Large collection of Edwardian silver novelty pin cushions
In a world of convenient fast fashion and off-the-peg clothes shopping, few of us now regularly sew at home but this was once an unavoidable task for every household and most (generally) women would own a whole sewing kit – including a pin cushion. Although pin cushions have been (rarely) found in 16th century sewing kits, pins and related accoutrements were expensive until the industrial revolution allowed the mass production of household wares. Typically for the Victorians, they soon turned these domestic necessities into something decorative and collectible. Innovative silversmiths, particularly in Birmingham “the great toy shop of Europe”, soon began producing pin cushions as novelty trinkets and gifts in various fanciful forms including animals, shoes, and furniture with inset velvet cushions.
Many of the shapes had symbolic meaning for the Victorians and Edwardians, some of which are lost to us today. Chicks were associated with new life and often given to celebrate a birth, Swans imply grace, Elephants evoke the owner to remember, while Pigs were popular lucky charms. Some may have a more personal significance such as one of the later examples in this collection, which was produced during the First World War by Adie & Lovekin, of an officers peaked cap.
Adie & Lovekin produced many of the pin cushions in this collection and were renowned manufacturers of silver fancy goods including baby’s rattles, buckles, brooches and other effects. They were formed from a partnership between Birmingham silversmiths James Adie and Alfred Lovekin in 1863, and the firm continued trading until the 1920s. During this time, they became one of the largest silversmiths in Birmingham, and were successful enough for Alfred Lovekin to commission a large house ‘Tudor Grange’ with stable blocks to be built in the suburbs. Whereas James Adie, who was the son of a button-maker, left an estate worth £56,000 (inflation calculator states in excess of eight million pounds in 2023) when he died in 1913.
Several other makers are represented including similarly successful Birmingham silversmiths Levi & Salaman, and London makers Cornelius Desormeaux Saunders & James Francis Hollings Shepherd who began as specialists in Whitby jet mourning brooches. An unexpected maker of a teddy-bear pin cushion in the collection is Boots Pure Drug Company which was founded by John Boot in 1849. Although started as a herbalist shop in Nottingham and now a well-known high street chemists, Boots had various offshoots including lending libraries, stationery and fancy goods.
This single-owner collection of almost 40 pin cushion ranges from a majestic lion and Viking longship to unusual figures such as a crocodile, frog, camel, emu and a balloon back chair. A personal favourite is a startled cat by Levi & Salaman, modelled with her back arched and tail raised.
The auction will take place on Saturday 16th September and the catalogue is online now
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