brooching the subject. . .
The brooch has been enjoying renewed interest over the last few years. From its utilitarian roots in the Bronze Age to today’s beautiful designs in precious gems and metals, the brooch has seen its popularity rise and fall. Today, though, we can definitely say that it is worth brooching the subject of this type of adornment.
By Cynthia Unninayar
From their humble beginnings as unassuming utilitarian pins during the Bronze Age, brooches slowly evolved to become more ornamental in nature, crafted with myriad decorative techniques. By the Byzantine Era, they were crafted in precious metal and adorned with colorful gems and pearls. The elite of this era wore them, not only to functionally secure clothing, but also to display elaborate artisanship, opulence and wealth.
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 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.
During the 1940s, brooches grew larger and more three-dimensional, and in the 1950s, evoked largely freestyle flower designs. But, by the end of the 1960s, the popularity of brooches was in decline. Over the next three decades, they were hardly worn, with a few exceptions, notably by the Queen of England and Margaret Thatcher.
Brooches gained renewed awareness after the turn of the 21st century, brought to the attention of mass audiences by Carrie Bradshaw in the long-running TV series, Sex and the City. In 2009, former USA Secretary of State Madeleine Albright published her book Read My Pins, which explored the use of brooches as a means of personal and diplomatic expression, thus strengthening their popularity.
Today, brooches are definitely en vogue, coming in a variety of designs and materials. Popular motifs are flowers, butterflies, birds and assorted marine creatures, although just about everything goes. The way they are worn is also limitless, and can be seen on the lapel, in the hair, on belts and so much more. With the addition of a chain, brooches can also be worn as pendants, among other design possibilities.
Presented here are a few examples of antique and vintage brooches as well as a selection of bold and beautiful modern pieces, all definitely worth brooching the subject.