted to give her cheeks the rosiness of life and to highlight her gold brooch and earrings.

Ann Longmore-Etheridge Collection.

This large rolled gold brooch contains a ruby ambrotype (an ambrotype made on red glass) of a beautiful English woman whose first name, Emily, is inscribed on the reverse. It dates to about the same year as Beverly Wilgus’s brooch, above. Ω


Author: Ann Longmore-Etheridge

Writer, journalist, editor, historian.

5 thoughts on “As They Were”

    1. It depends on the conditions that the hair inside the compartment has endured. I have several where the hair has turned green, literally, from the metal surrounding it (obviously pinchbeck and not gold) or from mold. Hair that has been stored in optimal conditions will not fade or change color to any marked degree.


  1. I love those photographs in the brooches! They are really wonderful and some of the best I’ve ever seen in your collection (with details of face and eyes in particular), although I know the unidentified middle one of the lady is not in your collection, still the detail is amazing and her face is so expressive. Doesn’t her face look like the ones from those Greco-Romano period sarcophagus face-paintings from Egypt? The large eyes with the direct and open look, the gold-painted drop earrings and the brooch…it really does remind me of those old paintings, although it is a photo taken from life.

    Liked by 1 person

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