Monday, November 16, 2015

Brooches, Fibulae, Badges...Do you Pin?

Do you wear brooches? I've been making a few just lately but when I look around this jewellery design community of ours brimming as it is with earrings, bracelets and necklaces - brooches seem to be much fewer and farther between despite probably being one of the oldest forms of jewellery known to man. Granted their original purpose was a functional means to fasten clothing (a step up from thorns, wood, bone and flint) but they were prevalent in all cultures which, as you can see from the examples below clearly considered form as well as function from very early on.

Bronze Bow FibulaThe Braganza Brooch 250BC - 200BCViking Penannular brooch

Brooches have at times acquired cultural significance such as with these mourning brooches worn as jewels of remembrance. Worn close to the wearers heart the brooch on  the left from the late 1800's depicting a ladies hand holding a berry bouquet and rose wreath would honour a loved one who had passed away. In the Victorian language of flowers berries signify sorrow and roses love.

In England in the 1850s fine hair brooches were produced with ornate weaving and subject matter and often worn by widows of the Crimean war.

Military badges were often reproduced as brooches and given to the wives and girlfriends of soldiers when they were away from home. This Sweetheart brooch is a from World War One and depicts a Hart lodged in water, the emblem of the Hertfordshire Yeomanry and off my home county.

If I could pick a brooch from any period in time it would have to be one of the glorious Art Nouveau nature inspired pieces by Renee Lalique - such wonderful detail and sumptuous colour...sadly that will only ever be a pipe dream.

So why do brooches seem to be out of favour these days or am I just imaging it..? I have a fair few of them myself  most of which I have inherited including these two sterling silver favourites...

I used to wear these and others a lot when I had a job in the real world that involved me wearing business suits and heavy coats to commute in. They were a great way of livening up the formality of these outfits which I found boring and restrictive. Now I rarely wear the sort of clothes that suit brooches and often find that soft, fluid modern fabrics are not suitable for heavier styles of brooch.

To see if this was just me I asked around the AJE group and opinion was somewhat split and whilst a few love them, many of my team mates said they never wore brooches. Jenny offered up this lovely selection from her own collection which she describes below...

1. Art Nouveau pin I adore too much to wear...inherited from a grandmother I think. 2. Native American inlay. Sun symbol/kachina- so I think Hopi. Also had this since I was a kid. 3. Recent acquisition. Sterling goddess Tara which has a pendant converter... why don't I wear this!? 4. Blast from the past. Enamel and sterling genie lamp pin. From the summers I taught teaching jewelry making at a fine arts camp - circa 1990.

Jenny also made these brooches as part of her senior year college thesis and you can clearly see the influence of the ancient styles here. One traditional penannular (open circle) and one more modern interpretation created through lost wax casting and fabrication and set with Moonstones and Garnets.

Caroline is definitely a big fan and has this collection of brooches that she inherited from her Grandmother.

The fact that we all have inherited pieces in our collections does seem to point to brooches being something of a blast from the past but that's not to say that there aren't modern examples to be had if you want them.

As I mentioned I've been making a few brooches of late and this has come about through my new passion for bead embroidery. I often start this work without really having an idea of what it's going to become and sometimes get to a point where I think adding loops or bails is going to spoil the design. I like the simplicity of these pieces when they stand alone and adding a brooch pin creates a little work of art with nothing to distract from it.

Apart from their pleasing aesthetics these beaded brooches also have the added advantage of being very light and since they have an informal style I find they are much easier to wear with my casual wardrobe. They can even be pinned to textile bags for an extra little decoration.

This little fellow was not actually planned as a brooch but when I made a larger version of this felted acorn Diana asked if I could scale it down and I did. He's now on his way to the USA to grace her winter coat.

Caroline has also been making felted brooches - these adorable little hares can be found in her new shop.

And one of out teams Bead work queens Lindsay has a whole host of beaded brooches just a few of which are shown here (click on the photo to see more)...

From a quick search on Pinterest it would seem that textile bases brooches are very popular so maybe I'm not the only one who like the practicality and informality of them. But if that's not you style then there are still contemporary designs to found in other mediums like these in Polymer clay, ceramic and enamelled metal...

So where do you stand on brooches?Do you have a favourite you wear all the time or a pile in your jewellery box that haven't seen the light of day in years. Maybe it's time we all showed our brooches a little more love!


  1. I love brooches - they are what enticed me to the western costume jewellery world. Though I dont wear them much now, I remember a period in 2010-2011 where I was wearing felt/fabric brooches almost everyday

  2. I have quite a few brooches, from before I became a jewelry artist. I MAKE pendants from polymer clay, but I PIN BROOCHES to get design ideas. Brooches are more "complete" than most pendants. All of the "vectors" in a brooch add up to zero. Brooches are quiet and satisfying. They hold the eye, instead of directing it elsewhere. I have FOUR pin boards of brooches, all to inspire my pendants.

  3. I also love brooches but I don't wear them. Most of my clothers would not hold up to it, either either being soft cotton jersey, viscose or for the more elegant side, silk or lace (no way that a pins goes there!). But even with more stiff cotton blouses and tops... there is most often a tiny hole that will stay.

    But there are two ways I have seen and also done myself: First are those brooches I can use also as a pendant for a necklace, perfect! Or just a cool collection on handbags ;)

  4. I have a lot of brooches from the days when they were a main staple of a well dressed woman at work. They are sitting in my jewelry box waiting for a comeback. I love your brooches and I declare the day has come to wear them with pride.

  5. Great post, I do love brooches, yours especially! For such simple components you really make them special.

  6. Brooches are one of the main stay of my jewellery making endeavours these days in the form of wire worked shawl pins for my knitting/crochet/felting friends and clients. In fact, I have made more pins in the last 3 years than any other form of jewellery! But that may be because I have exposure to a big shawl creating/wearing clientele. Personally, I love brooches and have inhereted a lot of beautiful pins from female family members of old but find I tend to be a bit too rough to wear them on my shirts - or my other big gaudy pendants clash with a brooch.

  7. My mother loved wearing brooches and I love both wearing and designing brooches to make in various mediums, I even make them for Tai Chi students! When my daughter was young she wore a brooch or even several every day when she was home, in fact she still has a large collection. I was told recently brooches are coming back into fashion but as far as I am concerned they have never been out, though perhap they are a bit different to the ones I would have worn years ago as fabrics and fashion has changed, calling for a lighter more delicate touch!


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