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2016/2. Nineteenth-Century Australian Goldfields Jewellery. Dr Dorothy Erickson


The author’s family had links to the gold rushes of Eastern Australia at Bendigo in the 1850s, and in the 1890s they owned a gold mine at Broad Arrow in Western Australia. In this paper, based on her SJH lecture of 2011, Erickson analyses the goldfields jewellery of the east and west coasts of Australia and how it differs due to changing times, contrasting climate and social distinctions. She describes how the gold rush inspired the many immigrant goldsmiths from all parts of the world who came to seek a better life in the new colony. Styles and traditions along the east coast were more European, whilst those of the west coast were steeped in British heritage. The varying types of goldfields jewels are explained in fascinating detail, from brooches with gold-digger tools to the pieces which reflect local flora and fauna and how these were influenced by the varying cultural backgrounds, social history and fashions dependnt on geographical differences. Finally, the story is completed with the rare survival of these jewels after their exodus to the miner’s homes.


Dr Dorothy Erickson is an Australian jeweller and historian who lives in Perth, Western Australia. She has exhibited internationally since 1979 with around 40 solo exhibitions. Her work appears in leading museums around the world. She is also an art critic and writer on art, crafts and design with a considerable body of published essays and articles so when, through illness, she was unable to continue making jewellery for a time in the 1980s she undertook a PhD in Art History to add to her teaching, art and design degrees. Erickson has since published four books: Art and Design in Western Australia; Perth Technical College 1900-2000, A Joy Forever; The Story of Kings Park, Gold and Silversmithing in Western Australia; A History and Inspired by Light and Land: Designers and Makers in Western Australia 1829-1969. Her Welsh maternal great, great grandmother and English great, great grandfather were on the Victorian diggings at Bendigo in the 1850s while her Swedish paternal grandfather owned a gold mine at Broad Arrow in Western Australia in the 1890s so she has family links to both goldrushes.