In the course of a few seasons, brooches have made a glorious comeback in fashion and the red carpet. Brooches have made a splash in the fashion arena, thanks to their versatility. You can wear them in the hair, on the neck with downward reaching V-backs, fastened to the waistline of a gown or dress or strewn over different jacket styles. Not only have they captured the seats in the latest high-end jewelry collections, but they are also once again in the spotlight for collectors, too, who are on a quest for vintage brooches of all styles and descriptions.
Brooches are playful, phenomenal, pliable accessories worn in numerous cultures throughout the world. You possibly know that brooches were famous for a long time (you may find them among the possessions of your great-grandmother or even grandmother), but were you aware that their origin stretches back as far as the Bronze Age? Read on to discover the history of brooches and learn what’s keeping them popular today!
Early Life of Brooches
It is amazing to know that brooches didn’t start out as just ornaments. Its life began as a functional item that was used to secure pieces of cloth, like underclothes. The first documented brooches were created of thorns and a piece of flint, while the pins found were made from metal dating back to Bronze Age.
However, brooches turn into more attractive pieces by the Byzantine period, although they were still prominently worn as the closure for a shawl or a scarf, which subsequently progressed into more decorative patterns worn to renovate rather than securing the clothing of the day.
Celtic and Viking Brooches
Operated as mantle clasp and carried by Vikings and Celts, the first Celtic brooches were noted in Ireland and Britain in the early phase of the medieval period, appearing as a long pin connected to a ring. The mechanism was simple and clever, as the pin moves around the open ring, letting it pass through without puncturing the cloth. While in the Viking era, brooches were a part of daily wear of men and women both and were designed with a distinct level of embellishment that reflected a person’s stading in society.
Like all kinds of mourning jewelry, brooches were carried to memorialize loved ones that had passed. Though mourning jewelry had been in existence since the 16th century, around the 18th and 19th centuries, mourning brooches moved into a variety of designs and detailing during the peak of their fame. During the Georgian period, they were usually an endowment in the will, to be handed over to the important family and friends. The late 18th century saw these mourning miniatures rising high into fashion. These oval framed brooches, featured beneath glass, sepia sights of grief, attached to ivory, and combined with hair and seed pearls. They were emblazoned with the deceased’s name, birth and death dates, and often had a compartment for a memento, such as a lock of hair.
Another, far and wide known form of mourning brooch is one holding the hair of a loved-one. However not all hair pieces are an emblem of death, as in this perspective, hair is interlaced under glass or crystal, with patterns that signify infinity and gemstones that embody loss and grief.
The most popular association of mourning brooches is with Queen Victoria’s two-decade mourning of Prince Albert. During this time, the evolution of brooches from hair to black jewelry to black made-up and natural gemstones was praised for its sentimental essence.
Featuring feathers patterned and rooted with flat shaped diamonds or garnets in silver, or gold coated silver, the aigrette was top notch fashion through the 17th and 18th centuries and resurfaced again in the 19th and 20th. Decorating the hair, or settled in a coronet, aigrette brooches were often very meticulous, appearing as small birds hovering around a cloud.
A French term ‘En Tremblant’ is used in context to reflect the trembling outlines of the brooch, often a flowery bouquet, where the heart of the flower adheres to an device that permits movement when worn. These styles of brooches were designed with old mine or rose cut diamonds, or both, and were trendy in the 18th and 19th century.
Grand Tour Brooches
To display cultural elegance in the last part of the 19th century, the Grand Tour was the typical European holiday for the upper classes. While roving through Florence, Venice, and Rome, travelers procured these tiny jewelry keepsakes of their journey, the focus of which comprised vintage Roman imagery and vignettes of animals, flowers, and birds.
Grand Tour brooches were chiefly portrayed in two styles: glass tesserae, and pietra dura. In Italian, Pietra dura signifies hard stone, and the process of inlay involves accurate cutting and fixing of semi-precious gemstones such as malachite, aventurine, lapis lazuli, or turquoise to craft sights and themes on a dark background.
The micro tangling technique was used to make birds, landscapes and all styles of floral bouquets and flowers in miniature, created from mosaic glass tessera or bars fixed carefully together.
Dating back to ancient times, the cameo, a beautiful form of a shell or hardstone imprinted in relief were also the part of the mementos of the Grand Tour. The most appealing cameo brooches from the time portray stories of mythological scenes, legends, or gods and goddesses. The best examples of cameo can be identified in which you see layers of gemstone that has been carefully engraved and carved from rigid gems.
Also known as ‘Sweetheart Brooches,’ it was the departing gift given by soldiers to their loved ones as they marched off to World War One. Around the late Victorian artistic era, love brooches were designed from silver sheets and were considered a token of affection, with themes and messages from this sentimental era reflecting motifs from the Roman and Grecian periods.
As these trinkets were light weight and were drafted in silver with impressive coatings of yellow and rose gold, these little souvenirs become a treasurable piece to gift or own for all social classes. Amplified with everything from double hearts and lovebirds and good wishes, these keepsakes seized the times past and lent people the experience and romance of receiving and giving these brooches.
During the1920s and 1930s, dress clip were paired with the latest style of fashion, as it held a very practical design. They made it possible to wear this trinket in more than one way. It would appear as one large brooch that holds a mechanism in the back that allows this piece to be separated and worn as two distinct clips.
Used to decorate the straps of the gowns, the boat-shaped necklines of dresses, cuffs, and collars; a dress clip was designed to embellish accessories such as shoes or even a handbag. Initially these deco clips were crafted in platinum with brilliant diamonds. However, as the popularity of these pieces starts rising, along with diamonds other precious and colorful gems were often set.
As brooches reached the early twentieth century, they became trinkets that were worn for fashion and fun. They were not subject to any social or cultural implication. You can find them in any metal, covered with colorful stones and ornamented with enamel, glass and other decorative materials. You can love the variety of designs they offer from geometric inlays to beautiful fairies, floral bouquets or any other form.
In the 21st century, after a brief period of hiding the brooch is making an attractive comeback. The latest styles are costume built, but that doesn’t diminish the affluence and originality that got brooches into fashion ages ago.
The current scene has brought brooches into exclusive designs to collect. They are oversized, complemented with the bright radiance of gemstones, inspired by natural flowers, insects and animals.
Whatever style you love, there’s a perfect way to seize that vintage trend and charm today.
There are an array of antique and contemporary styles to discover and try. Now that you know the history of brooches, why not take a chance on this timeless accessory?