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Penghana's Charming Story

Chief Giddy Aunt was beside herself with Giddiness recently when she stayed in an Historic B&B in Tasmania and was told an amazing jewellery story by B&B owner Karen Nixon. Karen loves charming jewellery as much as we do and was happy for us to share her story here:

"Penghana at Queenstown has a significant past. The home was built in 1898 by the Mt Lyell Mining and Railway Company for its General Manager Robert Carl Sticht and his wife Marion who had come from the USA in 1895. Penghana is a grand Federation influenced residence with grand proportions.

The Stichts lived in the house for some 23 years. Robert Sticht goes down in history for his mining techniques. During his time at Mt Lyell, he was considered a powerful man, even more powerful than Tasmania's Premier! Robert died in 1922 and his wife Marion in 1923. After Robert's death, Marion had to vacate the house to make way for the next General Manager and his family. The Sticht's fortunes had taken a plunge so Marion's destination was a small dirt floor shack on property they held at Balfour in Western Tasmania. This property was expected to bring them riches and give them and their family a lifestyle similar to what they had become accustomed to at Penghana. This included a household staff, entertaining powerful and successful people and all the finer things in life, art, music, books, travel, possessions and more. However the outcome was far from this vision.

When Marion left Penghana for Balfour her maid of many years, Ethel stayed with her as her health was extremely poorly. It was only a matter of months before Marion was moved by her eldest son, to Melbourne for further medical attention. It was here we believe Marion gifted her priced possession to Ethel. This priced possession was a handmade 15ct gold opera length chain with some 27 charms of personal significance. These included a baby's tooth capped in gold, a thimble, a disc with Tasmania in pink enamel and a diamond at Queenstown, both their initials and a date 1895 - 1905 which we now know was their 10th wedding anniversary year.

The necklace was gifted as Marion was unable to pay for devoted care she received from Ethel leading up to her death.

Many years later the necklace came up for auction in Melbourne and was purchased by a lady who kept it for many years before presenting it to an Antique Dealer and selling it to him over the counter and that was some 25 years ago.

The necklace has never been worn since. It has been sitting in a safe in northern Queensland.

The new owner and his mother were very curious about the history of the necklace and so started to examine it closely. Remember this was in the days before Google. They were able to easily determine from the 'makers marks' that the necklace was made in Tasmania as were many of the charms. They were able to establish that the necklace belonged to a Mrs. Sticht, but had no idea of the significance of the piece.

Back in April this year the current owner of the necklace was visiting Queenstown as a tourist and enjoying the Wilderness Railway trip. While listening to the commentary and history about how and why the railway was built and its uniqueness, she heard the name "Robert Sticht" and obviously it caught her attention. As she listened she was overwhelmed by the knowledge that what she had in the family safe was of national importance. After speaking one on one with the narrator and other staff on the railway, she was referred to Steve and I at Penghana. We were able to tell her more about this lady of the house and her life here.

Whilst the piece remains safe, National Trust hopes that at a point in the future, it might return to Queenstown for all visitors to enjoy."

Some of the charms on this necklace are still being made today, but some of them are a mystery! If you can share any information about charms you recognise here, or the stories they tell, please comment below - we'd love to know more!

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