I n 1867, a 14-year-old London schoolboy named John Masters, doubtless wishing to cut a fashionable figure, advertised in Boys of England: A Young Gentleman's Journal of Sport, Sensation, Fun and Instruction, that he wished to a acquire a scarf pin in exchange for '131 rare foreign [postage] stamps.' History doesn't record if his advertisement succeeded. If it had, we can imagine him at 17 sporting his pin in a smart cravat or neck tie on a night out with friends at a music hall. By then he was working for his father, Moses Masters, an artificial limb and surgical appliance maker, who had been an exhibitor in that line at the Great Exhibition of 1851.
Scarf pins, or what nowadays are usually referred to as tie or stick pins, seem to have become fashionable in the late 1840s an there are several excellent examples to be found in the upcoming sale: The Collection of a Connoisseur. An early reference is to one given to Thomas M'Collum, the daredevil American equestrian performer during his 1850/51 tour of Great Britain. His admirers pooled their resources to buy him a pin, the design of which was a 'union of the riding cap, spurs and whip' (The Era, London, 25 January 1852). He was no ordinary rider, however; his acrobatic horsemanship included thrilling back-flips and somersaults on two galloping stallions.
Punch, Victorian England's best-known satirical magazine, was never slow to poke fun at the latest fads and fancies of fashion. The 23 April 1853 edition included a John Leech cartoon, ironically entitled 'TASTE,' showing two swells greeting each another, one of whom is wearing a large death's head scarf pin. "That's a deuced neat style of Pin, Charley!" says his friend, to which the owner of the pin replies: "It's a pretty thing," before explaining that he has a set of shirt studs and waistcoat buttons to match. He then assures his companion that they "look stunning at night"! Another curious example, not of a death’s head, but of an diamond-eyed Mephisto, can be found in lot 97.
Had he lived, there is no telling what Leech would have made of various scarf pins shown 14 years later at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1867. Invented by Gustave Trouvé, the celebrated French engineer and scientific instrument maker who had trained as a watchmaker, and made by Auguste-Germain Cadet-Picard, a Parisian jeweler, they were fitted with tiny electrical terminals. When connected to a battery in the wearer's pocket the head of each pin appeared to spring into life. One, in the form of an enamelled gold human skull, which could "chatter and roll its horrid eyes" (The Penny Illustrated Paper, London, 27 April 1867), survives at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. This and other similar scarf pins and 'electric' jewelry are described in detail by Charlotte Gere and Judy Rudoe in their excellent new book, Jewelry in the Age of Queen Victoria (The British Museum, London, 2010).
Mention of Queen Victoria reminds us that during the latter part of the 19th century and well into the 20th century, scarf pins, along with cuff links and cigarette cases, were favourite royal gifts. In April 1892, Her Majesty distributed various presents on her visit to Hyères in the south of France, including several scarf pins; one, a simple pearl, she gave to the son of her hotel proprietor, M. Peyron, and another, gold-headed with her 'V' cypher in gemstones, was selected for Lieut. Vallier, commander of the gendarmes who had formed her local guard of honour (The Times, London, 23 April 1892; The Birmingham Daily Post, Birmingham, 19 May 1892).
The Queen also gave "a beautiful diamond horse-shoe scarf-pin" to 12-year-old Jean Gerardy (1877-1929) following his performance on the cello at Windsor Castle on 1 December 1892 (The Musical Times, London, 1 January 1892); and in 1898 she presented a pin to Tom Stephens, conductor of the Rhondda Choir of 70 male voices (most of whom were Welsh miners) upon their singing before her at Windsor. Of gold, it was "mounted with diamonds and rubies, forming a royal crown, surmounting the initials 'V.R.I.' [Victoria Regina Imperatrix]" (The Musical Herald, London, 1 April 1898). More jeweled tie pins from different periods, among them a fine turquoise and pearl-set example, are included in lot 98.
The Queen's son and heir, Edward VII continued the tradition: London's favourite comedian, Dan Leno became the proud recipient of a gold and enamelled pin designed as the King's cypher after entertaining the royal household at Sandringham on 16 November 1901 (The Penny Illustrated Paper and Illustrated Times, London, 7 December 1901). Like those distributed by Victoria, this would have been supplied by the then Crown Jewelers, R. & S. Garrard & Co. An example by the same maker can be found in lot 97 in this sale: a gold and enamel pin made for another member of the Royal Family, its circular top enamelled with the cypher of the Prince Edward, Prince of Wales.
Collectors of scarf pins are very keen to acquire royal examples, particularly those from Britain, Russia (Fabergé) and Imperial France. But examples from other sources range from the very simple (like young M. Peyron's pearl) or novel, to the elaborate and costly. One recorded scarf pin which was both novel and costly was that made by a Parisian jeweler in the form of a Turkish yataghan (an Ottoman short sabre) with ruby handle and engraved slender diamond blade (Bow Bells, London, 6 March 1896). Designs for pins were also inspired by political figures and movements, like the 'GARIBALDI SCARF PIN, real Cameo Portrait of Garibaldi' advertised by the London retail jeweler, Charles Stevens of Cheapside (The Morning Chronicle, London, 27 July 1861); or the enamelled Union Flag pins in 15ct gold, silver-gilt or gilt-metal made by B.H. Joseph & Co of Birmingham on behalf of the Unionist Party at the time of the British General Election of 1886 (The Jeweller & Metalworker, London, 1 July 1886).
Nor should it be forgotten that jeweler in the United States were also makers of scarf pins. No doubt many on sale in the New World were imported from Europe, but evidence suggests that many were designed and made in the United States. Gold nuggets or gold-bearing quartz fragments were popular for the heads of pins (Augusta Joyce Crocheron, The Children's Book, 1890); while among the souvenir scarf pins was one designed by Leopold Moss for the Gorham Manufacturing Co for the "Panama expo., San Francisco, 1915," the words surrounding rays of the setting sun and a polar bear (Library of Congress Copyright Office, Catalogue of Copyright Entries, 1914).
As a subject for collectors, the humble scarf, tie or stick pin is an attractive one for both the novice and the expert alike.