What just happened?

To celebrate Vikings Live, we have replaced our Roman alphabet with the runic alphabet used by the Vikings, the Scandinavian ‘Younger Futhark’. The ‘Younger Futhark’ has only 16 letters, so we have used some of the runic letters more than once or combined two runes for one Roman letter.

For an excellent introduction to runes, we recommend Martin Findell’s book published by British Museum Press.

More information about how we have ‘runified’ this site


Collection online

Additional options
Production date to

Or search by


shawl-pin / jewellery-case

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Silver and silver-gilt shawl-pin, a cast and reduced version of the front of the 'Tara' brooch with panels of interlace and animal ornament in relief, the pin-head with a broad loop at the back allowing the pin to move freely. There is a sprung lever on the pin-catch. Stamped on the reverse and in the original leather labelled case.


  • Producer name

  • Date

    • 1851 (post)
  • Production place

    • Made in: Dublin
    • (Europe,Republic of Ireland,Dublin (county),Dublin (city))
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Diameter: 6.4 centimetres
    • Width: 12.5 centimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

        maker's mark
      • Inscription Position

      • Inscription Content

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Position

      • Inscription Content

        WATERHOUSE & COMPy, The Queen's Jewellers, DUBLIN
  • Curator's comments

    Text from catalogue of Hull Grundy Gift (Gere et al 1984) no. 989:
    The early eighth-century gilt-bronze Irish ring-brooch known as the 'Tara' brooch is richly ornamented on both front and back; it is now in the National Museum of Ireland, Dublin (Fig. 93a and b: D of ring 11.6cm; see Mahr & Raftery 1932 (pls 13-15). The finding of the brooch in 1850 is fully discussed by Whitfield (1974). There seems no reason to refute the account published by Waterhouse & Co. in Ornamental Irish Antiquities by Waterhouse & Company (1852), which reads as follows: 'On 24th August, 1850, a poor woman, who stated that her children had picked it up on the sea shore, offered it for sale to the proprietor of an old iron shop in Drogheda, who refused to purchase so light and insignificant an article; it was subsequently bought by a watchmaker in the town, who, after cleaning and examining it, proceeded to Dublin, and disposed of it to us, for nearly as many pounds sterling, as he had given pence for it...' Waterhouse & Co. thus owned the 'Tara' brooch in 1850 giving them ample time to produce copies for the International Exhibition in 1851. (The misleading reference to Tara in the title of the brooch is entirely due to Waterhouse, who liked to give romantic names to the brooches of which they sold replicas.)
    George Waterhouse & Co. had premises in Dame Street, Dublin, from 1842-1960. Waterhouse had started making copies of brooches in the Royal Irish Academy as early as 1842. When this example fell into their own hands, they gave it as much publicity as possible. On 9 December 1850 it was displayed at the Royal Irish Academy (see Petrie 1850), and on 20 December 1850, it was submitted at Windsor to Queen Victoria who then acquired two copies, after which it became known as the 'Royal Tara Brooch'. It was sent to the Great Exhibition in London in 1851 {Art Journal Illustrated Catalogue, 1851, p. 20), displayed at the Great Industrial Exhibition in Dublin in 1853 {Art Journal Illustrated Catalogue, 1853, p. 39), seen in London by Castellani in 1863 (Whitfield 1974, p. 132) and even sent to Paris.
    When advertising the replicas, Waterhouse stressed their adaptation to modern use: 'The original measures 3 1/2 inches, and the copies 2 1/2 inches in diameter' (Waterhouse & Co. 1852, p. 14). It is normally assumed that these shawl-pins or cloak fasteners, as they were also advertised, were used to fasten shawls crossing over at the front. The Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine for January 1870, however, shows the wearing of long tartan sashes slung over the hip and fastened by a Celtic pin at the side, as part of skating costume (Fig. 96). The copies were available at prices ranging from two to seven guineas, presumably depending on whether they were in gold, silver-gilt or silver, double-sided like the original, or single-sided with plain backs, in which case they might reproduce either the front (Fig. 93a), as on this example, or the back of the original (Fig. 93b, see 990).
    When describing the original, Waterhouse writes that 'the gold wire of which the inlaid designs in the front are made and mounted on flat plates, has defied the best filigree workers of the present day.' The Waterhouse copies are all cast in one piece and vary considerably in quality depending on the elaborateness of the reproduction. Waterhouse also reproduced the pin on its own and adapted the filled-in part of the ring to produce what they called the 'Tara bracelet' (see Sheehy 1980, pl. 76 for an example in the Ulster Museum, Belfast, to which Mrs Hull Grundy has given a large collection of Celtic brooch copies). It seems that Waterhouse did not ever attempt a faithful full-scale reproduction of the original. However, this was attempted by another Dublin firm, Joseph Johnson of Grafton Street, who produced the life-size copy in the Victoria and Albert Museum (M.230-1881) complete with hinged cord; the filigree motifs on the front panels, although still cast, were made separately and then applied, while amber and blue glass have been used for the insets in the studs on the front (the studs on the original are inlaid with amber and enamel). Waterhouse made no attempt to reproduce the studs accurately; they are either cast in one piece with the brooch, or set with Irish freshwater pearls and other hardstones. Unlike the Waterhouse copies, the Johnson version in the Victoria and Albert Museum attempts to reproduce the cloisonne enamel insets in the discs on the reverse. All the Waterhouse copies are secured with ordinary pin-catches on the reverse, although the large visible pin is kept mobile on the ring.
    Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the copies is that they reproduce the brooch in the condition in which it entered Waterhouse's possession. The wood-engravings of the brooch published by Waterhouse in 1852 show that the brooch was complete apart from one missing panel at the top of the ring on the front (Fig. 94a). To complete the 'Tara' brooch replicas, Waterhouse filled the missing panel with a motif of two animals face-to-face which occurs on the back of the Kilmainham brooch, of which Waterhouse also produced replicas from 1849. The photograph of the brooch as it is now, however, shows a number of missing panels (Fig. 93a). The brooch remained in Water-house's possession until it was acquired by the Royal Irish Academy in 1868 and it seems likely that the losses occurred before 1878, when a photograph was published by the Royal Irish Academy showing that the panels were missing by then. For full comparison of the Waterhouse replicas and wood-engravings with the original, see Whitfield 1976. (Judy Rudoe)

    Information supplementary to Gere et al 1984:
    See C. Gere and J. Rudoe, 'Knowledge, Money and Time: Anne Hull Grundy as a Collector of Victorian Jewellery', Journal of The Decorative Arts Society 24 (2000), Fig. 11. See also J. Rudoe, 'Jewellery at the Great Exhibition' in 'The Legacy of the Great Exhibition', Prince Albert Studies 20, Bayreuth 2002, pgs 69-82. Fig.2.8.


  • Bibliography

    • Gere et al 1984 989 bibliographic details
  • Location


  • Conservation

    See treatments 

  • Subjects

  • Acquisition name

  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number


Shawl-pin; silver and silver-gilt; cast and reduced version of front of 'Tara' brooch; panels of interlace and animal ornament in relief; pin-head: broad loop; sprung lever on pin-catch; stamped on reverse; original leather labelled case.

Shawl-pin; silver and silver-gilt; cast and reduced version of front of 'Tara' brooch; panels of interlace and animal ornament in relief; pin-head: broad loop; sprung lever on pin-catch; stamped on reverse; original leather labelled case.

Image description



If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: collectiondatabase@britishmuseum.org 

View open data for this object with SPARQL endpoint

Object reference number: MCT2141

British Museum collection data is also available in the W3C open data standard, RDF, allowing it to join and relate to a growing body of linked data published by organisations around the world.

View this object

Support the Museum:
donate online

The Museum makes its collection database available to be used by scholars around the world. Donations will help support curatorial, documentation and digitisation projects.

About the database

The British Museum collection database is a work in progress. New records, updates and images are added every week.

More about the database 


Work on this database is supported by a range of sponsors, donors and volunteers.

More about supporters and how you
can help