Time to #BringBackTheBrooch!
A staple in every woman’s wardrobe, we think it's time to bring back the brooch! Once upon a time, brooches were worn at glamorous coming of age regency balls, pinned to the lapels of 1960’s Chanel jackets, and worn at the neck of ruffled Victorian blouses. Yet, since then, brooches have been lost within the realms of time. However, they are a treasure just waiting to be unearthed. Whether pinned onto the lapel of a blazer, a thick wool coat, a chunky knit or pretty lace blouse, brooches are a great way to accessorise an otherwise dull and drab outfit.
In fact, brooches are multi-dimensional, a versatile sculptural element that can be pinned at the plunging back of a dress, at the centre of a shirt collar, help to accentuate ruching on a dress or skirt, or like the Empress Elisabeth of Austria even worn in the hair.
In fact, in 2019, we saw brooches aplenty on the catwalks of some of the worlds best designers. For instance, at Dior and Chanel, you can easily find monogrammed logo-rich brooches that are a signifier of luxury and wealth, quickly being snapped up by the fingers of the millennial market.
Plus, in our A/W 20 jewellery trends blog, at Elsa Schiaparelli brooches were bedazzled all over ball gowns, emitting plenty of sparkle.
With this in mind, brooches are certainly not antiquated, even if they have been used for thousands of years. Within the antique jewellery world, you can find a plethora of decorative styles, from Etruscan revival micro-mosaic to chunky Golden Citrines, that not only can easily be worn with modern dress, but you can certainly find something that will easily suit both your taste and wardrobe.
Not to mention, brooches are a great way to smarten up an outfit too, a literal statement or a sartorial stamp- a little bit of dressing up never hurt anyone, and it can do wonders for your self-esteem! For instance, you could wear a shamrock brooch into a job interview for a touch of luck, or take inspiration from Blair Waldorf and pin a heart charm onto your arm to show you wear your heart on your sleeve! Or take inspiration from Miu Miu and pin it at the centre of a bandeau top!
But first, let's find out more about the history of brooches.
History of Brooches
Brooches are one of the earliest forms of decorative and utilitarian jewellery. Dating back to ancient times, the first iterations of brooches were pieces of wood that secured clothes together before seams were invented. As these civilisations sophisticated, brooches became more decorative. For instance, early Germanic medieval brooches were dish-designs that were embellished with cabochon gemstones and enamel and before Christianity swept through Europe, Pagan amulet-style brooches were commonplace, with symbolic gems and protective inscriptions.
Bronze Age Brooch, 11th Century BCE, Source - The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Anglo Saxon Brooch Pendants, c.6th Century, Source - The Metropolitan Museum of Art
By the 14th century, brooches had developed to possess the sculptural and artistic designs that characterise these pieces with the first three-dimensional brooch made called the Dunstable Swan Brooch. The Dunstable Swan brooch is a livery badge which historians believe was intended for King Henry V of England, consisting of rare white opaque enamel.
Dunstable Swan Jewel, Gold White and Black Enamel, Source - The British Museum
During the Renaissance, brooches, like most jewellery, were subject to sumptuary legislation laws, being products of the affluent nobility, royalty and liturgy. This meant that the brooches were incredibly opulent, and often heavily embellished in gemstones, pearls and Gold filigree work. Many of these brooches were also ingrained with religious motifs and references, with enamelled miniature portraits of lovers or the kings and queens.
Enamel Gold Ruby Diamond Emerald Pearl Brooch, c.1575-1600, Source - The Victoria and Albert Museum
Plus, due to the Renaissance dress of tight corseted bodice and large skirt, brooches were favourably worn on the front of the dress at the bodice, with thick metal pins to be secured onto weighty fabric.
Portrait of A Young Woman, Hans Holbein the Young, c.1540-45, Source - The Metropolitan Museum of Art
In the 18th and 19th century, brooches waxed and waned in popularity, yet they were still a favourable must-have item in any distinguished woman’s wardrobe. Notably, during and after the French revolution, the demand for opulent jewellery halted due to fears of it being a sartorial signifier of a person’s wealth. However, as technologies progressed, brooches started to be available to the general public, making them a highly coveted item for the rising middle classes.
Diamond Ruby Chrysoprase Openwork Gold Brooch, Guiliano Arthur Alphonse, c.1895, Source - The Victoria and Albert Museum
Brooches were also used as a political statement and stamp, a theme which led to their rise in popularity today. For instance, French supporters of the nobility had a special intertwined double heart brooch that they wore, and in the Suffragette movement, brooches with green, purple and white colours were worn by supporters of the cause. There are many 18th and 19th-century brooch styles, which we will explore further below.
Antique Gold Suffragette Brooch, Source - Lillicoco Sold
During the Edwardian period, brooches were often made in pretty lace-like patterns and were encrusted with pale gemstones of Pearls and Aquamarines, with many distinguished styles crafted from the metal of the moment - Platinum. As World War I broke out, brooches fell out of style due to the dramatic change in dress. Material rationing and the impact of the Rational Dress Movement meant that light diaphanous fabrics became the norm, meaning that brooches were relegated to military medals and emblems.
By the 1920s, the shortening of hemlines, drop waist and looser fit dresses, made brooches more uncommon, yet by the 1930s and 40s the change in women and men’s tailoring briefly brought them back in cheaper materials. From the 1950s onwards, brooches became associated with formal occasions, as everyday casual dress styles sky-rocketed. This meant that brooches quickly became worn by the higher classes and those in positions of power.
In the past 20 years, brooches have changed from being exclusively worn by those who are more traditional, eccentric in taste or from a wealthy background to being reinvigorated by designers and young people as individuality in style is more celebrated. Not to mention, millennials and generation Z are more politically and socially conscious, whether its an interest in vintage dress or wearing a political statement, you can often find enamel pins (a modern interpretation of the brooch) that are, feminist or LGBTQ+ in nature to mention a few. Plus, you can find loads of cutesy enamel pins that can be added to denim and leather jackets and backpacks. Like those in former eras, brooches can be both a fashion and political statement, and is essentially a new way of expressing yourself and your personal style - which is why we think it’s definitely time to bring back the brooch once and for all!
Different Antique Brooch Styles
Like most jewellery, brooches can be found in any antique vintage style, from Arts and Crafts movement to modernist. Yet, there are some distinct antique brooch styles that are widely collectable and are originally antique in origin. Let’s take a look!
Mourning jewellery was very popular in both the 18th and 19th century, as was the custom to honour those passed. Often inlaid with pearls, dark or sepia-toned enamel, jet, hair and miniature portraits, mourning brooches were worn at all occasions, but especially after a bereavement. These brooches were especially popular after the passing of Prince Albert, as Queen Victoria is famously known for wearing mourning dress for the rest of her life.
18th Century French Mourning Brooch, c.1775-1800, Source - The Victoria and Albert Museum
Aigrette brooches were popular during the 17th and 18th century, especially with the fashionable flat cut gemstone styles of the time. These were often openwork feather-shaped brooches that can be worn in the hair or attached to a diadem.
En Tremblant Brooches
En Tremblant brooches are a French antique style as “en tremblant” translates to “to tremble”. These brooches are usually a floral spray with foiled rose-cut or old mine cut Diamonds, with mechanisms that would “tremble” as the wearer walked. Plus, it is exciting when you think of how these brooches would have looked at the time, designed to come alive in candlelit ballrooms.
Grand Tour Brooches
Grand tour brooches encompass brooches that were collected by young gentleman and gentlewoman on their tours around Europe. Often picked up in Venice, Florence and Rome, these brooches were micro-mosaic in style with pictorial scenes in pietra dura and glass tessera.
Cameo brooches are a subset of the popular Cameo jewellery in the 18th and 19th century. Intertwined with the love for neoclassicism, cameo jewellery was a favourite of Queen Victoria, hence why it was so fashionable! Cameo brooches could portray either real or allegorical figures from ancient myths.
Sweetheart brooches are a form of collectable Victorian jewellery that was lightweight and affordable to make, hence why you can easily find them on antique markets and websites. Sweetheart brooches are brooches made from a sheet of metal and are decorated with motifs, messages and rose Gold and Yellow Gold details. These motifs and messages were often commissioned to commemorate the receiver, often with declarations of love or their name engraved into the brooch.
Dress clips were a popular form of brooch in the 1920s and 1930s. As day and evening wear dress became more separate, these clips were designed for a woman’s transitional wardrobe. They consisted of one large brooch that could be detached to form two separate clips, and these clips could be pinned to straps of gowns, necklines, collars and cuffs.
We have written about the fascinating history of stick pins in our little history of stick pin blog earlier this year. Stick pins were essentially a form of brooch that was used to help secure a gentleman’s cravat, yet there were other iterations of these pins too. For example, a Fichu pin was specifically created to secure a lightweight French lace scarf, and a beauty pin was a petite style of pin that secured lace, veils, cuffs and hats.
Bar brooches are an elegant and timeless brooch design that was popular during the late Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco periods. A horizontal brooch, these were often intricate or simplistic in design, with Diamonds, calibre cut gemstones, mill grained settings and enamel.
Antique Gold Opal Bar Brooch, Source - Lillicoco
Bodice brooches are a type of antique brooch that was popular during the heavy corsetry and voluminous petticoat-heavy dresses of the Edwardian, Victorian and early Georgian. These brooches were actually sewn directly onto the bodice of a garment.
Russian Diamond Bodice Ornaments, c.1760, Source - The Victoria and Albert Museum
An esoteric design, Sevigne brooches peppered the bodices of 17th and 18th-century French women, after a fashionable young woman the Marquise du Sevigne, wore this brooch herself. The Sevigne brooch is known for being an elaborate thick bow brooch with two dangling and moveable “ribbons” at the end.
A jabot pin is a bejewelled brooch pin that has two decorative ends with the pin exposed in the middle. This pin was originally used to secure a ruffled piece of fabric in the 17th century, yet there was a revival in the 1920s and 1930s, as these pins accrued a more striking and architectural look.
Our Lillicoco Antique Brooch Picks!
If you agree with us, then why not embrace the brooch with these antique styles? Here are our top brooch picks.
This antique Pearl crescent brooch is fulfilling our celestial jewellery dreams! Celestial jewellery doesn’t show any signs of slowing down in fashion trends, and we can see why. Rich in ethereal and whimsical connotations, outer space continues to enthral those both spiritually and scientifically inclined.
This brooch is crafted from 15ct Gold and is studded with Pearls. Not only would it suit the lapel of a navy or cream blazer, but we think it would look divine with a chunky cream knit in the winter or a black bias cut slip dress in the evening.
Truthfully, we simply don’t understand why this Amethyst brooch hasn’t sold yet, and it is the perfect piece to embrace bring back the brooch, just because it is so unique. Painted gemstones were not only a rarity but with this fine detail, it was clearly an art form too. The Amethyst is a whopping 18.95ct and it's snuggled within a textured 15ct Gold frame.
The painted flowers in the centre are perfect for anyone wanting to embrace their whimsical side and is ideal for spring and summer wear. Because of its size and majesty, this brooch is a statement piece, so wear at the centre of a shirt collar or to the races. In fact, we think this brooch would also look great pinned to an oversized denim jacket!
A more understated piece, but nonetheless very pretty in design, this Victorian 15ct Gold Coral cannetille brooch would look lovely with a lace blouse, dress or shawl. The Coral has beautiful diamond-shaped criss-cross carvings giving it texture and depth, and the cannetille swirls give this piece a delicate feel.
When looking at this brooch, we instantly see summer! Why not wear this brooch to a summer soirée or christening? The naturalistic look of the Coral makes it also a great piece to wear out for dinner on holiday, pairing perfectly with other Coral and Pearl jewellery.
Did someone say Portuguese Paste!? Yes please! Portuguese gemstone jewellery is a cut above the rest (literally!), as the way they foil and cut the gems is in itself exquisite. This brooch, in particular, is crafted from black dot Paste gems, which is a hallmark of high-quality craftsmanship.
The Paste gemstones are cut in a tapered fashion, which naturally creates the curved eye-shape when placed together. The geometric details in the Gold, are rosy in hue, which complements the silvery glow of the foiled Paste gems perfectly.
One of the reasons why we love this foiled Paste brooch is that it will come alive in candlelight, so wear this pretty to weddings, or a romantic candlelit dinner. For the latter, why not pin this brooch at the centre of a cowl neck dress, within your hair or wear as a choker like our photo above?
We had to include this piece in our selection just because of how timeless and classic this is! Bar brooches are infinitely wearable, and the striking black Enamel with the bright Diamonds and 18ct Gold settings is as glamorous as can be!
Plus, with each Diamond being individually cut, it gives this piece boundless amounts of antique charm. The best thing about the refined and understated design is that it can be worn at all occasions, and will look stunning on a black blazer. In fact, it would also suit being paired with other bar or small brooches for a clustered look. When combining brooches in this way, choose pieces that can fuse together harmoniously through similar colours, metals or gemstones.
If you want a worthy investment, then this antique Gold bar brooch should certainly take your fancy. Not only is this piece understated, elegant and infinitely wearable, but it can also be customised to your liking as the dog clip invites a pretty charm, fob, medal or pendant.
The attractive warm blush finish on the 9ct Gold is modern in appearance, seamlessly fitting in with the Rose Gold jewellery trend. When styling this brooch, there are endless options available. Blazers, white shirts, silk dresses, thick knits and turtlenecks all come to mind!
One of the most sought after gemstones in the world, Imperial Topaz is exceptionally rare, so you can imagine our delight when we came across this brooch pendant. Both a beauty and a beast, this brooch is crafted within the Georgian era and has a combined carat weight of 19.45ct.
This brooch is a literal sunshine, from the bright honey glow to the design, just adding this brooch to any outfit will instantly dress it up and bring you pleasure.
Plus, many brooches like this one can also be worn as pendants. Another reason why we should certainly bring back the brooch!
On this piece, a big Gold chunky jump ring allows for luxurious Gold chains. Just wear with a white silky dress, Citrine and Golden beryl jewellery to feel like a goddess!
Pink Paste is divine, and very collectable in the antique world - and you can see why! Epitomising feminine elegance, this pink Paste brooch will look lovely with just about everything. The oval design offers refined wear, and it can be worn either horizontally or vertically.
Because its pink, this sugar-toned brooch would be a lovely present for a friend who has just welcomed a new baby girl, or as a treat for yourself!
The Sterling Silver settings make this brooch suitable for both casual and formal occasions, and as bright and pastel tailoring has become the norm within fashion - you can easily add this to a pastel pink, purple or mint blazer.
Another brooch that would look fabulous with a pink blazer, this antique shamrock Opal brooch can give you a dosage of luck from morning until night.
Let's be honest, the Opals in this brooch are gorgeous, and the petite old cut Diamond is just *chefs kiss* perfection! Poised upon an elegant bar brooch, this Opal shamrock can elevate your outfit to new heights. Because of its daintiness, you can easily secure this piece to more diaphanous fabrics like chemise 1970’s shirts, and lace blouses.
Do you want to #BringBackTheBrooch? Show us how you would wear antique brooches in your modern dress! Tag us on Instagram so we can see your looks!