This $25 Brooch Bought At An Antique Fair May Be Worth As Much As $19,000

Published January 19, 2024
Updated January 20, 2024

Flora Steel bought the brooch at an antique fair three decades ago, not knowing it was designed by William Burges.

Flora Steel And Brooch

Gildings AuctioneersFlora Steel and the brooch she found 35 years ago at an antique fair.

Flora Steel was browsing through YouTube last March when she came across a 2011 clip from “Antiques Roadshow.” Steel watched as a jewelry specialist showed off rare items made by designer William Burges — then realized with shock that she had purchased a similar brooch decades ago for just $25. Now, it’s been valued at $19,000.

“When the clip popped up on my phone, I said to myself, ‘That reminds me of the brooch I found 35 years ago,'” Steel said in a statement about the surprising discovery. “I decided to have a better look… and lo and behold, there was my brooch! I practically fell off my chair!”

As Steel explained, she first came across the brooch over three decades ago as she browsed items for sale at an antique fair in central England. Having studied art history, Steel had an eye for color and beauty, and the brooch immediately popped out at her.

“The brooch originally caught my eye for its strong design, strange lettering and unusual stones,” Steel explained. She added: “I always loved it and thought that it was so particular in its design that sooner or later, I would discover who had designed it.”

But the brooch’s designer remained a mystery for decades. According to the Washington Post, Steel wore it on her lapel for years. Decades later, her daughter-in-law spotted it in Steel’s closet, so Steel happily passed it onto her. Then, the brooch more or less faded out of her mind.

Until March 2023.

William Burges Brooch

Gildings AuctioneersTo her shock, Steel discovered that the brooch was designed by William Burges.

Then, Steel was shocked to see jewelry specialist Geoffrey Munn show several sketches of brooches by William Burges on “Antiques Roadshow.” One of the pieces he displayed looked just like hers.

“It was one of those extraordinary things,” Steel exclaimed. “I thought I was dreaming, especially after so long.”

Steel asked her son and daughter-in-law to send her pictures of the brooch, which she then forwarded to Gildings Auctioneers. As the Washington Post reports, the auction house had previously auctioned off two other Burges brooches which were, surprisingly, also discovered via “Antiques Roadshow.” They recognized the brooch as a Burges right away.

“A Burges brooch has again been discovered via a chance sighting via the Antiques Roadshow,” Gildings director Will Gilding said, according to Artnet. “For it to happen once, amazing. Twice, remarkable! A third time? Pinch me!”

The brooch was appraised and valued at $19,000. It is set to go to auction in the spring, but Steel has already made an appearance on “Antiques Roadshow” to show the brooch to Munn.

“My pulse is racing,” Munn, who has described Burges as “the greatest genius of 19th-century design,” said before Steel presented him with the brooch during the show. “I’m thrilled to see it.”

Burges, who was known for his Victorian Gothic Revival style, probably designed the brooch around 1860. All three of the brooches discovered through “Antiques Roadshow” were designed to be worn during weddings. The Washington Post reports that Steel’s was for one wedding, while the two others were meant for another wedding.

Brooch

Gildings AuctioneersA close-up of the brooch, which is set to go to auction this spring.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, Burges was best known for his architecture, and designed Wales’ Cardiff Castle and Castell Coch. But he also designed smaller items like jewelry and utensils in gold and silver, which featured Japanese, Romanesque, and medieval motifs.

This makes Steel’s brooch extra special. But the brooch also holds personal significance for her.

As Steel told the Washington Post, she has spent the last two years fighting breast cancer. Though she is now cancer free, discovering that her beloved brooch was a Burges brooch did much to lift her spirits. She plans to give the proceeds from the brooch’s sale partly to her son and daughter-in-law, who have a growing family, and partly to a breast cancer research fund.

“[The brooch has] done a great deal for my morale in a difficult moment,” Steel said. “It’s cheered me up and given me a lift.”


After reading about the $25 brooch that turned out to be worth $19,000, discover stories of other lucky finds, like the vase bought for $3.30at a thrift store that could be worth more than $11,000 or the vase bought at Goodwill that was valued at $100,000.

Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.
Maggie Donahue
Maggie Donahue is an assistant editor at All That's Interesting. She has a Master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a Bachelor's degree in creative writing and film studies from Johns Hopkins University. Before landing at ATI, she covered arts and culture at The A.V. Club and Colorado Public Radio and also wrote for Longreads. She is interested in stories about scientific discoveries, pop culture, the weird corners of history, unexplained phenomena, nature, and the outdoors.