Brooch, mining equipment motifs, gold, commissioned by Edward Austin, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, c. 1855
In May 1851, a few months after Edward Hammond Hargraves had published his discovery of gold, Bathurst shopkeeper Edward Austin arrived in Sydney with a nugget weighing about 225 grams. According to The Sydney Morning Herald (15 May 1851) it created 'a great sensation'. Austin's find fanned the excitement that was to shake the colony and create a rush to the Bathurst region. Choosing to remain in Bathurst, Austin made his fortune by providing diggers with credit to buy mining tools and then afterwards purchasing their gold. He commemorated his success with this brooch, which he gave to his wife, Mary Ann. For Austin, the brooch underscored a life of ups and downs. Born Elias Arnstein, a Bavarian Jew, he was apprenticed as a tailor when he went to England in 1831. After only two days in London, he was arrested and sentenced to seven years transportation for stealing a ring and two brooches.
The Austin brooch belongs to a group of 'goldfields' brooches of a type made exclusively in Australia from local gold between the mid 1850s and the mid 1860s. Massive and ostentatious, most were melted down when smaller brooches began to be favoured in the following decades or when they were sold for much-needed cash during the depression of the 1890s. Only a few have survived and most are not marked. Their provenance has been long forgotten.
Typically, goldfields or digger brooches featured miniatures of mining equipment arranged in an oval or rectangular design and worked onto a pin. The tiny mining tools were formed either by sawing or casting and then soldered together. The more complex designs incorporated crossed picks and shovels, mattocks, winches, buckets, sluice-boxes, gabs of gold, revolvers and small figures of miners turning windlasses, all set within foliate, wreath-like frameworks.
Goldfields pins and rings were bought by lucky diggers and merchants to commemorate the travails of the goldfields. A brooch, however, was usually made as a present from a lucky digger to his 'woman'. Although expensive, they were also acquired as souvenirs by visitors to goldfields as 'proofs of colonial advancement'. Early goldfields jewellery was often made by adventurous immigrant jewellers who, after unsuccessful attempts as miners on the goldfields, set up jewellery shops in gold townships. By the mid 1850s, a range of goldfields brooches and rings could be purchased or commissioned from large city establishments.
L. Mitchell, Goldfields jewellery in 'Decorative arts and design from the Powerhouse Museum', Powerhouse Publishing, 1991, p61
E. Czernis-Ryl (ed), 'Australian gold and silver 1851-1900', Powerhouse Publishing 1995, pp14-15
E . Buttler-Bowdon, Golden memories, in 'Australian gold and silver 1851-1900', Powerhouse Publishing 1995, pp 36-45
The brooch was either designed or commissioned in 1851 by Bathurst merchant and gold buyer Edward Austin for his wife Mary Ann.
The following summary of Edward Austin's life is compiled from genealogical research.
1804 Edward Austin born Elias Arnstein in Sulzbach, Bavaria
1822 completed tailor apprenticeship
1824 employed as tailor in Munich
1830 employed as book keeper in Constanz, Switzerland
1831 travelled to England and adopted the name Austin
1831 arrested and tried for stealing two brooches and one ring (in England). Sentenced to 7 years transportation.
1832 arrived in Sydney and sent to Bathurst as govt. servant.
1837 obtained ticket of leave. Remained in the Bathurst area
1839 obtained certificate of Freedom. Married Mary Ann Chambers (six children subsequently born; three daughters and three sons)
1841 purchased home in Bathurst
1845 sold storekeeping business
1846 owned further twenty one properties in Bathurst. Visited England. Obtained letter of Denization
1847 granted full pardon by Queen Victoria
1851 first buyer of gold discovered near Bathurst (subsequently had gold mining brooch made for wife Mary Ann)
1856 died in Bathurst, buried at Kelso cemetery.