Odd Obsessions – Grouse Foot Brooches

Odd Obsessions is a new twice-monthly feature I’ll be doing about my current strange fascinations. Anything from unique jewelry, natural ephemera, unusual traditions or happenings, and other oddities. Hope you guys enjoy this new series!

On a recent antiquing trip, as I was perusing through the glass display cases, my eye was immediately drawn to these furry little feet sitting amongst the old jewelry and dusty treasures. I had to find out what they were! These grouse claw brooches come from Scottish tradition during the Victorian era. Scottish men would pin them on their kilts for good luck, particularly wearing them on hunting trips. The feet are often adorned with gemstones or colored glass, and some have additional embellishments like the stag head seen on 1, 3, and 4.

Grouse claws were also distributed as Mizpah brooches (these ones typically have an engraving of two hearts with an arrow through them on the back along with the word). “Mizpah” is a Biblical term roughly meaning “God watch over us while we’re apart.” The jewelry was given as a sign of love and remembrance during long separations. What could be more romantic than receiving a taxidermied bird foot upon your lover’s departure?

These are still manufactured today, so they’re not too terribly difficult to get ahold of. I’d love to snatch one of these up for my collection, or better yet, get one as a romantic gesture from Dave the next time he leaves on a big trip. ;)

1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5

23 comments on “Odd Obsessions – Grouse Foot Brooches

  1. Wow, fascinating! So many strange things that I’ve yet to learn of, this being one. I love the idea that what our culture considers “odd”, was another culture’s expression of love. I can’t wait to see what the rest of your series will hold!

  2. So creeptastic. And I love the idea for the new feature! I have been experimenting with plenty of new features over on my blog as well, and have been feeling so much more inspired ever since. I hope it does the same for you!

    • From what I’ve seen, they range anywhere from a couple of bucks to over a hundred dollars. I’m sure the value of it is based primarily on the age and materials since these aren’t exactly rare items (they’re still created today).

  3. My aunt brought some of these back from Scotland about 60 years ago. Several different designs, but all silver and with a citrine stone. She wore them on a tartan shawl or wool sweater. I thought it to be some kind of weird fur as a child. Back then, I had no idea that there was a unique bird who grew feathers on his feet. I wonder what her students thought of it when she wore them to school.

    In the movie “Bertie and Elizabeth”, you can see the queen (played by Eileen Atkins) wearing a grouse claw pin on her hat! It was quite the custom to vary your hats by attaching different objects, pins, silk flowers, ribbons, etc. It was the era of amazing accessories.

  4. Thank you for that info! I bought one at Goodwill and wondered what the double hearts and Mizpah meant. The word was difficult to read under the fur. And it’s pretty creepy!

  5. I believe a lot of these feet were brought back by Victorian English shooting gentlemen from hunting trips to north of the boarder as keep sakes for their loved one x

  6. Does it depreciate the brooch or it’s uniqueness if the claw is replaced? I have obtained one recently and the feathers/hair seems a bit worn off. Should I leave it as original as possible. It’s 9k gold with an amber stoke.

  7. Does it depreciate the brooch or it’s uniqueness if the claw is replaced? I have obtained one recently and the feathers/hair seems a bit worn off. Should I leave it as original as possible. It’s 9k gold with an amber stoke.

  8. I have one of these with Citrine which had been my Grandmothers. I was about 8 when she passed and my mum tok allowed me to take something to remember her by. i chose her cream leather handbag (which would give me a gust of her facepowder and blusher each time i opened it) and also contained one of these brouches 😊

  9. Interesting!! I have one in my possession. It was my moms… not really sure where she got it or why she had it. I remember being horrified by it as a child but for some reason ended up with it…lol.

  10. Corinne, I love your web site and these pins are very cool. I also love odd creepy jewelry. Some items that I have found and you might find fascinating are voodoo jewelry (I’m afraid to wear it!), Indian taboo jewelry, odd Masonic pieces, Celtic and viking pieces! I’m now checking out the haunted necklace from Harry Potter. If you come to Rhode Island we should hang out one day!

  11. PS-I forgot Victorian mourning jewelry. It’s black and it’s beautiful. When Queen Victoria’s beloved husband died she stayed in mourning for a couple decades. She was the one made mourning jewelry very popular. It is still easy to find.

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