This is a photo diary of my costuming "travels"; where I've learned and struggled to make historical costumes for myself. They're not always pretty, but always fun. most of the time. And I want to share with others what I learn along the way. **You can find me on Facebook, or have my posts delivered to your email by signing up at the lower part of the right column.**

About Me

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HI, my name is Val. I'm a member of Costumer's Guild West in Los Angeles, Dean Emeritus of 2018 Costume College; member & Past President of the San Diego Costume Guild, member of Orange County Costume Guild, a representative of the San Diego History Center, & an honorary member of SITU (Someplace in Time, Unlimited) in Seattle. I make my own historical costumes but don't sell any unless I get tired of one.The eras I've made so far are 1770 up to 1918. My favorite is the 1880s bustle.


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

NANNY BROOCH; Another Unusual Ladies' Accessory PART 2

This is Part 2 of my Unusual and Little Known Ladies' Accessories. For Part 1, Perfume Buttons, see my previous post here. PERFUME BUTTONS

Following my previous post on little known ladies’ accessories, I bet you’ve NEVER heard of these either.  I can’t even remember where I first came across it but I think it was when I was searching for cabinet cards and saw this one above saying she was wearing a nanny brooch.
The seller had the cabinet card listed for $45 (which I’d love to buy but not for THAT price), and dated it as 1890s. The following description was included:   
 Victorian Nanny brooch pins have hidden compartments specially designed to hold needle & thread for emergency repairs to their children’s clothing. Usually they had threaded caps that could be unscrewed to reveal the hidden items within.   Victorian Nanny Pins are considered the Rarest of the RARE—thus highly sought after by Victorian Jewelry & Sewing collectors. Finding an authentic Victorian Nanny Pin is rare enough—seeing one in a vintage photo is EQUALLY exciting!   Offered here in GORGEOUS CONDITION ….is this fabulous RARE vintage original one-of-a-kind circa 1890 cabinet card photograph of a pretty young Victorian-era woman wearing what appears to be a lovely Nanny Pin. The Nanny Brooch has round knobbed end caps that look like part of the brooch design, but they cleverly unscrew to reveal a hidden compartment for emergency sewing items. Close expert examination with a magnifier has confirmed that this is indeed a Nanny Brooch Pin.

So that put me on the hunt. They are pretty rare, don’t come up often for sale, AND can be expensive. I finally found one in England around my birthday that was $60. So that was my birthday present to myself. This style is mainly dated around 1870s. So far it looks to me like the English are the ones giving it this name, nanny brooch, or housekeeper’s brooch. 
They’re also shown in sewing etui groups, since the back section holds a needle and thread, with the oft-repeated story they were worn by nannies to allow them to perform quick mending jobs for their little charges. You can recognize them by the little knobs on the ends that you would unscrew. But be warned that one dealer had one that looked like a nanny brooch but in fact did not unscrew. So you need to check or ask for those to be verified if purchasing one. And of course since there’s no way to check those in these cabinet cards, it’s only speculation but probably a good possibility.

 Most of them are dated by the sellers from 1850-1905, with most of them around 1890s, which many of these cabinet cards are from that time period. They were made of gilt brass, about 2 inches long, with stones that the majority of them are a round “goldstone”, also known as aventurine glass, a form of quartz, which was a common gemstone used for jewelry then. But there were a couple with rectangle shapes and stones of mother of pearl stone, onyx, and clear glass.

This is one without it's stone. 
They all have a German patent mark stamped on the back but they’re kind of worn down. Mine is marked GFS 3ESCH, like this one. **EDITED TO ADD- I was told  this is actually GES GESCH, OR "Gesetzlich Geschutzt" and is the German equivalent of a trademark, copyright, or patent, as seen in the United States. The translation literally means legally protected. 
Another seller had DRGM 49760 on theirs. 

And this other one had a sweet little hand engraving of “Love to Dorothy” roughly scratched on it, and another had someone’s initials, E L,  on it.
This is a cabinet card gifted to me by my friend, Sue, mostly because of its watch chain she was wearing. *I love that my friends think about me* It was unusual, and after looking at it with a very strong magnifying glass, I think she's wearing a nanny brooch with a watch hanging from it. You can see the tiny knobs on the end of the brooch. She certainly looks like someone’s special nanny.

So far this is all the information I’ve found on this seldom-seen accessory. Another one of those forgotten stories, I guess.



  1. This is neato! I have never heard of or seen these before. Very interesting, good research.

  2. Dear Val,
    The name alone is a keeper; no wonder you were drawn to them. Wonder if they were sold as simply a portable etui? Wonder if they appear in any newspapers of the time in the advertisements, or in catalogs?

    Glad you brought them to our attention!

    Very best,


  3. Hello there - thank you for your interesting articles on nanny brooches. I would like to add something if I may. You say that one is marked GFS 3ESCH - it is actually GES. GESCH. The term Ges. Gesch is an abbreviation for "Gesetzlich Geschutzt" and is the German equivalent of a trademark, copyright or patent, as seen in the United States. The translation of Gesetzlich Geschutzt literally means legally protected. I hope this is of interest to you.
    Warm wishes,

    1. Thank you, Jeannine. Mine was obviously worn down and I thank you for clearing that up for me.


I would love to hear if this was any help to you. Pretty please!