A Focus on Suffragette Jewellery

Article from Berganza


front view Antique ruby, diamond and demantoid garnet ring, circa 1900.
Antique ruby, diamond and demantoid garnet ring, circa 1900.
Ref: 11637

Wednesday 21st October 2015

In tandem with the recently released film about the British suffragette movement, here at Berganza we are focussing on the phenomenon of suffragette jewellery.

The film Suffragette, with an all-star cast of Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan and Helen Bonham Carter but to name a few, charts the battle to forge equality with men. This powerful struggle-filled period drama set in the years 1912 and 1913, examines the personal sacrifice, courage and tenacity of the women involved and some may say the violent acts of arson and vandalism that they were prepared to undergo for their cause.

Suffragette jewellery is characterised by the colours green, white and violet, often revealed by the gemstones peridot, pearl or moonstone and amethyst. Sometimes thought to be a secret code for ‘Give Women Votes’. The true meaning behind the choice of colours is explained in the 1908 Spring issue of the Votes for Women:

‘Purple as everyone knows is the royal colour. It stands for the royal blood that flows in the veins of every suffragette, the instinct of freedom and dignity…white stands for purity in private and public life…green is the colour of hope and the emblem of Spring.’  

Jewellery exhibiting these colours originated in the 1890s and was produced right through to 1918, the year that British women of 30 years and older first had the right to vote- it was not until 1928 that the age was reduced to 21. Women would wear these pieces to show support for the cause, as well as to pay tribute to acts of extreme hardship or bravery. In their Christmas 1908 catalogue, London jeweller, Mappin & Webb, advertised suffragette jewellery, and Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the movement was presented with a specially commissioned piece in purple, white, and green.

Suffragette jewellery is distinctive and bursting with the symbolic passion and drive of the women who worked to change history. Unsurprisingly these pieces are highly coveted, with a reinvigorated revival of interest due to the new Hollywood film. Why not commemorate this era by adding a piece of suffragette jewellery to your collection?

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