The word ‘brooch’ actually comes from the Old French word ‘broche’, meaning ‘long needle’, but the decorative jewellery item is much, much older. Brooches were crafted in fine, precious metals, embellished with precious stones and created in shapes to suit the tastes and interests of the wearer. Many designs were inspired by nature, so animal lovers could choose a bird, dog or cat brooch, if they so desired, along with flowers, leaves and insects sometimes in silver and gold. Other popular designs down the years have included bows, crescents and geometric patterns, sometimes jewel-encrusted, sometimes not, depending on the jewellery trends of each period.
Arts and Crafts jewellers rejected the uniformity of mass-produced, machined gemstones in favour of natural, hand-crafted jewels. Antique brooches from this period feature the so-called ‘C’ clasp, which was used prior to the invention of the safety clasp, which locks the brooch pin into position, in 1910. Costume jewellery was introduced in the early nineteenth century, bringing the price of synthetic brooches within range of the man in the street. However, Art Deco – characterised by bold, geometric shapes, strong colours and, in the case of jewellery, densely clustered gemstones – became the dominant decorative style of the Twenties and Thirties and, by the early Thirties, gold was, once again, in fashion.
In recent years, the boundaries of jewellery have been constantly redefined but, after a brief hiatus at the end of the twentieth century, the brooch has undergone a revival and is, once again, on the style agenda. So, if you’re inspired by the brooches of Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Victoria or Elizabeth Taylor, you can rest assured that you’re in good company. The brooch remains a timeless piece of jewellery, which makes a bold, even provocative, statement about your fashion sense, and breathes life into any outfit. A brooch can be worn in the traditional way, below the neckline, on the lapel or breast of a jacket, on the front, or back, of a low-cut evening dress, or even in your hair. Forget any notion that the brooch is dowdy or old-fashioned; worn correctly, a brooch can give your wardrobe a fresh, modern look. Vintage brooches also make classic, feminine gifts for your friends and loved ones.