As part of Christmas at Chatsworth: Palace of Advent, one of the many seasonal sights to experience is a forest of Christmas tree brooches from the record-breaking collection of Adam Wide.
Adam started collecting in 1984 and has since amassed an amazing 8,250 brooches. In 2021, he was awarded the Guinness World Record for the largest collection.
The collection includes pieces from across the world with Czech, Austrian, British and American designers and manufacturers particularly celebrated. Adam has collected pieces from design giants like Swarovski and family-run businesses like Kirks Folly, which was started by four siblings at their kitchen table. The Christmas Forest also celebrates female designers. Deborah Serfas’ imaginative designs are on display with delightful trees featuring paw prints, owls, butterflies - even a tree made entirely from tiny snowmen.
The Christmas Forest reflects the creativity and skill of artists and designers from 100 years of making. Here, we take a closer look at some highlights from the collection.
The first tree
This little Christmas tree represents the beginning of a nearly 40-year passion for Adam Wide.
In 1984, Adam was performing as the Sheriff of Nottingham in a pantomime in Copenhagen. It was in a department store in the city, that Adam found this piece and it appealed to him instantly.
Adam describes the piece as standing out in a cosy display of dark green and red decorations. From that point on, Adam was hooked. He began an active search for Christmas trees that would eventually form the record-breaking collection.
The oldest tree in the forest
Although the mass production of Christmas tree brooches began in the late 1940s, it didn’t hit its peak of production or creativity until the 1960s. Thousands of brooches in different designs were created during this time.
This 1920s piece is therefore a very rare find both in terms of its unusual Art Deco design and its age. Art Deco design features bold geometric shapes and patterns like those seen on this brooch.
Sadly, this brooch doesn’t contain a maker’s mark so we don’t know who produced it. Its construction and unusual design means that it is probably a one-of-a-kind piece.
The Faberge Ice Crystal Tree
The stunning Faberge Ice Crystal Tree brooch is made of sterling silver and encrusted with Swarovski crystals.
It was inspired by a series of pieces designed by Alma Theresia Phil for Faberge in 1911. Phil created sketches based on hoar frost - the ice spreading across the windows of their studio.
This icy design can also be seen on the Winter Egg which Faberge created for Tsar Nicholas II as a gift to his mother, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna in 1913.
The Berlin Bruisers Brooch
Upon his retirement in 2012, Adam moved to Berlin. After a 45-year break, he decided to return to another passion, rugby. He created the gay and trans-inclusive rugby team 'The Berlin Bruisers'.
To celebrate the team, Adam approached Mark Mercy at Stanley Hagler N.Y.C. to design a Christmas tree brooch. Adam asked Mercy to juxtapose the rough and tumble of rugby with the delicate detail of a Christmas brooch.
The brooch uses the team colours of purple and white and features intricate seed pearls - a signature of the Stanley Hagler brand.
The Hollycraft Brooch
The rarest brooch in Adam’s collection is a brooch by The Hollywood Jewellery Manufacturing Company, known as Hollycraft. With gold bands sprinkled with tiny bejewelled candles and stones of all shapes and sizes, the brooch stands out in the collection.
Adam had seen this brooch featured in books but had never seen it come up for sale. After years of searching, Adam approached Kathy Flood who featured the brooch in her book A Comprehensive Jewellery Guide to Christmas Tree Pins.
Adam asked Flood if she knew of anyone who might sell their Hollycraft brooch. After initial disappointment, an owner of the elusive brooch saw Adam’s appearance on Bargain Hunt and got in touch. They felt the tree should join the record-breaking collection and offered a sale. With only one other copy known to Adam, this might be the rarest Christmas brooch in the world.
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Christmas at Chatsworth: Palace of Advent
Until 7 January 2024
Explore 24 rooms filled with Christmas wonder and the sights, sounds and scents of the season. This ticket includes access to the decorated house, garden light trail and farmyard.
Christmas scene papercut workshop
Inspired by the papercut artwork on display as part of this year's Palace of Advent experience, artist Kim Bevan leads a masterclass in creating your own tunnel book Christmas scene. Includes lunch and access to Christmas in the garden.
Christmas in the garden
Until 7 January 2024
Take a walk around our interactive light and sound trail in the Chatsworth Garden, culminating in a spectacular light show that transforms the house into an advent calendar. Grab hot drinks and snacks on the way round.