COO-EE, calling all Australiana collectors!
To commemorate the Centenary of World War 1 and Anzac Day 2015 Sydney’s renowned antique jewellery specialist Anne Schofield Antiques will present a truly special collection of patriotic Federation and World War I sweetheart jewellery, all of which are a poignant, commemorative celebrations of life.
The COO-EE Exhibition of late 19th and early 20th century Australian jewellery will be held at 36 Queen Street, Woollahra in Sydney Thursday 23 April to Saturday 2 May, 2015. It documents fashionable styles from the 1890’s to the Federation era of 1901 and onto World War I (1914-1918).
During this time a fervour of national pride and patriotism took hold and unique pieces were made by local jewellers, who were busy advertising to the world that Australia was indeed the ‘lucky country’.
Among the 200 items on display will be significant brooches, currently very much in ‘vogue’ on the contemporary fashion scene.
Both glorious goldfield’s and wartime ‘sweetheart’ brooches will be displayed, alongside a selection of charming and very affordable pieces with considerable charm.
“The wonderful selection of jewellery on view was amassed by a private collector, who after having spent some time collecting English and European ceramics decided she wanted to collect something uniquely Australian” Anne related to me…
“…fortunately I was able to purchased the collection in its entirety so it would be all showcased together, providing a unique perspective and snapshot of Australian society at a truly momentous time in Australia’s history” said Anne.
Originally worn by wives of prominent military of merchant men in the colonies, there are those made when Australia was in the process of Federating as a national entity.
They were hard evidence of the boom times enjoyed by Australians as the discovery of gold after 1851 garnered global interest.
The new wealth generated by the middle classes around the middle of the nineteenth century and easier supply of precious metals guaranteed by the discovery of gold in California and Australia meant gold was plentiful for jewellery
The first gold rush swelled the population, ensuring an economic boom. It not only changed people’s lives and the face of Australia forever, but also attracted highly skilled workers to emigrate to our shores.
They came from all over the world including England, Ireland, Germany and France and were inspired by a fascination with our flora and fauna in rendering many of their designs.
As World War I took hold jewellers turned their thoughts to providing young Australian men with delightful affordable mementos for their sweethears to remember them by.
The ornaments of the day became small, delicate and unostentatious and many of these in the show are not only charming but also appealing for the new generation of antique and vintage jewellery collector looking for a place to start.
In Victoria the gold boom had made Melbourne virtually the wealthiest city on the planet at the time. There was also a fine French connection ongoing since the early days of mapping the Australian coastline and the state becoming known first as Terra Napoleon.
Australian designers included precious and semi precious stones in some pieces, one Australian gold brooch featuring a central gold-bearing quartz piece among the foliage.
Anne Schofield’s landmark book Australian Jewellery (1988) was the result of her working in concert with historian Kevin Fahy to produce the very first book on the subject.
It required a great deal of travel on her part, gathering information from local sources in each state and looking for images of people wearing the jewellery.
One thing she noticed that they all had in common was a look of elation about living in a land where freedom was not taken for granted.
The jewellery was worn as a celebration of the lives of those who had contributed so much to its growth from penal colony to a Federated free state.
These included early explorers and adventurers, artists, artisans and architects, administrators, engineers, trades and labourers. Then there was the women who worked or stayed at home on the land keeping their men and children clothed and fed while labouring hard as well.
Tossing fleeces, tending the shearers in the sheds, the chooks in the yard or the cows in the field, everyone in Australian society of the late 19th and early 20th century had a unique role to play in contributing to our countries commercial growth and economic success.And the jewellery produced catered for all tastes and pocketbooks.
One Western Australian goldfield’s brooch depicting a pick and shovel, a sledgehammer, a crowbar, and a winch and bucket made around 1895, honoured Paddy Hannan.
He was a gold prospector credited with the discovery of the Kalgoorlie goldfields in 1892 and so his name was highlighted.
There was also some fine examples of gold brooches featuring the name of the mine or provenance of the gold, which was also common practice after 1890 in Western Australia.
I love the title COO-EE, named for a snake charmer brooch!
Coo-ee was a call I knew well as a child and young adult when my brother and I would shout it out as we looked down on the Three Sisters across the Jamison Valley in the Blue Mountains, not far out of Sydney.
It is fairly sure it was a word used by indigenous people prior to European settlement and recorded in a notebook by one of the first fleet travellers in 1789.
During his three years in the colony, Ensign Barrallier aide-de-camp to the Governor, cartographer, engineer, architect, ship designer and explorer took an enlightened interest in the local Aboriginal people and is believed to have been the first to record the call ‘COO-EE’.
Pierre-Francois Bernier (1779-1803), astronomer to the expedition led by French explorer Nicolas Thomas Baudin (1754-1803) set COO-EEE in musical notation and by the 1820s COO-EE was integral to colonial life in Australia and over in New Zealand
By mid century it was well known in London too where visiting colonists used it with great fervour as a celebration of Aussie pride.
Symbolically by Federation COO-EE the call encompassed the whole of Australia, and its popularity rose to the point where some called calls for the more traditional three cheers to be replaced by three ‘COO-EEs’.
Its nationalistic association with Australia began and a number of ‘COO-EE’ songs followed.
During World War I COO-EE reminded our troops of home and so it is no wonder they wanted it celebrated in jewellery for their loved ones because it also represented freedom sorely won.
It was popular again during the 1950’s and in the first five years of this century while I was living in Brisbane a small group of volunteers held a COO-EE competition for children in the acoustically designed splendid Cathedral of St John’s, with the children enjoying the stories of its link to the social cohesion of the Australian people.
What a perfect use of this special word in this the centenary year of celebrating those who made our lives and Australia’s lifestyle possible.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2015
23rd April – 2nd May, 2015
An exhibition of late 19th and early 20th century jewellery
Hours – Tuesday – Friday – 10-5pm, Saturday 10 – 2pm
For more information contact Anne or Jenny on + 61 2 9363 1326