We call it the regimental jewel. The regiment, the Worcestershire Yeomanry,
later to become the Queen’s own Worcestershire Hussars, was formed in 1794 to protect these shores against a Napoleonic invasion. It was agreed that the regiment should serve
only within the United Kingdom. However, in 1899, when the Boer War was going badly, it was decided
that some of the Yeomanry, as volunteers, would be mobilised. And when they left the
shores, the countess of Dudley, whose husband, the Earl of Dudley, was a member of the regiment – he was second in command – she presented each and every soldier that went out with a
sprig of pear blossom, worked in silk, that they were to wear in their hat as a reminder of
the county that they had left, i.e. the pear blossom emblem of Worcestershire. When they returned
in 1903, she presented this sprig of pear blossom, manufactured by Faberge. It’s a lovely
piece. It certainly is a lovely piece. This looks for all the world like a glass vase.
And there’s a stratagem here that it’s filled with water, and this is the meniscus, the top
of the water, but in fact, it isn’t. It’s a solid block, which is apparently glass but
it’s certainly not – it’s stone. It’s rock crystal. It’s icy cold even on this hot day
and it’s immensely difficult to carve – it’s much, much harder than glass. And then the
magic is to make it look as if the sprig is supported in this, so it’s drilled down into
the rock crystal to receive the stalk, and the stalk is made of gold. And it’s almost
as if we can see from time to time that new buds are going to blossom on here. That would
be quite surreal, wouldn’t it? And then the flowers are made of enamelled silver and tiny
silver stamens but in the centre there’s a dewdrop of diamond, glinting in the sunshine
here. And the leaves are made of Siberian Jade, from the Ural mountains. And then we
have the original fitted box, which is made of holly wood – literally the wood of the holly
tree, from Siberia. And then, just to get the message across she probably asked Faberge
to put a triumphant laurel here in green gold tied with the red-gold bow. That was the battle
honour that was awarded to them in South Africa. That’s very good. It is recorded there. That’s
why we think it’s 1904 because that was when they received the battle honour, South Africa.
Well, it’s absolutely bang on for date for the object because some of the best things
from Faberge are made in the 20th century in the age of the motor car, the telephone
and electricity. And here we have something that is redolent of the distance past because
it’s a such shrieking pitch of perfection and luxury. And it’s an utterly breathtaking
object. So give me some impression of what the pear blossom means in this regiment, to
you. I think when it was presented by Lady Dudley, she did it to recognise the sacrifice
of those soldiers that didn’t come back from the Boer War and those that were injured.
I think it’s a focal point for the younger soldiers, soldiers such as me that are way past their
sell by date. I just think it’s this focal point from what has happened years ago that
we still on occasions look back to but it’s important that we also look forward. I think
it provides that link for all the different ages of soldiers that have soldiered with
the regiment and are intending in the future to soldier with the regiment. It still comes
out on dinner nights when the officers of the squadron and the regiment are assembled.
It’s perhaps suffered over the years being stuffed under the bed on occasions at the
end of the evening or missed the odd bread roll. It’s making me utterly breathless because
I find Faberge things on the Antiques Roadshow but nothing of this scale. I can tell you
that the size of the object, the sophistication of the object, the provenance of the object
brings it very, very close to only two other flower studies in the United Kingdom, which
are in the Royal Collection. Given the qualifications I already put on this object, it is a towering
masterpiece of the goldsmith’s art by the most famous goldsmith of the 20th century.
So I’m going to tell you, in my opinion, that this is worth a million pounds. Goodness gracious.
Well, I’m supposed to say now, it’s not for sale. It certainly isn’t for sale. I’m just
the custodian. Well, that is the rub, isn’t it. It’s not for sale. A million pounds for
that tiny flower. Wow. Good job it’s well protected.