Whether pinned to the lapel of a tailored blazer or adorning a chignon, a vintage brooch brings a subtle hint of refinement. As a collectible, brooches are more than simple fashion accessories — they are treasures worth understanding and caring for.
Diversify your collection with pieces of different styles, materials, and eras. This will help ensure that your brooches retain their value and versatility.
Whether you’re pining one to your lapel or pinning it into the centre of a hat, a brooch is a stylish accessory that adds a touch of elegance. Originally, these decorative jewels were used to signify love and friendship or were adorned with foliate designs or animals.
The popularity of these adornments grew as jewellery designers embraced the movement known as naturalism. This approach to design entailed a detailed manifestation of flowers, trees, and wildlife. Rene Jules Lalique is often associated with this style.
In the Victorian Era, the brooch made a transition to darker motifs. These included mourning brooches that featured engravings of loved ones and a glass panel to store locks of hair. In contrast, the Art Nouveau period embraced free flowing sinuous lines and represented nature, the female form and plique a jour enamel (which lets light shine through). This movement is best exemplified by the work of Froment-Meurice and Lalique.
Whether covered in gemstones or etched with intricate images, antique brooches are available in an array of shapes and styles. From the fibula – a circular pin-like brooch from antiquity – to the more ornate adornment of the modern day, these accessories are back in style.
Brooches can be dated by their clasp mechanisms, with the early T-bar hinge and c-clasp types usually dating from the 19th Century up to 1920s. Also look out for the longer pin stems that are used in older pieces – this is a good indicator of age.
Another interesting mechanism is the en tremblant, which is named after a French phrase meaning ‘to quiver’. These brooches were fashionable between the 17th and 18th centuries and typically resembled a flower spray or were set with rose-cut and old-mine cut diamonds to really show off their movement.
Vintage brooches are made from precious metals, colourful gemstones, fine enameling and carving. They can be pinned to hats, scarves, overcoats, ball gowns, sashes and belts or worn as pendants.
The earliest brooches had a practical function as they secured clothing with straight pins. These evolved into the Roman fibula which has a curved top that allows the sprung pin to hook into itself forming a secure closure.
Antique en tremblant or trembling brooches are set with stones that have been crafted to quiver when touched. These were very popular in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Small dress clips that can be transformed into a brooch are known as duettes. These clever mechanisms were often designed in popular materials like Bakelite and pot metal. They feature a hidden bale on the back that can accept a chain. The branded version of these was the Coro Duette which was first made in the 1930s.
The inherently precious and rare nature of gemstones boosts the monetary value of brooches that feature them. Their storied histories lend a narrative to each piece that resonates with collectors and drives demand.
Intricate craftsmanship and design ingenuity also contribute to the monetary worth of antique brooches. A discerning eye can identify clean goldwork, competent enamel and precise stone settings. Excess solder, porous castings and bulbous prongs can indicate poor quality.
A hallmark or maker’s mark can help identify the date of manufacture for a vintage pin. Research the specific time period to understand its design language and societal influences. These insights will help you connect a brooch’s style to its historical context. This makes it easier to appraise its overall value.
Brooches require special care to maintain their beauty and value. Regular cleaning helps protect them from abrasive substances that can damage them. It’s also important to store your brooches in a dry place to prevent moisture from damaging them.
Whether you choose to wear your vintage brooch in your hair, pinned on a scarf, or as a necklace pendant, these versatile accessories can elevate any outfit. They are especially beautiful when worn on the lapel of a blazer or jacket, where they can draw attention and add sophistication to your look.
Invest in brooches from different eras and materials to diversify your collection and increase their value. Choose well-crafted pieces with intricate designs, as these will be more valuable than simple or poorly made brooches.