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Bring on the Bling

Historic gold and silver wares made by metalsmiths in Australia are now on show at the Queen Victoria Art Gallery.

Gold cups awarded to Gibson of Scone (Eskleigh) for prize Merino fleece and racing trophies are on display as well as the elaborate 1894 Murrumbidgee Turf Club Gold Cup and 1876 Launceston Cup. On loan to the QVMAG is the National Gallery of Australia’s Elaine and Jim Wolfensohn Travelling Gift Exhibition 1888 Melbourne Cup trophy.

There are also quirky trophies including Bischoff Football Trophy and an Emu Egg Claret jug. Emu Egg jugs were an interesting development in Australian metalsmithing. They were made early on, but the craft of making Emu Egg jugs was not perfected until the 1860s & 70s by craftsmen such as Christian Ludwig Qwist in New South Wales and Henry Steiner in Adelaide.

Many metalsmiths were immigrants from England, Germany and Holland. Some arrived on the successes of the 1850s gold rushes when the Australian colonies were becoming more independent, rather than relying on the United Kingdom. A number of items on display were made by the Launceston firm of F & W Stewart, who were established in 1879 and are still operating today.

Australian sporting events often led to the creation of elaborate trophies.

Presentation items were also popular. The large Sheffield plate Candelabrum on display was made to commemorate the work of a Hobart businessman in the campaign to end the transportation of convicts to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania). Other presentation items are two silver cradles, both given to the wives of Mayors, to celebrate the births of their daughters, while their husbands were in the top job in Launceston.

Decorative gold and silver wares exhibition curators, Rosalie Kelly, Yvonne Adkins and Jon Addison

Elkington & Co. The 1888 Melbourne Cup 1887. Maker’s mark of Frederick Elkington. Silver, electroplated metal. Engraved ‘Won by DS Wallace’s BC Mentor, ridden by Michael O’Brien, trained by WS Hickenbotham’. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. The National Gallery of Australia is an Australian Government Agency.

Elkington & Co. The 1888 Melbourne Cup 1887. Maker’s mark of Frederick Elkington. Silver, electroplated metal. Engraved ‘Won by DS Wallace’s BC Mentor, ridden by Michael O’Brien, trained by WS Hickenbotham’. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. The National Gallery of Australia is an Australian Government Agency.

Presentation cradle 1890. Silver and gold plate, satin cloth, lace. QVMAG collection.

Presentation cradle 1890. Silver and gold plate, satin cloth, lace. QVMAG collection.