Bold, beautiful, and definitely back
During the last few years, we have seen renewed interest in the brooch. From its utilitarian roots dating back to the Bronze Age to today’s spectacular designs in precious gems and metals, the brooch has seen its popularity wax and wane. Today, though, the brooch is definitely back.
By Cynthia Unninayar
The Art Nouveau period ushered in the arrival of brooches featuring stylized flora and fauna, including insects with translucent enamel wings. (Photo: Gemolithos)
Nymphs and feminine figures were popular motifs in the Art Nouveau period. (Photo: Lang Antiques)
From their humble beginnings as unassuming utilitarian pins during the Bronze Age, brooches evolved over the centuries to become more ornamental in nature, crafted with myriad decorative techniques. By the Byzantine Era, they were made in precious metal and adorned with colorful gems and pearls. The elite wore them, not only to functionally secure clothing, but also to display elaborate artisanship, opulence and wealth, making the brooch a status symbol.
Moving ahead a few centuries, brooches in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were pinned all over the clothes as decorations. In the 18th century, they evolved into single large stomacher designs that covered the entire center of the chest.
Along with new jewelry trends and techniques ushered in during the Victorian Era, brooches took on designs as divergent as cameos, flower sprays, crescents, stars and serpents. As the 19th century moved into the 20th, the Art Nouveau period saw the arrival of enameling with motifs evoking femininity, flowing lines and Nature’s creatures, especially nymphs and insects with translucent plique-à-jour enamel wings.
Art Deco soon replaced Art Nouveau and, in the 1920s and 1930s, brooch designs became more linear and geometric. They were worn on all parts of clothing, including hats, belts, lapels, on the shoulder and in the hair.