An original Arts and Crafts handmade brooch by Rhoda Wager
It has the Wager silver plate soldered on the back, as shown,
which clearly identifies her work.
It also has a handmade safety clasp that is a work of art in itself.

The bar section and bezel for the stone are silver and the foliage decoration, pin and clasp are gold (none of the metal is marked)

The decoration is of trailing vines, leaves and tiny berries
Rhoda’s signature design

The central stone is a ‘gem’ all on its own
It appears to be a large natural Burmese Star Sapphire and from what I can ascertain
would weigh approx. 7 carats.
A similar quality stone would be valued at approximately $2000USD.

The brooch measures 7.5cm wide and is in excellent condition

I can find no evidence of any of her authentic signed pieces coming up
for sale in recent years, only the odd piece ‘attributed’ to her
The only authentic pieces I can find are in the Powerhouse Museum which were donated many years ago by a prominent Sydney antique jewellery dealer



Rhoda Wager was a fascinating and inspirational woman and hence I have included a short biography in this listing compiled from several internet sources:-

Rhoda Wager was born in 1875 in Mile End, London, and studied at the Bristol School of Art and the Glasgow School of Art from 1897 to 1903. From 1903 she was a member of the Glasgow Society of Lady Artists and showed regularly with them. It was during this period in Glasgow that she trained under the influential metal smith, Bernard Cuzner, (who had designed Liberty & Co. Ltd's 'Cymric' jewellery in 1899) and learned the prevailing Arts and Crafts style. After this she returned to Bristol and taught art at St Mary's girls' school.

Late in 1913 Rhoda went to live on her brother's sugar plantation in Fiji where she resided before migrating to Sydney in 1918. In 1920 she married Percival George Ashton, son of Australian artist, Julian Ashton, but continued to work under her maiden name.

She became a member of the Society of Arts and Crafts of New South Wales and later joined the Melbourne and Brisbane societies, showing annually at their exhibitions. Her jewellery was displayed and sold on commission at Farmer & Co. Ltd's city store. She was soon able to employ an assistant, Walter Clarence Clapham and in 1928 Rhoda apprenticed her sixteen-year-old niece, Dorothy Wager (later Judge, 1912-2001), and trained her to work in the Arts and Crafts style.

(Dorothy remained with her aunt until 1939 when she opened her own workshop in King Street. The Powerhouse Museum holds a significant collection of jewellery by Dorothy Judge as well as of Rhoda’s.)

Rhoda initially established a jewellery workshop at 13 Rowe Street (at that time a hub of artists, designers and craftsmen) where she remained until 1922. She relocated her business several times, occupying premises at Castlereagh Street, Pitt Street and 42 Martin Place which had its own display section that attracted clients from the nearby Australia, Carlton and Metropole hotels. She finally settled her business at the State Shopping Block in the 1930s.

She frequently promoted her work through the fashionable, Sydney Ure Smith publications, 'Art and Australia' and 'The Home', and exhibited annually with the Arts and Crafts Society and Society of Artists.

Wager's repertoire included belt buckles, brooches, rings, bracelets, spoons and pendants which she personalised for individual clients. Her work was so expertly designed that other jewellers tried but failed to copy her signature 'vine and leaf' motif. She generally signed her pieces, soldering a tiny, silver plate bearing the name 'Wager' on her work when practicable.

A review of her hand-wrought jewellery at the Dunster Galleries, Adelaide, in 1925, stated that her 'work is wrought from beginning to end. Each flower, stem and leaf or berry is made separately and soldered on bit by bit'. The 170 pieces exhibited included 'brooches with pearls, corals, black onyx and chalcedony; earrings of lapis lazuli and amethysts; chains and pendants of opals and turquoise'.

According to Dorothy (her niece) Rhoda's favourite stones were opals and yellow sapphires, ‘for they caught the sun’. World War II restricted Rhoda to making wedding and engagement rings.
Over twenty-five years she produced some twelve thousand pieces of jewellery, all meticulously recorded in her sketch-books spanning the period between 1921 and 1946 when she retired. These precious records were generously donated to the Powerhouse Museum by Dorothy many years later.

Rhoda Wager moved to Brisbane in 1951 where she died in 1953. She was regarded as generous, lively and witty, passionate about her art, strong-willed and determined and a clear-headed, industrious businesswoman.

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