Today we think of brooches as a purely decorative item but brooches in their earliest form had a far more important role. In a time before buttons, brooches were used to hold clothing together.
The earliest forms of brooches appeared during the Neolithic period and Bronze Age with straight pins used as closers for clothing. The design evolved as time progressed to the Roman fibula (Latin for brooch). These brooches have a curved top allowing the sprung pin to hook into itself and form a secure closer.
During the late Roman period the penannular brooch was developed, this is formed of a ring with a pin attached. The early brooches would have been rather plain in design but as time progressed they increased in size and decoration became more complex. Zoomorphic designs of animals featured regularly with enamelling used to add colour to the pieces.
During the Viking period, brooches were used not only as a functional device but also to show the status and wealth of an individual.
The practical uses of brooches ceased during the middle ages when brooches transitioned into ornaments used purely for adornment and decoration, ushering a new phase for this jewellery item.
Brooches can be found in an array of designs featuring precious metals, gemstones of every kind, fine enamelling, engraving and carving. Due to their versatile nature, brooches can and have been worn on hats, scarves, overcoats, ball gowns, sashes, belts and even as pendants.
Our reigning monarch Queen Elizabeth II is rarely seen without one of her elegant brooches. Since her coronation in 1952 she has delighted us with creations from the finest of jewellery houses such as Garrard, Boucheron and Cartier to name a few.