Bling 19th Century Jewellery

The Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka presents 19th Century BLING | Goldfields Jewellery from April 16.

The exhibition features more than 200 pieces of rare and exquisite colonial gold jewellery from the Australian goldfields 1851 to 1901, plus some key international examples. BLING is an exciting exhibition exploring uniquely Australian innovation and design, during a time of immense social and political change.

Sourced largely from private collectors and family heirlooms 19th Century Bling | Goldfields Jewellery is the first time many of these magnificent pieces have been made available for public viewing. The exhibition and catalogue reveals stories of the creators and wearers of this amazing jewellery, which often exemplifies exceptional world class craftsmanship and design.

The discovery of gold in the middle of the 19th century in Australia overturned the political system and radically affected the social landscape, and early jewellery made from the newly discovered gold, upset conventions of the day. The ostentatious and often innovative design reflected the raucous political life on the goldfields and was used as a symbol of promoting ‘colonial advancement’ in the Victorian era.

The first gold jewels made for the successful early miners featured the tools used to find gold. Pick axes, shovels, windlasses, bags for carrying gold, pans, sluices, crucibles, dolly pots and even pistols to protect the precious metal, were used in innovative tableau style compositions. This was the first time in history that working tools and narratives of labour were used in jewellery designs.

Miners had these brooches made to give to the women they loved and wanted to impress with their success. The male miners also wore gold rings with mining symbols and sported gold watches, fob chains and shirt studs to flaunt their fortunes.

The 1850s also saw the beginning of Australian motifs in jewellery, including local flora and fauna, while other pieces show the exotic fusion of European designs with Australian gems, minerals, animals and plants.

Jewellers came from all over Europe brought with them great skills and different styles. They made brooches, bracelets and earrings featuring the strange amazing Australian animals and plants in the most exquisite detail.

Lola Montez features as a central character in BLING. In 1855 Lola visited Ballarat and Victoria’s goldfields: the entrepreneurial actress is remembered mostly for her reputedly scandalous dance performances and temper. Most histories cast Montez as the clever seductress who used the power of her sex with great success. Attention is not often drawn to her intelligence, creative nature, impact on political history or the strength of character which allowed her to defy conventions of the day.

Showered with gold nuggets and presented with jewellery by her adoring public during performances in Victoria, Lola can be regarded as the Madonna of the 19th Century.

For the first time M.A.D.E has partnered with Sovereign Hill and the Gold Museum in Ballarat to present an exciting program of events, workshops and experiences that will take place across the three venues throughout the exhibition.

M.A.D.E has received funding from the Ian Potter Foundation, the Gordon Darling Foundation, the State Government of Victoria and Federation University to support the exhibition.

Goldsmiths in Australia embraced their new surroundings, creating new styles exploiting the magic and mystery of unique flora and fauna of the country.

M.A.D.E Director Jane Smith said “This is an exciting collaboration to bring a little known and wonderful aspect of Australian goldfields history to a national and international audience. The design and manufacture of these pieces of jewellery and what they represent in terms of a new world order is extraordinary. ”

Pro Vice Chancellor Mal Vallance said “Federation University Australia is delighted to support M.A.D.E and it co-sponsors in this outstanding event. The partnership between the University and M.A.D.E is an obvious one as both organisations are committed to building knowledge, understanding and placing a genuine value on our history. Hence we are delighted to get involved with the 19th Century Bling exhibition, it will be fascinating”.

M.A.D.E background

Opened in May 2013, M.A.D.E is one of Australia’s newest museums and commemorates the role of the Eureka Stockade in shaping our nation. It is located on the site of the 1854 Eureka Stockade uprising in Ballarat.

M.A.D.E explores both the evolution of democracy and how it has shaped cultures and countries around the world and also looks to its future. Using art, installations and immersive, interactive content, M.A.D.E inspires people to contemplate issues that are important to them today.

Sunday 16 April – Monday 4 July, 2016

M.A.D.E – Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka
102 Stawell Street South

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