BEHIND every piece of Australian colonial jewellery is a family bible full of human stories, says Trinity Antiques director Trevor Hancock.
“They walked to Kalgoorlie from Perth, pushing wheelbarrows full of tools to find gold,” Hancock said.
“They left their wives and children in tents in Perth while they went there to try and make some money.
“The unsung heroes of the goldfields were the women who stayed home to look after children and struggled to find food.
“These pieces of jewellery are examples of the dawn of the great mining and resources industry in Australia now.
“I’ve always had an interest in economics and Australian colonial jewellery is acutely intertwined with the mining industry in Australia.
“Unlike jewellery from most other countries, Australian colonial jewellery is really based around gold mining.
“It started off in Victoria and New South Wales in 1860 and the discovery of gold in Australia is no doubt Australia’s most important political, economic and social event.”
Hancock’s passion for Australian colonial jewellery made him the ideal expert for Art Gallery of WA to approach for its latest Culture Juice contemporary culture exhibition, Beyond Bling! celebrating, exploring and making jewellery and adornment.
He has loaned AGWA 30 pieces of Australian colonial jewellery, which will be shown alongside historical and contemporary collections.
“They were keen to showcase WA’s talent and rich heritage by the way of jewellery,” Hancock said.
“There is something really special when you can pick up a piece of jewellery and know the gold came from Kalgoorlie.
“A piece in the exhibition is a pair of cufflinks made from gold from the Kimberley by Vincent Nesbett.
“Kimberley gold was found nine years before they found the precious metal in Kalgoorlie, but there was only a little bit and it’s more rare than the pink diamonds that come out of the Kimberley.
“Most of the early Australian colonial jewellery disappeared during the Great Depression because they cashed them in to survive.
“These humble pieces meant so much to people; it’s absolutely fascinating.”
Beyond Bling! opens on Saturday, October 13 with Bling Day featuring music, talks (including Trevor Hancock), guided tours, workshops and more.
The exhibition is on until January 14, 2019.