These pencils are not so much jewels but instead represent a way of life which has largely disappeared – these are the elegant but practical jewels of bygone days.
As with a few of the objects included in this series these pencils were found in the belonginings of Ethel Star my Great Aunt and because of where and who last owned these items, there can only be two possible candidates.
These two ladies, I believe, would be either Agnes Downham or Eliza Hopkins – my 2 x great grandmothers on my mum’s side. They both came from comfortable backgrounds – Agnes from Chippenham and Eliza from Leighton Buzzard.
Agnes married George Henry Star and moved to Mansfield and as my Granny (Agnes’ granddaughter) remembered, “was not the sort of person who shouted her children in for tea – they had a bell for that”.
Eliza grew up in Leighton Buzzard and moved to Mansfield for reasons unknown - at this moment in time. Granny remembered that her grandmother’s front parlour was “like a palace” and that “no-one was allowed to sit down in there” unless “Granny [Eliza] was with you”.
The first mark shows that F. Webb of Birmingham was the maker; the Lion indicates that it is indeed sterling silver .925. The next mark is the date stamp indicating that the pencil was made in 1897; finally the anchor confirms that the pencil was manufactured in Birmingham.
The amazing thing about these pencils was that they still had lead in them – just think perhaps the last person to use these pencils was one of the ladies above.
In the second part of my Family Jewels series I’d like to introduce you to my ‘star’.
I first became aware of the story of ‘the star’ from Doris Star (aka Granny), whilst she was recuperating at home after a long stint in hospital, I was sat keeping her company as she reminisced about the family’s past characters and events.
Doris explained that ‘the star’ had belonged to her father Cecil Star and was designed to hang from his watch chain, she remembered it well.
Cecil died at the relatively young age of 53 and reading between the lines I would say that Doris was the apple of his eye, she had certainly felt his death keenly at the tender ago of 19.
After Doris’ death 2010 there was some speculation that the blue stone in the middle was a sapphire but on a recent visit to the BBC’s Antiques Road Show I was reliably informed by Geoffrey Munn that it was in fact blue glass. The hallmark is difficult to read but Geoffery felt that it had been made in Birmingham in approximately 1897.