Popular Science

Georgian Era Halley's Comet Brooch with Almandine Garnets

  • A lovely, late-18th century almandine garnet brooch celebrating the 1759 passage of Halley’s Comet.

    During 1680 astronomer Edmund Halley travelled through France and Italy. While in Paris he observed the appearance of the comet that would come to bear his name. “In Rome he would have met astronomers who had observed the comet in November 1680; they were of the circle of Queen Kristina of Sweden, and he may have met the queen herself, for she had observed an earlier comet with Cassini and had offered a prize for a calculation of the orbit of the comet of 1680. Halley discussed many astronomical subjects in the course of his tour; it is likely that comets were a principal topic, for their orbits were of great contemporary interest. Shortly after his return to England early in 1682, Halley met Newton, probably for the first time, and gave him an account of observations of the comet. Newton later discussed its orbit in considerable detail in book 3 of the Principia” (ODNB).

    Halley’s breakthrough was noting the similarities between the comet he witnessed and those that had appeared in 1531 and 1607, and predicting its return in 1758/59. The comet’s much-anticipated reappearance was a popular sensation, and brooches such as this one were fashionable accessories in the years following. The British Museum holds a similar brooch (1978,1002.718).

    Gere et al 1984 114.

  • Britain, late 18th century.

    Gold and foil-backed almandine garnet brooch in the form of Halley’s Comet. 2 x 1 cm. Entirely original and in excellent condition.