Tuesday 5 August 2014 by Chris Goddard. 2 comments
Collection Highlights, Military Heraldry and Technology, Jewellery, Watch fobs, 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.

REL43579 Highly decorative engraving marks this 18 carat fob as a high quality presentation, and the details recorded can be used to conduct further research.

 

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.

 

This 9 carat gold pocket watch chain carries two fobs. The horizontal bar was designed to be inserted into a waistcoat buttonhole, thus securing the chain, while the watch would have been attached to one of the left hand clips. Quality chains are marked on every link, as well as the clips. This example was worn by Lance Corporal R A Overy, 4 Machine Gun Company, AIF. This 9 carat gold pocket watch chain carries two fobs. The horizontal bar was designed to be inserted into a waistcoat buttonhole, thus securing the chain, while the watch would have been attached to one of the left hand clips. Quality chains are marked on every link, as well as the clips. This example was worn by Lance Corporal R A Overy, 4 Machine Gun Company, AIF. REL32910

 

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.

 

Presented to Driver Timothy Todd, a labourer from Lithgow NSW on his return from service, this fob employs a melange of symbols – the clasped hands of friendship, a pair of crossed rifles, the Australian Coat of Arms, and floral decorations. Presented to Driver Timothy Todd, a labourer from Lithgow NSW on his return from service, this fob employs a melange of symbols – the clasped hands of friendship, a pair of crossed rifles, the Australian Coat of Arms, and floral decorations. REL29824

 

Another class of presentation is from the soldier’s workmates, and here the decoration is more likely to be associated with his trade.

 

Presented to Private Mersey Albert Reid, a railway fireman, by his workmates on his departure from Sydney on 2 October 1915, this is one of the more unusual farewell watch fobs in the Memorial’s collection and was likely to have been especially made. Private Reid was killed in action at Pozieres on 28 July 1916. Presented to Private Mersey Albert Reid, a railway fireman, by his workmates on his departure from Sydney on 2 October 1915, this is one of the more unusual farewell watch fobs in the Memorial’s collection and was likely to have been especially made. Private Reid was killed in action at Pozieres on 28 July 1916. REL29647

 

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.

A 15 carat gold fob presented to Private Ernest Millington Nixon, a farmer of Reefton, NSW, prior to his departure overseas in 1916. This lovely fob is reminiscent of designs awarded at prewar Rifle Shooting Competitions. Nixon died at Bullecourt in France. A 15 carat gold fob presented to Private Ernest Millington Nixon, a farmer of Reefton, NSW, prior to his departure overseas in 1916. This lovely fob is reminiscent of designs awarded at prewar Rifle Shooting Competitions. Nixon died at Bullecourt in France. REL33298

 

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.

A commercially made ‘Welcome Home’ example, of 9 carat gold and enamel. We have at least two or three examples of this design existing in the collection, with varying enamel colours. The enamelled colour patch doesn't actually match the recipient's unit colours, suggesting that this was a generic design. Rather than a council or committee, it was the Cheer 'O' Girls Club of Furracabad, NSW which presented this fob to Private Gerald Frederick Wrigley who had served with 1 Machine Gun Battalion. A commercially made ‘Welcome Home’ example, of 9 carat gold and enamel. We have at least two or three examples of this design existing in the collection, with varying enamel colours. The enamelled colour patch doesn't actually match the recipient's unit colours, suggesting that this was a generic design. Rather than a council or committee, it was the Cheer 'O' Girls Club of Furracabad, NSW which presented this fob to Private Gerald Frederick Wrigley who had served with 1 Machine Gun Battalion. REL36245

 

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.

 

A ‘Welcome Home’ brooch – given by an admirer (Miss Gunther) rather than a committee. This is a fob which subsequently has been converted to a brooch. A ‘Welcome Home’ brooch – given by an admirer (Miss Gunther) rather than a committee. This is a fob which subsequently has been converted to a brooch. REL33616

 

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

 

Lieutenant William Charles Beresford Stavely received this gold fob from Avoca Council upon his return to Australia in 1919; he had been employed by the council before the war. The Australian Coat of Arms is a frequently used design on presentation fobs and brooches, but this example is enlivened by the use of coloured enamel. Note the uneven engraving at the base of the border. Lieutenant William Charles Beresford Stavely received this gold fob from Avoca Council upon his return to Australia in 1919; he had been employed by the council before the war. The Australian Coat of Arms is a frequently used design on presentation fobs and brooches, but this example is enlivened by the use of coloured enamel. Note the uneven engraving at the base of the border. REL30980

 

Comments

Claire Trevorrow

Our family has a medallion presented to my Grandmother's brother, William Head, at a function on the 12/9/1914. It is circular, with a map of Australia in the centre, and is inscribed "from the citizens of Surrey Hills", with his name and the date. There is an article on Trove, describing in detail the function, and a number of these were presented to men of the area. William was killed at the Gallipoli landing and has no known grave, and is commemorated on the Lone Pine memorial. This medallion has only come to light in the past few years and was thought to have been kept by his mother and then a younger sister.

Annette Guterres

My brother has such a piece of jewellery that was presented to our grandfather ------Harry Murray from returned soldiers reception committee on behalf of the citizens of Nyngan. Dated 1919 He had signed up at the age of 40 .....served in France.