Jewellery tells a story.
Throughout history, jewellery has been used as a means to express one’s societal status, beliefs and support of social and political movements. Suffragette Jewellery was worn by women all over the world in support of The Suffragette movement, creating a symbolic colour palette which is still revered and sought after today. From their struggles and triumphs an era in jewellery was born, and the story of The Suffragettes is now told.
The Suffragettes were a group of female activists who campaigned and protested at the beginning of the 20th Century for women’s right to vote. Their crusade lead to women over the age of 30 being granted the privilege to vote in 1918, and later universal suffrage in 1928.
In broad terms, Suffragette Jewellery encompasses a wide range of jewellery which was either commissioned for, or worn by, supporters of the Suffragette and Suffragist movements in the early 1900s. It is distinct jewellery given the colour scheme; green (representing hope), white (representing purity) and violet (representing loyalty and dignity), which were the campaign colours of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). The first letters of the campaign colours represented even further meaning; Give (green) Woman (white) the Vote (violet).
Items were advertised in Mappin & Webb’s 1908 Christmas catalogue, and the most famous piece was a specially commissioned piece presented to Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the movement. The Holloway Brooch was made by Emmeline ‘s daughter Sylvia and is an excellent example of the Suffragette genre. It represents the Holloway Prison where members of the movement were incarcerated.
Pictured: The Holloway Brooch displaying a gate, hanging chains and the broad arrow (the conflict symbol)
Gems were used to showcase the Suffragette colours. Often they were Amethyst (purple), Peridot (green) and Diamond or Pearls (representing white). These gems were popular in jewellery from this era and were sold through the Mappin & Webb’s catalogue. Designs ranged from simple to very elaborate and bridged the Art Nouveau, Edwardian and early Art Deco styles. The movement adopted a more feminine approach to differentiate from the “masculine” women’s rights campaigners. As a result, numbers grew and it became fashionable to identify with the movement, even if only by wearing a small piece of jewellery.
These colours are still as popular now as they were then. They strike a beautiful balance and pieces are rare and unique. Although the times have changed, the service of The Suffragettes is still felt today, and these colours will forever tell their story.