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This 18K white gold and diamond flag brooch achieved $3,200 plus the buyer’s premium in May 2017. Image courtesy of Les Antiquites Maison and LiveAuctioneers.

Bid Smart: Flag jewelry: Three cheers for the ruby, diamond and sapphire

This 18K white gold and diamond flag brooch achieved $3,200 plus the buyer’s premium in May 2017. Image courtesy of Les Antiquites Maison and LiveAuctioneers.
This 18K white gold and diamond flag brooch achieved $3,200 plus the buyer’s premium in May 2017. Image courtesy of Les Antiquites Maison and LiveAuctioneers.

NEW YORK — Today is Independence Day, a federal holiday commemorating the approval of the Declaration of Independence by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, marking the United States of America as its own nation. The holiday is celebrated with parades, fireworks, BBQs, picnics and carnivals, and an easy and fun way to express national pride is to wear patriotic jewelry featuring an American flag design. This trend became common during World War I and World War II, and jewelry in the form of the American flag has been a popular niche in fine and costume jewelry ever since.

To mark the occasion of July 4, let’s delve into the history of the American flag and its use in jewelry.

In June 1877, the fledgling country’s leadership, in the form of the Continental Congress, enacted provisions for a national flag that would have 13 stripes in alternating bands of red and white and also 13 white stars against a blue background, known as a canton. The 13 stars represented each of the original British colonies that became the first states. In the years that followed, there have been 26 changes to the flag’s design, and the current design was adopted on July 4, 1960. It features 50 stars, one for each state, and retains the 13 stripes that now stand for the original colonies.

The number of stars and stripes on flags in jewelry is not intended to be a faithful recreation, as size limits how many of each can fit. A particularly attractive piece that would make any holiday outfit pop is a white gold, diamond, ruby and sapphire American flag pin with 23 stars and nine stripes. Boasting a waving flag design and having a pearl flag pole finial, this brooch made $4,200 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2021 at Tremont Auctions.

A white gold diamond, ruby, and sapphire American flag pin having a pearl flag pole finial made $4,200 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2021. Image courtesy of Tremont Auctions and LiveAuctioneers.
A white gold diamond, ruby, and sapphire American flag pin having a pearl flag pole finial made $4,200 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2021. Image courtesy of Tremont Auctions and LiveAuctioneers.

There are few things as patriotically stirring as seeing a large American flag waving in the breeze. The national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner, was penned by lawyer-poet Francis Scott Key based on a striking sight during the War of 1812. It was September 13, 1814, and Key was part of a mission to urge the British to release some American prisoners held near Baltimore. After the meeting was finished, Key and his delegation were not immediately allowed to leave, and instead had to spend the night watching British forces launch multiple attacks on Fort McHenry, which looked like rockets lighting up the night. Come morning, however, Key saw that despite the assault, the American flag still flew high over the fort. Reportedly, he began writing the Star Spangled Banner shortly after his delegation was free to go. It features Key’s well known line,“O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave …”

Another angle on an 18K white gold and diamond flag brooch that achieved $3,200 plus the buyer’s premium in May 2017. Image courtesy of Les Antiquites Maison and LiveAuctioneers.
Another angle on an 18K white gold and diamond flag brooch that achieved $3,200 plus the buyer’s premium in May 2017. Image courtesy of Les Antiquites Maison and LiveAuctioneers.

Instead of a one-dimensional and flat look, many flag brooches have a three-dimensional waving flag design, perhaps in homage to Key’s iconic lyric. A fine example is a circa-1995 18K white gold and diamond flag brooch with red and blue enamel that realized $3,200 plus the buyer’s premium in May 2017 at Les Antiquites Maison. The nearly two carats of pave diamonds gives the piece star quality, while the waving design imbues the piece with a sculptural quality and makes it appear lifelike.

A gold charm bangle bracelet with applied charms, including an American flag, brought $2,500 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2022. Image courtesy of Hindman and LiveAuctioneers.
A gold charm bangle bracelet with applied charms, including an American flag, brought $2,500 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2022. Image courtesy of Hindman and LiveAuctioneers.

Adding some festive bling to a holiday get-together is a whimsical gold charm bangle bracelet decorated with an American flag and other applied charms, which brought $2,500 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2022 at Hindman. It’s well suited for the holiday but has other elements that ensure it can be worn year-round. The piece is unsigned but many jewelry designers, as well as major firms such as Cartier and Tiffany, designed pieces using prominent symbols such as the American flag.

A pair of 18K gold and enamel cufflinks in the form of American flags earned $1,300 plus the buyer’s premium in September 2021. Image courtesy of Tremont Auctions and LiveAuctioneers.
A pair of 18K gold and enamel cufflinks in the form of American flags earned $1,300 plus the buyer’s premium in September 2021. Image courtesy of Tremont Auctions and LiveAuctioneers.

Options for men are admittedly more limited, but a fancy pair of 18K gold and enamel cufflinks designed as American flags are simple yet elegant. A set that earned $1,300 plus the buyer’s premium in September 2021 at Tremont Auctions had 13 diamond stars in gold against blue enamel, accented by nine red and white stripes. The set was made by Asprey & Garrard in England.

Prices for American flag jewelry pieces can range from a few thousand to a few hundred each, depending on whether a piece is made by a well-known maker and what stones are used. For those looking to start a patriotic jewelry collection or just acquire a few pieces to complete an outfit, there are many options available. A suite of diamond and gemstone American flag jewelry in the form of a tennis-style bracelet and earrings set in 14K gold with diamonds, rubies and sapphires realized $800 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2018 at John Moran Auctioneers, Inc.

A diamond and gemstone American flag jewelry suite realized $800 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2018. Image courtesy of John Moran Auctioneers, Inc. and LiveAuctioneers.
A diamond and gemstone American flag jewelry suite realized $800 plus the buyer’s premium in December 2018. Image courtesy of John Moran Auctioneers, Inc. and LiveAuctioneers.

Patriotic jewelry may be a bit of a novelty, and might be donned only a few times a year, but it can make a bold fashion statements. The best pieces hold their own against the brightest and flashiest of fireworks. Happy Fourth of July.

American flag jewelry