Judith’s Brooch?

One of the joys of writing a long-lived series is the community that grows up around it. Which means I get letters like this one—a particularly appropriate post, since June, 2024 is the centenary of when Russell & Holmes were in San Francisco working on the events of Locked Rooms:

Hi Laurie, sort of an odd message, but I have something that feels very appropriate to the Russellverse and would love to send you a few photos.
I am in the vintage costume jewelry business [NOTE: Reborn by Roxy) and do a lot of restorations. A while back I got a lot of brooches for repair and one piece in particular became my new obsession. It’s a large art nouveau sash pin, they were commonly worn at the waist to imitate a belt buckle. This one looked to be brass with a few glass stones and it was marked GLP CO on the clasp. Research told me it was made by George L Paine company, based in Attleboro Mass. which is about an hour out of Boston.
The reason it made me think of you is when I got it, it was nearly black.

It had been in a fire. It made me think of the box of treasure Russell dug up in her mother’s garden in Locked Rooms.
After spending hours with a brass brush I got a lot of the char off, then resorted to a Dremel with dental attachments and now it looks almost perfect, though the stones have scratches on the backs, as though someone tried to pry them out.

It cleaned up so well I decided to acid test it, and the front is 10K gold, which was typical for the company. It’s in remarkable shape for being around 120 years or so old.
I like to think of it as Judith Russell’s brooch, possibly purchased when she and the family were in Boston, taken to California, and perhaps pilfered during the earthquake and great fire, only to find its way to me all these years later.

If you are curious I’d love to send you before and after photos. It is very evocative for me and I thought you might enjoy the story.

Thank you for all your wonderful books, I have enjoyed them for 30 years and reread them constantly,


What about you? Have you ever come across a sign of Russell’s life, intersecting with your own?


  1. Carolyn Korsmeyer on June 29, 2024 at 10:04 am

    What a wonderful story! I have a mourning brooch that was once in my grandmother’s jewelry box and have always wondered who wore it. But it doesn’t seem to suit the taste of either Mary or Judith Russell.

    • Terry Senko on June 29, 2024 at 11:13 am

      Thank you – both Laurie and Roxy – for sharing this interesting story. Rescued treasure allows our minds to create whatever history delights us most. And I’m delighted to think of this piece as Judith’s brooch.

    • Barbara Piper on June 30, 2024 at 11:24 am

      Is that Carolyn Korsmeyer the famous philosophy prof? Laurie — you’re attracting an impressive readership!

  2. Jennifer La Chapelle on June 30, 2024 at 5:19 pm

    What an absolute delight to see the transformation of this charred piece into its final restoration. I have few pieces of inherited jewellery that spark the imagination, with the exception of my paternal grandfathers ring with the name Cobalt emblazoned on it. Cobalt is a small town in Northern Ontario, and although my grandfather spent time on sailing ships on Lake Superior, I have never heard any stories of his having adventures further inland. I did not acquire it, or know if its existence, until my aunt passed away so there is no one to ask. 🙁

  3. Cheré on July 2, 2024 at 4:22 pm

    What great stories, thank you all! I have my grandmother’s ruby ring from approximately 1900 but the only story is that he gave it as her wedding ring.

  4. Susannah Brown on July 15, 2024 at 2:04 pm

    Fabulous brooch! Super restoration Roxy. Thanks for sharing.

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