Antiques Roadshow guest is stunned to find mother’s brooch which spent decades sitting in bedside drawer is 300-year-old treasure worth £7,000

A woman was left stunned after a brooch which spent decades sitting in a bedside drawer turned out to be a treasure worth thousands of pounds.

Helen Scaife, 51, decided to get her mum’s inherited jewellery valued on BBC’s Antiques Roadshow after it had spent years gathering dust in her bedroom.

She was left gobsmacked when experts revealed the brooch was hundreds of years old and a highly valuable rare relic with Ancient Roman origins.

The historic piece of jewellery – crafted during the Renaissance period more than 300 years ago – is now expected to sell for as much as £7,000.

Helen plans to put the money towards her mother’s retirement, saying: ‘That’s a heck of a lot of money at a time when my mother doesn’t have much.’

The brooch spent decades sitting in Helen Scaife’s bedside drawer for decades

Helen Smith, head of jewellery at Hansons Auctioneers, examines the brooch

Helen Smith, head of jewellery at Hansons Auctioneers, examines the brooch 

Depicting a gryllus, a strange creature with conjoined human and wild boar heads, the brooch will be up for grabs at Hansons Auctioneers, in Etwall, Derbyshire, on June 27.

Helen said the rare piece had been in her bedside drawer for decades and handed down from mother to daughter for at least three generations.

‘It’s certainly been in the family since the 19th century. My grandmother was born in 1909 and it’s definitely been in the family since before then.

‘My mother inherited it over 30 years ago. She has worn it occasionally but for the most part it’s been tucked away in a bedside drawer.’

Nobody in Helen’s family knew how they came to own the brooch and had no idea of its worth until its historical pedigree was revealed on TV by jewellery expert Geoffrey Munn.

It produced one of the series’ classic jaw-dropping moments, and sparked gasps from Helen.

Helen, a civil servant from Cardiff, said: ‘My friend got tickets for the Antiques Roadshow and invited me to go with her.

‘We went because we love the show, and she had a few little bits to take.

‘I immediately thought of the brooch because we have always been curious as to what it was as we hadn’t seen anything like it.

‘All the cameos we’d seen in the past, or Googled, were invariably faces of women or Greek gods.

‘Nothing we ever came across looked like our brooch so I hoped someone would be able to tell us what it was and where it came from.

‘I was not expecting what we found out which is evident from the show I think.

‘When I got home mum didn’t believe me at first. She thought I was pulling her leg.

‘I was going to try to keep it a secret until the show aired, but I decided in the end it wouldn’t be fair to her. And she has a way of getting information out of me.’

Helen has decided to part with the family heirloom ‘for a combination of reasons’.

She said:  ‘Firstly, now we know how much it might be worth, my mother is concerned about insurance.

‘Also, if it does turn out to be worth what Geoffrey suggested, that’s a heck of a lot of money at a time when my mother doesn’t have much.

‘She’s just turned 78 and I want her to spend the rest of her life enjoying herself.

‘If the sale of the brooch enables that to happen, then it’s worth an awful lot more to me than it is sitting in a drawer.’

She added: ‘I love it and think it’s a beautiful object, but I wouldn’t wear it, and it seems a terrible shame for it to be hidden away.’

The brooch was identified as an intaglio gryllus cameo brooch dating back to the late 16th or early 17th century

The brooch was identified as an intaglio gryllus cameo brooch dating back to the late 16th or early 17th century

The gryllus, carved in agate stone, is a comic combination of animals and human forms seen in Greco-Roman glyptic art, especially in intaglios

The gryllus, carved in agate stone, is a comic combination of animals and human forms seen in Greco-Roman glyptic art, especially in intaglios

Helen Smith, head of jewellery at Hansons Auctioneers, said: 'These fanciful creations were popular subjects in Ancient Rome and were often carved into gemstones'

Helen Smith, head of jewellery at Hansons Auctioneers, said: ‘These fanciful creations were popular subjects in Ancient Rome and were often carved into gemstones’

The brooch was identified as an intaglio gryllus cameo brooch dating back to the late 16th or early 17th century.

The gryllus, carved in agate stone, is a comic combination of animals and human forms seen in Greco-Roman glyptic art.

Speaking of the brooch, Helen Smith, head of jewellery at Hansons Auctioneers, said: ‘What a find. The brooch is a miniature work of art, extraordinary and beautiful. It’s so rare, I’ve never handled an example like it before.

‘Collectors will be fascinated by its depiction of a gryllus, a mythical creature.’

The name Gryllus is derived from the Italic word ‘Grillo meaning freak and the latin word ‘Gryllus’ for caricature.

Ms Smith continued: ‘These fanciful creations were popular subjects in Ancient Rome and were often carved into gemstones.

‘Though these grotesque depictions were amusing, they had more serious connotations.

‘It was believed they protected whoever wore them against demonic spirits.

‘It’s a wonderfully intricate object. The carving depicts three conjoined heads, two classical figures and a wild boar’s head.

‘The cream ground highlights the dark and light intricacy of the carving. The attention to detail is incredible.

‘The agate itself measures only 20mm x 17mm and is set within a later gold and pearl-set mount dating to circa 1840s.

‘Agate stone symbolises strength, protection and courage. It’s often associated with emotional stability, inner calm and self-confidence.

‘So both the choice of decoration and the material used to make it may have been interlinked.’

Helen Smith (pictured), head of jewellery at Hansons Auctioneers, said: 'What a find. The brooch is a miniature work of art, extraordinary and beautiful. It's so rare, I've never handled an example like it before'

Helen Smith (pictured), head of jewellery at Hansons Auctioneers, said: ‘What a find. The brooch is a miniature work of art, extraordinary and beautiful. It’s so rare, I’ve never handled an example like it before’

Ms Smith added: ‘A mythical beast to scare away demons made out of a material believed to calm the wearer.

‘For any jewellery connoisseur this brooch is exceptional. It also acts as a reminder to reach into those dusty corners, empty those drawers and look under the bed.

‘So often, these are where the best auction finds are made.’

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