Some notes on Farewell and Welcome Home jewellery from the First World War
Engraved jewellery was frequently presented to departing and returning soldiers by local shire councils and ‘Farewell’ or ‘Welcome Home’ committees during the First World War. Also known as ‘Tribute’ jewellery, these were presented in public ceremonies or dinners and often reported in the local press. With some diligent searching, these reports can be located by searching newspaper databases such as ‘Trove’. As the jewellery was engraved and dated, you can use this information to narrow your search. Experience has shown us that the presentation of this style of jewellery is characteristic of rural areas.
More of a feature of the First World War than the Second, presentation jewellery can appear as medalets or watch fobs. I will concentrate on watch fobs, as pocket watches were ubiquitous but now are the product of another era. Fobs were worn as a decoration on pocket watch chains. A pocket watch was most frequently held in a waistcoat pocket.
Both medalet and fob can be found in white gold and rose gold, silver, sterling silver, and with or without enamelling. Some are enclosed within filigree borders, others are suspended from tiny boomerangs. Additional decorative engraving is common.
The designs of the period incorporate the expected symbols – maybe a Rising Sun badge, a map of Australia or the Coat of Arms, a King’s crown, a wreath or a representation of a soldier, or a combination of all of these. Depending on the maker, a patriotic phrase may appear centrally or around the border. “He Answered his Country’s Call”, “Honour”, “Duty Bravely Done” are common. Later examples may incorporate an enamelled version of a colour patch.
Another class of presentation is from the soldier’s workmates, and here the decoration is more likely to be associated with his trade.
Other examples lack any particular symbols or decoration at all and are clearly ordinary (but not necessarily cheap) watch fobs and medalets. Some used existing or pre-war designs.
Most presentation jewellery was purchased from a dealer or maker’s existing stock. These badges were produced on spec, anticipating public demand, rather than to any special order, and committees purchased according to their taste; catalogues offered designs which could be ordered in bulk. However, some exceptions to this exist, with fobs or brooches especially designed for a particular shire or council. These will usually have the committee or council’s name cast into the design.
The hallmarks impressed into the rear of the badge will hopefully give you some more information about date and maker. We find that English sterling silver examples were marketed here in Australia and their hallmarks are well documented. Many gold examples are Australian manufacture and of 9 or 15 carat, but Australian jewellery marks which are less well documented (and often all you can find is ‘9 CT’ with no other identification). Some Australian jewellers endured for a few generations; others only lasted a few years and documentation is uneven. Their products were either being sold through their own agents, or through major stores such as Angus and Coote and Anthony Hordens and their extensive mail-order catalogues. In the example below, the 'Registered Design' marking would indicate a commercial production produced in quantity.
Less of these ‘Farewell’ examples were presented as the war, and casualties numbers, increased, and it is more likely, from 1917 onwards, to encounter ‘Welcome Home’ fobs or medalets. The melange of patriotic symbols often doesn’t change.
As time passed, and the fashion for both waistcoats and pocket watches was abandoned, some fobs were taken to jewellers and converted to brooches.
The engraving on the reverse was done locally and will usually identify the recipient, the date, the presenters and the reason for the presentation. While the quality of engraving can vary from highly professional to the merely acceptable, these objects help define an era and offer a unique record of a community’s response to war.
Chris Goddard - Assistant Curator, Military Heraldry & Technology