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RAN sweetheart brooch made of mother of pearl

Date: 1939 - 1945
Height: 10 mm, width: 43 mm
Medium: Nacre, metal
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Brooch
Object No: 00018378

User Terms

    This handmade mother-of-pearl brooch was probably made during WWII as a gift for a female relative and features gilt wire lettering that reads 'RAN'. The brooch is shaped like a map of Australia with state boundaries etched into the surface. The wire used for the lettering pierces the main body of the brooch at either end and forms a pin on the rear side of the object.
    SignificanceThis item illustrates the impact of separation on families and loved ones during war. Handmade tokens such as this brooch provided a direct link between those in service and those waiting at home. For those who received them they served as a reminder of their loved one away at war and were a visible symbol of pride and patriotism.
    HistoryInitially the act of creating and giving jewellery to a loved one was adopted by Australian troops while serving overseas in World War I. Servicemen frequently had to use their creativity to craft such tokens from the scarce materials available, often making the pieces from military badges, buttons or scraps of metal. Other soldiers commissioned jewellers or metal working businesses to create the personalised items. This type of memento is commonly referred to as 'sweetheart jewellery'.

    Due to their distance from home and the young age of many troops, unmarried soldiers often sent brooches to their mothers and sisters, instead of to a sweetheart. Although sweetheart brooches were less popular with Australian servicemen than their British and American counterparts, many Australian wives, sweethearts, mothers and sisters received them from members of the Royal Australian Navy during World Wars I and II. The jewellery was worn as a reminder of an absent loved one, and often utilised designs of a national or patriotic nature.

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