Purchased for $25, This Bargain Brooch Could Sell for $19,000—Thanks to ‘Antiques Roadshow’

The piece is part of a rare collection by the Victorian-era designer and architect William Burges

Burges Brooch, Gilding's Auctioneers
The brooch was designed by Victorian architect and artist William Burges. Gildings Auctioneers

Over 30 years ago, Flora Steel bought a unique brooch at an English antique market for just under £20 (roughly $25). At the time, she didn’t know it was designed by William Burges, a storied Victorian-era Gothic Revival designer.

Now, thanks to a chance viewing of an old “Antiques Roadshow” clip, the brooch is projected to sell for up to $19,000.

Made of silver, lapis lazuli, malachite and coral, the brooch is flat and circular with a cross through its middle, according to a statement from Gildings, which will auction it in the spring.

Burges Brooch 2023
Flora Steel recognized the brooch while watching a clip from Antiques Roadshow. Gildings Auctioneers

Steel first contacted Gildings after coming across a 2011 clip from BBC’s “Antiques Roadshow” in which jewelry expert Geoffrey Munn presented a page of sketches from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) depicting several brooches designed by Burges, who Munn called “the greatest genius of 19th-century design.”

“When the clip popped up on my phone, I said to myself, ‘That reminds me of the brooch I found 35 years ago,’” says Steel in the statement. “I decided to have a better look at the V&A drawing, and lo and behold, there was my brooch! I practically fell off my chair!”

Steel’s brooch isn’t the first to arrive at Gildings in this fashion. Jill Cousins of Leicestershire also watched Munn reveal the brooch designs on “Antiques Roadshow,” and she recognized a piece she’d nearly sold for £10 ($15), reported PA Media. Cousins brought the brooch to Gildings, ultimately selling it for £31,000 (over $39,000). Later that year, a second viewer matched one of the sketches with their own brooch. That viewer also took the piece to Gildings, which sold it privately to the V&A.

Flora Steel & Brooch
Flora Steel pictured with the Burges brooch she found in 2023 Gildings Auctioneers

In 2023, Steel became the third viewer to bring forth a Burges brooch after she happened upon the same “Antiques Roadshow” clip in a compilation of the show’s “Most Wanted Finds,” reports Artnet’s Jo Lawson-Tancred. She then revealed her find on the program’s “At Christmas” episode, presenting it to a thrilled Munn, who described the piece as a “breathtaking discovery.”

Munn originally began searching for this set of Burges brooches because of their “significance as rare personal commissions,” per Gildings. The designer created them for two weddings, to be worn by the bridesmaids of two friends. Active throughout the mid-1800s, Burges is best known for his Gothic Revivalist architecture, such as Wales’ Cardiff Castle and Castell Coch. But he also created many utensils, containers and pieces of jewelry throughout his career. Using silver, gold, crystal and precious stones—and deriving inspiration from Japanese, Romanesque and medieval motifs—he made “incredibly elegant and highly detailed pieces [that] can only be categorized as eclectic,” according to the V&A.

Burges Brooch from 2011
Another brooch designed by Burges, discovered in 2011 by Jill Cousins Gildings Auctioneers

“The brooch originally caught my eye for its strong design, strange lettering and unusual stones,” says Steel. “I always loved it and thought that it was so particular in its design—that sooner or later, I would discover who had designed it.”

Will Gilding, director of Gildings, says in the statement that the discovery of just one Burges brooch via “Antiques Roadshow” would have been “amazing.” He’s astounded that two more pieces have emerged.

“Whether this brooch reaches the heights of the first one we auctioned, or indeed results in any more examples being unearthed, remains to be seen,” Gilding says. “As a fascinating piece with an even more intriguing backstory, we’re honored to be playing a part in its continued history.”

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