Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for May: (5/4) Linda Norlander, (5/11) Connie Berry, (5/18) Mary Keliikoa, (5/22) Annette Dashofy, and (5/25) Rosalie Spielman.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Up The Cairngorms by Connie berry

Who remembers the British TV comedy Are You Being Served?

 In one of the delightfully silly episodes, Mrs. Slocombe, head of the Ladies' Department at Grace Brothers Department Store, holds up a pair of wooly undergarments, perfect when you're traveling "up the Cairngorms."

 For those who don't know, the Cairngorms are a mountain range in the eastern Highlands of Scotland.

A Cairngorm is also a semi-precious stone mined in the Cairngorm Mountains, varying in color from honey yellow to clove brown. Silver brooches with Cairngorms and other semi-precious stones became hugely popular during the reign of Queen Victoria. The diminutive queen loved spending time at Balmoral, her Scottish castle; and with her patronage, interest in all things Scottish exploded.

Since my debut mystery, A Dream of Death, takes place in Scotland, and since my protagonist, Kate Hamilton, is an antiques dealer, I thought I'd share my personal collection of Cairngorm brooches. I think they are beautiful, and they remind me of my own Scottish heritage.

This brooch was manufactured in the late nineteenth century. The Cairngorm, incorporated into a thistle, a symbol of Scotland, is a dark honey color. The stones around it are carnelian and deep green agate, set into a chased sterling frame.


This one is a classic shield shape with a large central Cairngorm and finely worked slices of agate and carnelian in various colors.


This Cairngorm brooch is one of my favorites, also Victorian with a light gold Cairngorm and agates in gray and white. Three are missing. I'm thinking about getting them replaced if I can find someone to do it.


This brooch was made by the Ward Brothers in Edinburgh, sometime in the 1950s, specifically for the tourist trade. The metal is sterling, but the "Cairngorms," set into a thistle, are glass. I still love it!


This large leaf brooch isn't strictly a Cairngorm, but it is the prize of my collection. The marks on the back tell me it was manufactured in December of 1864. I love how it looks when paired with a couple of the other Cairngorms on a jacket.

Finally, this Cairngorm and silver brooch isn't mine. It's part of the Royal Collection. Prince Albert purchased it for Queen Victoria  in 1847/48. Queen Elizabeth wore it to the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999.

If you see a Cairngorm brooch in an antique store, I hope you appreciate it. And if you're ever in Scotland, don't forget to go "up the Cairngorms!"

What do you collect? We'd love to see a photo!


Annette said...

Beautiful jewelry, Connie.

Besides (obviously) collecting books, I collect antiques that remind me of the things my grandparents owned when I was small. I managed to snag some crocks and glassware as well as a very old mantle clock when the estate was sold off. But often I come across small items at flea markets or in antique stores and squeal, "I remember Grandma had one of those!" If it's priced within my budget, I grab it!

Connie Berry said...

I love the large crockery bowl my grandma made bread in. It's got a big chip on the rim, but I don't care.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Fascinating! I like the leaf brooch.

For many years, I would reply, "I collect children, weeds, and bills." Now that the kids are grown, I collect memories from trips.

carla said...

Fascinating. The broaches are beautiful.

KM Rockwood said...

What a fun thing to collect! Your pictures are wonderful.

Warren Bull said...

Pretty and interesting. Thanks for sharing