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TrueFacet's Fine Jewelry and Watch Guide

Styles Through History: Brooches

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An accessory of function and fashion, the brooch is perhaps one of the oldest forms of jewelry and it’s back. We’ve seen it on the runways of Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel, Les Copains, Carolina Herrara and more, and we are left wondering where this accessory got its start. Keep reading for the history of the brooch.

bronze age brooch

Brooches, at their beginning were used for primarily functional purposes, such as securing pieces of clothing, like a loincloth. Since the pin was only used for a utilitarian purpose, they were originally plain and unadorned, often made of flint or thorns. The first discoveries of the pin fashioned from metals date back the bronze age by the ancient Romans and Greeks.

The accessory didn’t become ornamental until the Byzantines exacted their liking for opulent colors. The pins of the Byzantines were often enameled with bright colors and patterns. Nomadic tribes carried this along trade routes and found its way as far west as Britain. While the pin was still used for function over form, the enameled brooches allowed for the transition to an ornamental accessory.

brooch 16th century

As brooches and pins were increasingly unnecessary for fastening clothing, they increased in size and served an ornamental purpose. As jewelry was an object of status, these brooches became decorated with gemstones and crafted in fine metals. The pieces became an accessory jewelers created in shapes of animals, flowers, geometric patterns and cameos.

The brooch alternated between ornate, gem-focused designs and open-work metal designs, depending on the jewelry trends of the period. In the 20th century, brooches were primarily worn below the neckline near the breast. However, the brooch lost favorability at the end of the century.

d&g brooch

Now, in the 21st century, the brooch is making a comeback after a brief dormant period. The newest trends are primarily costume-grade, but that doesn’t mean losing the opulence and creativity that brought brooches to the fashion scene centuries ago.

Fashion designers have interpreted the brooch look as oversized, gem-set flowers, insects and animals in multiples. Others have taken to a solitary, statement brooch. Whatever your preference, there’s a way to make this ancient trend your own today.

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