History of the Brooch

Jewellery is one of the oldest forms of body adornment.  The earliest type of brooch was probably a thorn that man wore to hold together a piece of cloth that covered his body.

As man evolved, so did the brooch.  From the beginning, its practical use was made from natural materials such as bone, shell, wood and carved stone.  As civilisation progressed, brooches were slowly refined by craftsmen using more precious and higher quality metals.  By the 1400's, gem stones were encrusted in brooches. Brooches were used to show wealth and status and were worn more as an accessory than for practicality.

As time went by, the use of precious stones such as Diamonds, Rubies and Sapphires were used and the brooch was further lifted as an accessory for the more privileged and higher classes.

Uncut Rubies and Sapphires

The process of making glass jewellery became popular in the 1800s and its popularity was mostly due to the work a French jeweller called Georges Frederic Strass who invented imitation gemstones.  He is best known as the inventor of the Rhinstones, so called because of a particular type of glass he found in the river Rhine.  Strass was appointed, "Jeweller to the the King" and was in great demand at the court of King Louis XV of France.  Today, his paste jewellery has become extremely valuable although in general paste jewellery is relatively worthless.

The Victorian era saw the tight bodice of dresses perfect for brooches.  Carved cameo brooches were brought into fashion by Queen Victoria.  Cameos were made of shell, carnelian and Wedgwood ceramic.  Fashion for hair jewellery became very popular as a personal gift, a token of love and affection and was also used as mourning jewellery. Hair was woven into pins and brooches as well as lockers and wristbands often set with gemstones covered with a glass dome.

Most brooches used C Clasps up until about 1900.  Around this time, the locking C clasp was invented which used a locking mechanism to keep the pin from falling away from the C.  Most brooches made today use some version of the locking C Clasp.

By the 1920s costume jewellery was introduced.  Synthetic materials brought the price of artificial jewellery within reach of most people.   Since it was inexpensive, it had the advantage over precious jewellery that when styles changed it could be discarded.  The French dress designer Coco Chanel loved costume jewellery.  The manufacture of Bakelite a substitute for materials such as wood, marble horn and amber, gradually became appreciated in its own right as a major component in costume jewellery.

The most versatile jewellery accessory of the Art Deco period was the brooch.  Not only was it used as a corsage ornament but it also adorned belts, hats and shoulders.  Almost every jeweller offered brooches designed on the theme of the bouquet of stylised flowers or basket of fruit and fountain motif.

The Cocktail Brooch

And so the 1940s and 1950s saw the demure cocktail brooch, the 1960s and 1970s saw the kitsch pop art brooch.  Nowadays the brooch is a chic piece that can bring class and elegance to any outfit bringing even the dullest of outfits to life!

Vintage Gollywog Brooch that my Daddy bought me years ago...