A woman who bought a brooch at a market for under £20 has seen it sell at auction for £11,700 - after it turned out to be a Victorian treasure with links to Lord Nelson.

Flora Steel purchased the brooch in 1988 with no idea it was a "historically significant" piece of jewellery given as a wedding gift to a relative of the great British military leader.

She only realised it was worth much more after watching an episode of The Antiques Roadshow and spotted a design similar to hers. 

The BBC programme then featured Flora's silver brooch on its 2023 Christmas special where it was confirmed to also be a long-lost William Burges original. 

The great Victorian Gothic Revival architect, who designed Cardiff Castle and Castell Coch, has been described as "the greatest genius of 19th-century design."

The item of jewellery was also given greater prominence after a link to Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson later emerged. 

It was made as a bridesmaid’s gift for the wedding of Caroline Bendyshe, a great-niece of Lord Nelson, 160 years ago.

The brooch went under the hammer at Gildings Auctioneers, in Market Harborough, Leics., yesterday (Tue) and sold for a total of £11,780. 

Flora is now planning to donate proceeds from the sale to her family and a cancer charity after spending two years fighting, and beating, breast cancer. 

South Wales Argus: Flora Steel bought this brooch in 1988 for £20Flora Steel bought this brooch in 1988 for £20 (Image: SWNS)

She said: "“The whole process of making the discovery, appearing on one of my favourite TV programmes and now seeing the brooch sell has been such an unexpected and joyful experience, especially coming as it has after a difficult time.

"And of course, this has confirmed selling it is most definitely the right decision as I don’t think I would dare wear it now that I know what it’s worth.”

The silver, coral, lapis lazuli and malachite brooch was acquired at a Midlands antiques market 36 years ago by Flora, who is a Rome-based jewellery enthusiast.

Her discovery is the third time a William Burges brooch had been uncovered by Gildings and Antiques Roadshow jewellery expert Geoffrey Munn.

In 2011, pensioner Jill Cousins was watching Antiques Roadshow and saw Geoffrey revealing his decades-long search for brooch designs by Burges.

It sold at Gildings for £31,000 and later that year another viewer realised they too had the same brooch.

This owner also contacted Gildings and the example is now displayed in the jewellery galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum, in London.  

Gildings director Will Gilding said: "“We’re absolutely delighted to have achieved this great result for Flora’s very special piece of jewellery.

“After a local lady brought her brooch to us instead of the local market in 2011 after seeing the sketches on Antiques Roadshow, we were astonished when another owner got in touch after seeing footage of that first find. 

"So, for this to happen again thirteen years on with Flora bringing us a third example of a lost Burges brooch almost beggars belief.”

At the end of last year, all that was known about Flora's brooch was that it was believed to have been made for the wedding of an individual named Gibson. 

Research identified this man as a friend of Burges’, the Rev'd John Gibson, who wed 
Caroline Bendyshe in London on 1864.

Born in 1815, Gibson became Dean of Jesus College, Cambridge and as an instrumental figure in the Gothic Revival movement, he played a key role in the restoration of Jesus College Chapel. 
Mr Gilding added: “160 years on from the wedding it was made for, it’s wonderful to see this incredibly special piece of jewellery emerge from obscurity as it moves on to its next chapter with a new owner who will treasure it for years to come. 

"Also, it just goes to show, you never know what hidden gems could be hiding in your jewellery box."