Worn in the hair, around the neck, or on the jacket or piece of clothing, the brooch has prevailed as a symbol of refinement and has a long history that dates to the Bronze age. These days, however, antique brooches have transformed into more than just a beautiful fashion statement: they are accessories of distinction, worthy of understanding and observation.
So, what is a brooch exactly and how has it evolved over the years? In the modern world, antique brooches add a touch of elegance and personality. Women can dress up an outfit with a unique piece of jewelry that also serves as a true reflection of their personal style. While these accessories may have been overshadowed by other trending pieces of jewelry in the past like antique watches and pendant necklaces, recent years have brought a wave of popularity for these signature works of art. What we've learned is that vintage brooches are here to stay. Read more to learn about the fascinating history, style, and evolution of the brooch over time.
A Brief History of the Brooch
As an ornamental clasp that includes an attached pin for affixing it to the garment, hat, hair, turban, whose body may have any form, the vintage brooch is perhaps the oldest form of jewelry. Importantly, the brooch can often be seen as objects of important chronological indicators, as they vastly changed with each new decade and period. From meaningful mourning brooches to stunning 20th century brooches with precious gems, these pieces capture style and personality unlike any other accessory.
Though primarily considered an ornamental piece today, the gemstone brooch began as a strictly functional and utilitarian item used to secure items of clothing. Fundamentally put, brooches didn't start out as striking jewelry objects. Instead, the first documented traditional brooches hail from the Bronze Age and were crafted of simple, unassuming materials like flint, thorns, and base metals. This unassuming vintage brooch would consist of a simple pin, fastened into a circular ring. In Northern Europe, the brooch was in fact a characteristic clothing accessory, used to secure and fasten heavy cloaks and tunics during the heavy winters.
The Ornamentation Begins
When did brooches start becoming more ornamental, crafted solely for wardrobe adornment? In other words, when did brooches become a piece of jewelry? Over the centuries, craftsmen became more skilled at developing intricate decorative techniques. First seen in the Byzantine Era, brooches were now cloaked with gemstones, enameling, and pearls. In this period, clergymen and the elite were consumed with a desire for opulence, and their brooches, while still acting as a functional item to fasten clothing, now displayed a level of elaborate artisanship that made them a status symbol.
Did you know? Though finally evolving into an ornamental jewelry item, the origin of the brooch object can be traced back all the way to the Bronze Age where Vikings and Celtics flaunted unadorned pins used to fasten together cloaks and other items of clothing.
The Victorian Era
The Victorian Era, 1837-1901, not only encompassed massive social and economic changes in Great Britain, but also ushered in new jewelry styles, craft techniques, and trends. Motifs such as snakes and serpents and more gemstones, such as garnets, sapphires, and diamonds were incorporated into jewelry items, especially brooches with precious stones.
The popularity of brooches reached a pinnacle during the 19th century with the iconic reign of Queen Elizabeth II. The young queen, who had a strong affinity for brooches, was seen topping her outfits with sapphire and diamond-encrusted brooches. So great her influence that admirers all over the world began copying her style – and jewelry firms aimed to feed the connoisseurship.
Though the 20th century saw little likeness towards the brooch, the 21st century has ushered a strong comeback for the brooch. Thanks to their versatility and limitless design possibilities, the antique brooch has captured the attention of high-end jewelry designers and is now included in their most important collections. With the greatly increased interest in this newly-rediscovered jewelry item, artists and jewelry firms have incorporated brooches with precious stones into their highly-coveted designs.
In fact, the popularity of brooches is entirely evident in the activity of auction houses. Just this year, a mesmerizing ruby and diamond brooch by Boucheron realized just over $2 million in auction, and in December 2017, a charming diamond bow antique brooch by Cartier sold for just under $500,000 at auction.
Different Types of Brooches
The term "brooch" signifies any ornamental or functional clasp with an attached small pin to be affixed to an item of clothing, scarf, or hat. However, it is an all-encompassing term that include a variety of different types. Read below to learn about the most popular varieties of brooches and their specific characteristics.
A French term meaning “to tremble,” this brooch term was first used in the 18th and 19th century to describe this particular type of jewelry setting, known as a “trembler,” that allows parts of the brooch to move with the wearer.
Perhaps the most traditional form of decorative brooch, cameos feature carved relief image of a figure, often depicting a relative or significant other. The cameo brooch is among some of the most famous vintage brooches in our collection today. Not only do they add a decorative piece of jewelry to any outfit, but they also serve as the perfect accessory with a personal touch.
A type of brooch that features foliate designs of flowers crafted diamonds and colored gemstones. The spray brooch combines precious gems with and designs inspired by nature to create a unique accessory that can be worn for any occasion.
Though traditionally known as a gold or silver hat or hair ornament, this type of brooch is shaped like an egret plume and is often set with small gemstones or colored enameling.
A type of decorative brooch that is typically long or vertically shaped and consists of a single small pin with two decorative ornaments, one on each side of the pin. The lower side is detachable, allowing the connecting pin to be slipped through the garment.
Product Spotlight: Animal Brooches
The wonders of the animal kingdom have long been a source of fascination and inspiration for artists across nearly every imaginable discipline. In the 19th century, however, animal representation was sprouting up all over the world as audiences and jewelry connoisseurs alike had an appetite for both the beautiful in nature and its wild, exotic qualities. Jewelry firm giants such as David Webb, Cartier, and Tiffany & Co., harnessed this new-found interest and led the way in creating brooches to match the popularity of the diverse creatures found in nature. Brooches and pins are among some of the vintage Cartier jewelry pieces that are the most sought after.