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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

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  5. #3
    Join Date
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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.

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