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  1. #1
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    Traditional Kilt Pins

    Kilt pins weren't much of a thing even in the Victorian period.

    In the mid-19th century when they do appear they were generally round, and appear to have been more or less a downsized Clan cap badge.

    In the military, kilt pins were only worn by a couple regiments, and they resembled ordinary blanket pins.

    Here, in a Highland Dress catalogue from c1930, only the plain blanket pin and grouse claw are illustrated



    Kilt pins didn't become a common feature of civilian Highland Dress until the early 20th century, being yet one more aspect of the general overhaul of Highland Dress at that time.

    When I started kiltwearing (1975) the kilt pins I saw in catalogues and being worn were small lightweight fairly delicate reproductions of Highland weaponry (sword, sword & shield, dirk, axe) in Sterling Silver.

    The most common firm one saw was Robert Allison & Son, Glasgow (1938-1982) who also made plaid brooches, pins and brooches for feminine wear, sginean, dirks, cap badges, and silverware (table settings etc).

    The offerings of Robert Allison came to define what I still think of as "traditional kilt pins". They were designed and produced specifically for the purpose of being kilt pins; as far as I know, no other purpose was envisioned.

    Here's a collection of Robert Allison kilt pins in Sterling Silver being hallmarks ranging from 1946 to 1960, mostly from the 1950s, with one outlier hallmarked 1970. Many of these designs are widely copied even today.

    Sword pins, one style:









    A second style of sword:





    Last edited by OC Richard; 22nd December 18 at 05:30 AM.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

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  3. #2
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    Then there are axe pins:



    Even a halberd:



    Non-weaponry kilt pins, with a similar long thin shape that's more or less swordlike









    Here's an article about Robert Allison from The Glasgow Herald 16th August 1967:

    HAND-MADE CELTIC JEWELLERY FROM A GORBALS WORKSHOP

    By Iris McGill

    A Cairngorm necklace for the Queen, sgian dubhs for Prince Charles and King Olav of Norway - these are some of the pieces that have been especially commissioned from a little old-fashioned workskop in the Gorbals.

    In these days of mass production and "Scottish" jewellery made in Birmingham - or even Hong Kong - it is refreshing to find a family-owned firm which specialises in hand-made Celtic jewellery of high quality. And that is a fair description of Robert Allison and Son, whose "factory" is on the ground floor of an old grey tenement in Cumberland Street.

    Inside there is a charmingly Victorian air, with aproned craftsmen painstakingly carving intricate designs on ebony dirk handles, pouring molten silver into crucibles, or engraving traceries on gem-set shoulder brooches.

    Here is made the traditional jewellery as popular with tourists from over the border and across the seas as with Scots themselves.

    Mr James Allison, head of the firm, told me it was founded in 1938 by his father, who learned his trade in Birmingham, then came back to Scotland to make Celtic jewellery in his native land.

    He worked alone at first, then as demand grew and orders built up he took on extra staff. Today there are seven jewellers, who between them turn out 500 different designs in necklaces, rings, brooches, earrings, bracelets, cuff-links, dirks and sgian dubhs, grouse claws - and extras like little decorated engraved teaspoons and forks.

    Though the workshop is old-fashioned and unhurried, there is nothing Victorian about Mr Alllison's business sense, for he makes selling trips to Canada and the United States which result in thousands of pounds' worth of export orders every year. As well as the traditional favourites - luckenbooth and penannular brooches, Celtic crosses, thistle pins, and so on - grouse claws are a great favourite on the other side of the Atlantic. On the day I called Mr Allison had just received an order for six dozen silver-mounted claws for Disneyland! In a year he will sell about a thousand.

    Orders go, too, from the Gorbals to Paris, Japan, Australia, Kuwait, Kenya, South Africa, and Hong Kong.

    Dirks - those rather magnificent-looking dress weapons - are a popular seller, in spite of the fact that the more elaborate ones can retail at prices up to over 100. Mr Allison told me he supplies dirks to the Royal Highland Fusiliers, the Scots Guards, and the Canadian Guards. Sgian dubhs are also in great demand - some special commissions ask for them to be made in gold.

    I saw a lovely example just finished for an officer in the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada.

    As a woman, of course, I was even more interested in the jewellery and I was fascinated to see lovely pieces in various stages of completion. As I moved from bench to bench, the jewellers - mostly trained at Allison's - working with the help of hand tools, antique looking iron moulds, presses, and gas flames for soldering I was reminded of a visit paid to a jeweller's workshop in Florence where, too, everything was done by hand.

    Scottish stones are used - cairngorms, agates, amethysts, rose quartz, cornelian, and lovely water-worn pebbles, and these are made up into beautiful bracelets, pendants, earrings, and brooches. In particular I admired some big silver shoulder brooches, set with cairngorms and engraved with delicate patterns. Attractive too, are the bracelets made up of cut and polished agates, whose subtle patterns are never repeated.

    I asked Mr Allison if it is difficult nowadays to get craftsmen prepared to do such painstaking work? "Very," he told me "I'm lucky, because each of my staff has his own speciality - ebony craving, working with gold, engraving in silver, polishing, mounting, and so on. And I lend a hand where needed. We work very well together as a team.

    "Boys nowadays don't seem to be very interested in leaning jewellery as a trade," he said. "But we're fortunate in having one young apprentice who started with us last year. So the old skills are being handed on."
    Last edited by OC Richard; 22nd December 18 at 05:32 AM.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte


  4. #3
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    Another style that is often presented as being antique is the dirk or sgian made primarily with colored stones like agate, held together with silver. I wonder how early these really became popular.

    It does seem like weapons have been the most common motif.

    The "miracle" brand pins are also interesting, although I think they are more mid-20th century.

    The designs you show above are really attractive, much better than the pewter and plastic things I often see proliferating at Highland Games and Ren Faires.

  5. #4
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    Here's the Scottish Shopper (Seattle, Washington) catalogue page of kilt pins from the 1990s.

    What's new is the pin on the lower left, a Carrick Jewellery clan crest kilt pin, and on the lower right, the gaudy Miracle pins.

    Also new are top row 2nd from right and second row 3rd from right which have an Ortak or Ola Gorie look to them.

    As I recall their catalogue from the 1970s had only traditional Robert Allison designs. Note that both of the Robert Allison sword hilt designs seen above in the original post appear here.

    Last edited by OC Richard; 11th February 19 at 05:00 AM.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

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  7. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by kingandrew View Post
    Another style that is often presented as being antique is the dirk or sgian made primarily with colored stones like agate, held together with silver. I wonder how early these really became popular..
    I have a couple of "kilt pins" which are silver/agate and was told that they were from the Victorian/Edwardian eras, but that may not be accurate.

    OC Richard, an you shed some light on the potential timeframe of such pins as kingandrew mentioned above?

    Examples pictured below. I think the first one predates the second:



    Last edited by ShaunMaxwell; 11th February 19 at 09:42 AM.
    Shaun Maxwell
    Vice President & Texas Commissioner
    Clan Maxwell Society

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  9. #6
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    By no means am I even close to a person who has studied the Kilt Pin, but I can add this to the conversation from a practical point of view. Now I know what I am about to state will cause controversy, because I have read on these pages something different. I am only stating what my Grandfather told me about the Kilt Pin and how they used it used. Little background, my Grandfather was born and brought up in Antogonish, Nova Scotia, of a long line of MacDonald who settled and lived in the same house (farm), since they arrived in 1690. Kilts and Scottish attire was worn ONLY on a few special holidays each year, mainly Christmas Even, Hogmanay (New Years), Burns Night, once and a while in February during Glencoe Anniversary, and the Scottish Games. The were very strong on keeping Scottish traditions, especially Christmas and New Years (Hogmanay), and even though I NEVER had a kilt growing up in Boston, I was around them with my Grandfather, Father, Uncles, and yes Aunts who wore skirts, all with kilt pins. I was young and wore the one piece short pants, with a small kilt pin simply wore as ornament not functional. My family offered to purchase a kilt for me, but being that all American kid in the 50's and 60's no way would I ever wear a kilt, I am an American, no thanks jeans for me.

    They NEVER wore or had any of the silver, precious stoned, gold are fancy pins, they all had that large safety pins in brass or silver metal. My two aunts wore kilt pins that was a claw of some small animal, with a silver tip. My father told me they were rat's feet. They men never wore the jackets, ties, Ghillies Shoes, Sgain Dubh, Dirks, belts, buckles or anything else. They only wore the kilt, sporran, dark blue or black woolen hose, and wing tip or oxford tie shoes. My grandfather only wore the Balmoral Bonnet with clan pin, Men dressed in white shirts with solid black or navy blue ties. Women wore white blouses with cardigan wool button down sweaters over the blouse. Both aunts work some type of rosette pin with a small piece of jewelry in the center, sorry don't recall what it was. Also, my Grandfather, father and uncle would also wear heavy wool knit sweaters, always a navy blue in color. I do remember they would buy them at the Scottish Games in Nova Scotia.

    As far as the Kilt pin, it looked like a big safety pin, and they normally wore the pins on the bottom of the open part of the apron like it is normally worn today, but much higher up, not on the bottom. I would estimate about 16 inches up from the hem and about three inches from the end seam of the apron. However, when they went outside, especially my Aunts they would pierce the pin through BOTH pieces of the kilts to attach the open apron to the layer underneath to prevent them from opening up with a gust of wind. Since my Grandfather grew up in windy Nova Scotia, and windy Boston, I remember him saying you must remain modest and not show your **** when you go outside. So I know many have stated her the weight of the pine keeps the apron from blowing open, not in the windy part of the country, not heavy enough and just does not work. When pinned together, situation of the pin is a little higher than we wear them today, does work.

    As far as the cosmetics of fancy pins, not in my family. Family comes many generations ago from Locabar and Knoydart, and NEVER were rich or famous, always working people, with very modest income, so everything they owned played a role in their life or was of modest means, a gold, silver pin with semi precious stones were not part of their needs, and would be considered very vain. My family, now all deceased, were practical, thrifty, and enjoyed the simple things of life. Nothing fancy. The only fancy pin was the ones my Aunts would wear the small animal claw with the silver round tips and a rosette or broach on their sweaters.

    This is my contribution to this post, just thought it would be of some interest from a family stemmed deep into Scottish Tradition, from Nova Scotia, who brought our traditions to the US, but most disappeared when they passed. I still remember these times, of dance, celebrations, and family get together, talking about family lore. I do remember about the pin and how my Grandfather said it was used.

    Cheers
    Last edited by CollinMacD; 11th February 19 at 09:03 AM.
    Allan Collin MacDonald III
    Grandfather - Clan Donald, MacDonald (Clanranald) /MacBride, Antigonish, NS, 1791
    Grandmother - Clan Chisholm of Strathglass, West River, Antigonish, 1803
    Scottish Roots: Knoidart, Inverness, Scotland, then to Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada.

  10. #7
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    I have three late Victorian (c.1875) stag leg kilt pins. Two have smokey quartz hooves while the third is plain silver, this one was a recent acquisition. All are hollow cast sterling silver and hand engraved, none are hallmarked which is not uncommon for this period. The two with the quartz hooves are of a finer, higher quality and I now reserve the larger of the two for dressier occasions and use the plain silver one for for day wear.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Being male is a matter of birth,
    Being a man is a matter of maturity,
    Being a gentleman is a matter of choice!

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