Types of Brooches and Their History
Curious about the history of brooches? Brooches can be worn with many types of clothing and often symbolize more than just a pin. Read on to learn the history of the most interesting and understated accessory — the brooch.
The Evolution of the BroochWorn in the hair, around the neck, on a jacket or piece of clothing, the brooch pin has prevailed as a symbol of refinement. The brooch’s long history dates to the Bronze age, however, these days antique brooch pins have transformed into more than just a beautiful fashion statement: they are accessories of distinction, worthy of understanding and observation.
As an ornamental clasp with an attached pin for affixing it to any garment, hat, hair, or turban, the vintage brooch is perhaps the oldest form of jewelry. Notably, the brooch can often be seen as objects of important historical indicators, as they have vastly evolved with the changing periods. From meaningful mourning brooches to stunning 20th-century brooches adorned with precious gems, these jewelry pieces capture style and personality unlike any other accessory.
Ancient OriginsWhat is the oldest kind of brooch? Though primarily considered an ornamental piece today, the gemstone brooch began as a strictly functional item used to secure clothing. Fundamentally put, brooches didn't start out as striking jewelry objects. Instead, the first documented traditional early brooches hail from the Bronze Age and were crafted of simple, unassuming materials like flint, thorns, and base metals. This unassuming ancient brooch would consist of a simple pin fastened into a circular ring. In Northern Europe, the brooch was a characteristic clothing accessory used to secure and fasten heavy cloaks and tunics during the heavy winters.
Symbolic BeginningsWhen did brooch design start becoming more decorative, crafted solely for wardrobe adornment? In other words, when did brooches become a piece of jewelry, often made with precious gemstones? 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 luxury and opulence. 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.
The Victorian EraEncompassing the 63-year reign (1837-1901) of Queen Victoria, the Victorian Era was characterized by a long period of peace in the United Kingdom that fostered technological innovations and political advancements. The jewelry from this era carries distinctively charming and elegant features, including elaborate metal work and detailing, floral motifs, cameos and colored gemstones. The advent of the Victorian “New Woman” precipitated the creation of jewelry that reflected the hobbies and even occupations of emerging independent women. Popular men’s lapel or stick pins were soon modified to suit women’s desires.
The popularity of brooches reached its pinnacle during the 20th 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. Her influence was such that admirers all over the world began copying her style – and jewelry firms aimed to feed the connoisseurship.
The 21st century has ushered a strong comeback for the brooch. Thanks to its versatility and limitless design possibilities, the antique brooch has captured the attention of high-end jewelry designers and is now included as a piece in their most important collections. With the increasingly popular interest in this newly-rediscovered jewelry item, artists and jewelry firms have incorporated brooches with precious stones into their highly-coveted designs. Brooches are like artwork that tells a story, so they’re renowned for many reasons.
Types of BroochesThe 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 includes various types. Read below to learn about the most popular varieties of brooches and their specific characteristics and different types of pin brooch clasps.
A French term meaning “to tremble,” this brooch term was first used in the 18th and 19th centuries to describe this particular type of jewelry setting, known as a “trembler,” that allows parts of the brooch to move with the wearer. These brooches typically feature moving wings, such as this dragonfly.
Cameo BroochesThe cameo brooch design is perhaps the most traditional form of decorative brooches, featuring carved relief images of a figure, often depicting a relative or significant other. This type of brooch is among some of the most famous vintage brooches in our collection today, as they often feature classical motifs and stories told within a unique antique setting.
Though traditionally known as a gold or silver hat or hair ornament, aigrette brooches are shaped like an egret plume and are often set with small gemstones or colored enameling. Although this marvelous Art Deco piece features many gemstones, any aigrette brooch symbolizes carefree sophistication.
Jabot PinThe jabot pin brooch is a decorative piece that is typically long or vertically shaped, consisting 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:The wonders of the animal kingdom have long been a source of fascination and inspiration for artists across nearly every imaginable discipline, a particular animal of artistic interest is the turtle. Jewelry firm giants such as David Webb, Cartier, Bucheron and Tiffany & Co., have harnessed this newfound interest and led the way in creating brooches to match the popularity of the mesmerizing turtle shell through carved stone and luminescent gems. As versatile as the reptile itself (able to thrive both in an out of water), these beautiful and playful brooches certainly make a statement.