Early Canadian Sterling & Enamel Souvenir Jewelry

by Patricia Gostick – Exclusively for CJCI

Most tourists like to buy souvenirs as a reminder of their travels. What would today’s souvenirs of choice be – perhaps sports caps, T-shirts, mugs, or local crafts? In the early years of the twentieth century, a popular memento was patriotic jewellery.

Roden Brothers mark


There were different price points for patriotic souvenir jewellery, starting with plain metal pins. There were also gilded and enamelled items, which were of better quality, and then there were items made in sterling silver and enamel, sold in the finest jewellery stores of the day. The focus of this article is sterling silver and enamel pins and brooches, especially of the crested variety, made in Canada from circa 1895-1925.

P.W. Ellis & Co. mark


Why These Pins?

It was clear that these patriotic pins were popular with tourists, and this seemed to be a convincing selling feature. A May 1900 ad for Hemsley souvenirs and patriotic jewellery, placed in the trade journal, The Trader and Canadian Jeweler, stated:

Richard Hemsley mark

IMG 3: Richard Hemsley mark (CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW)

“There is every indication of a large influx of Tourists during the coming summer. The representatives of RAILROAD and STEAMBOAT Companies have met and arranged for very favorable rates and the promise is that Canada will be favored as never before… HEMSLEY SOUVENIRS SELL THEMSELVES. All you are asked to do is to Exhibit them and take in the money.”

More frequently seen Caron Brothers mark

IMG 4: More frequently seen Caron Brothers mark (CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW)

A July 1920 ad for Caron Brothers, in the same journal, claimed that:

“Thousands of Tourists will visit Canada this coming season, each to bring back home Souvenirs of various kinds, and we anticipate a record year in the sales of these productions. Our artistic Plain or Enamelled Souvenir Spoons, Brooches, Buttons, etc., so well known to the trade for the past twenty years, have constantly met with increasing popularity, and we have now added to our regular lines some new and very attractive designs…”

Early Caron Brothers mark

IMG 5: Early Caron Brothers mark (CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW)


Although some of this high-end sterling and enamel souvenir jewellery may have been created elsewhere – this author has seen such Canadian patriotic pins made by the Charles Horner Company of Halifax, England – it would appear that much of this jewellery was made domestically. However, many of the pieces contain only the word, STERLING, or the letters RD and the year date, possibly indicating the year the design patent was registered (unconfirmed by either the Canadian or the British Patent Office,) or contain makers’ marks that remain unidentified. Nonetheless, hallmarks from the following companies have been verified: from Toronto, Roden Brothers, P. W. Ellis & Co. and Dominion Jewellery Manufacturing; from Montreal, the Richard Hemsley Company and Caron Brothers; from Ottawa/Hull, Breadner Co. Ltd., and from Hamilton, Geo. H. Lees & Co., but only more modest enamelled pins have been discovered from these last two companies. Interestingly, this author has found no examples of this type of jewellery with the BIRKS (Montreal) hallmarks, other than small emblematic pins, or Ryrie Brothers (Toronto), although both firms manufactured high quality items in sterling silver during this period.

Brooch from P. W. Ellis & Co.eparate pieces.

IMG 6: In this brooch from P. W. Ellis & Co., the frame & crest are one, although they look like two separate pieces. (CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW)

Here are more detailed profiles of a few of the manufacturers of this jewellery:

Roden Brothers, Ltd., Toronto, 1891-1956
: Roden Bothers manufactured superior sterling silver teaware, flatware, toiletware, baby items, trophies, shields and novelties, as well as jewellery; they also manufactured silverplate, Sheffield reproductions, and “Pompeian Glass.” Founded by Thomas Roden in 1891, this company continued until the 1950’s, when it was acquired by Henry Birks & Sons; the last listing for this company in Trader and Canadian Jeweller, was in the July 1956 edition, where it was described as a manufacturer of sterling silver items. Roden Brothers pieces are signed 925R with a lion passant and STERLING (not necessarily together.) (Refer to IMG 1.)

IMG 7: This pin is quite unique, in that the heraldic symbols, some real and some figurative, of the nine provinces and territories, which formed Canada prior to 1905, are incorporated into the frame itself, rather than being on a crest.   By an unknown maker, this pin is marked RD. 1904 STERLING.

IMG 7: This pin is quite unique, in that the heraldic symbols, some real and some figurative, of the nine provinces and territories, which formed Canada prior to 1905, are incorporated into the frame itself, rather than being on a crest. By an unknown maker, this pin is marked RD. 1904 STERLING. (CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW)

P.W. Ellis & Co., Toronto, 1877-1928: Ads from 1920, show P. W. Ellis & Co.’s fine jewellery, as well as the company’s quality Sovereign Plate and sterling silver items. In one ad, their Toronto building is referred to as “The Jewelry Headquarters of Canada.” This venerable Toronto firm was absorbed by Birks in 1928. Their mark, described as “The Mark of Integrity,” was a sideways anchor, an E in a maple leaf, a lion passant, and, separately, STERLING. Later, the mark was a sideways E in a maple leaf and STERLING. (Refer to IMG 2.)

Richard Hemsley brooch

IMG 8: In this ornate Richard Hemsley “City of Winnipeg” souvenir pin, the enamelling on the frame shades beautifully from brown to ochre to gold. (CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW)

Richard Hemsley, Montreal, 1870 – present: According to the website for Hemsley’s Jewellers, Pointe Claire, Quebec, it is the direct descendant of the Richard Hemsley store founded in 1870 in Montreal. The website describes it as “the oldest and most refined jewellery store in Canada.” (Birks began in 1879.) It is unclear when the production of enamelled sterling souvenir jewellery ceased, although Hemsley sold his business in the 1930’s. The mark is STERLING and R.H in a banner. (Refer to IMG 3.)

Roden Brothers brooch

IMG 9: This “Ottawa” souvenir pin from Roden Brothers, has an exquisite lavender guilloche enamelled frame, and the shield incorporates the Ottawa coat of arms, surmounted by the Royal Crown. (CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW)

Caron Brothers, Montreal, 1900 – c. 1930: Some sources list the Caron Brothers as a 19th century company, but their own ads state that they were founded in 1900. They had a large manufacturing facility at 233-239 Bleury Street, and produced enamelled sterling souvenir spoons, class pins, buttons, emblematic items and crested brooches, which displayed superb enamelling techniques. It would appear that this company went out of business around 1930, and its dies were acquired by another Montreal manufacturer, C. Lamond Fils. The trademark is the number 3 within a capital C preceded by the word STERLING, although an earlier mark contained the word STERLING, a lion passant, a maple leaf and the letter C with the number 3 inside it. (Refer to IMGs 4 & 5.)

IMG 10: In this large 3 x 1.75 inch Caron Brothers pin, the green of the maple leaves in the frame, complements the colour in the shield of Ontario, part of the provincial coat of arms.  The official RHSC heraldic description of this shield reads: Vert a sprig of three leaves of maple slipped Or, on a chief Argent a Cross Gules

IMG 10: In this large 3 x 1.75 inch Caron Brothers pin, the green of the maple leaves in the frame, complements the colour in the shield of Ontario, part of the provincial coat of arms. The official RHSC heraldic description of this shield reads: Vert a sprig of three leaves of maple slipped Or, on a chief Argent a Cross Gules (CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW)

Method of Manufacture

Most of these brooches were made in two parts: an enamel open frame, to which was attached a shield or crest. This central shield was generally soldered into place, but sometimes it was hinged to the back of the frame. Occasionally, the frame and centre were all one piece (Refer to IMG 6.), and sometimes the frame had no shield (Refer to IMG 7). The central shields were also sold as smaller pins, without the decorative frame. Some firms would even customize their patriotic souvenir jewellery, as this March 1920 ad for Caron Brothers indicates: “Our designing department is at the customer’s disposal and will supply special sketches in which suggestions will be incorporated with pleasure.”

Quebec pin

IMG 11: As of 1999, the blue flag iris became Quebec’s official flower, but prior to this, the Madonna lily, seen on the pretty aquamarine frame of this Caron Brothers brooch, was associated with this province, and the armorial triple fleur de lys symbol on the shield, further indicates that this is a souvenir of Quebec. (CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW)

The Art Nouveau vogue for enamelled jewellery is evident in these early twentieth century patriotic brooches and sash pins. Vitreous enamelling involves fusing glass to metal, under very high heat. There are several different types of enamelling techniques, but champlevé, guilloche and basse taille enamelling are typically seen in this sort of jewellery. All vitreous enamelling involves numerous stages, and much knowledge and skill are required to achieve a successful result. Some of the most delicately shaded pieces, displaying a high degree of mastery, were produced by Richard Hemsley, (Refer to IMG 8) Roden Brothers (Refer to IMG 9), and Caron Brothers (Refer to IMG 10) created some of the most attractive and varied designs.

Caron Brothers pin

IMG 12: A delightful 1.25 x .62 inch miniature pin from Caron Brothers, incorporating the shield from the New Brunswick coat of arms and bunches of cherries; the coat of arms is correct, but the cherries are an artistic departure from the usual floral motif. (CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW)

Heraldic and Floral Motifs

Floral motifs on the frames of these brooches are frequently associated with provincial or territorial flowers (IMG 11), and heraldic motifs are from the coats of arms of particular cities, regions, or the nation. The designers of these patriotic pins would have needed an understanding of Canada’s armorial bearings, in order to create the crests found on these brooches. However, it would seem that some artistic licence was used, as the depictions are not always accurate. As well, some shields contain only a maple leaf, or references to sites of interest, or a montage of symbols, not readily identifiable today. (Refer to IMGs 12-15.)

Roden Brothers brooch

IMG 13: In this beautiful Roden Brothers brooch, the Canadian provincial coats of arms on the shield are accurate, but the floral frame is simply a beautiful example of basse taille and champlevé enamelling techniques. (CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW)


This author was first attracted to this type of patriotic pin, because of the excellent quality of the enamelling, as well as the historical aspect of this jewellery. With the passage of time, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find these souvenir brooches, but antiques malls and shows continue to be good sources for this collectible. These elaborate sterling and enamel creations were the crème de la crème of the souvenir pins produced by now defunct Canadian manufacturers. They would never have been as plentiful as the more affordable base metal souvenir pins, which also accounts for their scarcity.

If you own any of these pins, wear or display them proudly; they are a beautiful souvenir from Canada’s past.

Caron Brothers pin

IMG 14: The flowery frame of this marvellous Caron Brothers brooch reflects Art Nouveau’s fondness for swirls and rounded lines. The shield depicts maritime scenes. Their significance or location remains unclear, but they possibly represent ships and a lock on the St. Lawrence River. (CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW)


The author would like to thank Mr. David Appleton, of The Royal Heraldry Society of Canada (RHSC), for valuable information about the heraldic aspects of these pins. She would also like to thank Mr. David Hustler, President of Enamel Arts Canada/Emaux Canada from 1997-2007, for his explanation of various enamelling techniques.

Select issues, 1890-1990, The Trader and Canadian Jeweler, known under various names and spellings, now, The Canadian Jeweller Magazine.

Online resources, including, “Online Encyclopedia of Silver Marks, Hallmarks & Makers’ Marks;” “J. H. Tee Antiques Ltd., Vancouver;” “Arms of the Provinces and Territories – RHSC;” “Provincial and Territorial Flowers of Canada;” “Victoria and Albert Museum;” Canadian and British Patent Offices

Langdon, John E. Guide to Marks on Early Canadian Silver: 18th and 19th Centuries. Toronto: The Ryerson Press, 1968.

Nicholls, Dale Reeves with Robin Allison. Antique Enameled Jewelry. Atglen, PA.: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2006.

Caron Brothers brooch

IMG 15: Another beautiful Caron Brothers brooch has the same shield as figure 14, but the fish and flower frame is very different. (CLICK ON IMAGE FOR LARGER VIEW)


A retired educator, Patricia Gostick began to do research in the field of antique and vintage jewellery in the late 1990’s. Her specialty is the jewellery and art of McClelland Barclay (1891-1943), and she has published a number of articles about him. She founded the Toronto Vintage Costume Jewellery Club in 2005 and is a supporter of CJCI. Patricia is the owner of Bijoux Vintage Costume Jewellery and Unique Gifts, and you are invited to visit her online shop, Bijoux Vintage, on rubylane.com.

Photographs courtesy of Patricia Gostick