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 sights of the latest high-end jewelry collections, but they are also once again in the spotlight for collectors, 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 may know that brooches were famous for a long time (you may often 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.
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 the daily wear of both men and women and were designed with a distinct level of embellishment that reflected a person’s standing 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 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, well-known form of mourning brooch is one crafted to hold the hair of a loved one. In these, hair is interlaced under glass or crystal, with patterns that signify infinity and gemstones that embody loss and grief.
Another, well-known form of mourning brooch is one crafted to hold the hair of a loved one. In these, 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 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 a device that permits movement when worn. These styles of brooches were designed with old mine and/or rose cut diamonds and were trendy in the 18th and 19th century.
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 a device that permits movement when worn. These styles of brooches were designed with old mine and/or rose cut diamonds 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.
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) was also a favored memento of the Grand Tour. The most appealing cameo brooches from the time portray stories of mythological scenes, legends, or gods and goddesses.
Also known as ‘Sweetheart Brooches,’ love brooches were often the departing gift given by soldiers to their loved ones, as they marched off to World War I. 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 lightweight and were drafted in silver with impressive coatings of yellow and rose gold, these little souvenirs became a treasurable piece to gift or own, for all social classes.
During the 1920s and 1930s, dress clips were paired with the latest style of fashion. Used to decorate the straps of the gowns, dresses, cuffs, and collars, a dress clip was also 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 started to rise, they were often set with other colorful gems as well.
As brooches reached the early 20th century, they became trinkets that were worn for fashion and fun and were less subjected to any social or cultural implications. You could find them in any metal, covered with colorful stones and ornamented with enamel, glass and other decorative materials. In the 21st century, the brooch is making an attractive comeback. The latest styles are costume built, but that doesn’t diminish the affluence and originality that brought brooches into fashion ages ago.
The current fashion landscape has brought brooches into exclusive designs to collect. They are often oversized, complemented with the bright radiance of gemstones, and 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?