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 Fibula, The Braganza Brooch 250BC – 200BC, Viking 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.
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…