I have always thought that the vintage brooch was one of the most versatile and collectable pieces of vintage jewellery. Vintage brooches are without doubt available in a much wider range of shapes, patterns and colours that other jewellery. The brooch can be a statement piece, add a splash of colour, be a small point of interest or a bold fashion statement. A brooch makes an easy vintage jewellery gift as you do not have to worry about the size too much. This buyers guide to vintage brooches helps you to sort through the wide choices available and choose the perfect brooch for you.
What are the important things to look for in a vintage brooch?
A brooch is a decorative piece of jewellery, to my mind when choosing a vintage brooch we should look at its age, size, shape, colour, material and quality.
The age of a brooch
With a little effort you can buy vintage brooches from the early 1800s Georgian era and certainly brooches from the Victorian era are relatively plentiful . These antique brooches are wonderful for collectors of antiques and those with an interest in the past but perhpas they are not quite as wearable as vintage brooches from the 20th century. Georgian and Victorian brooches fasten with a C shaped catch which is not as safe as newer styles of catch. An added safety chain would make the brooch less prone to being lost but these are not original to the brooch.
Georgian brooches are usually quite small and plain, you can wear them on very light fabrics including cotton and lace. Victorian ones are much bigger and bolder and best used to heavier fabrics such as tweed, velvet or cord. The sentimental silver brooch from the Victorian era is lighter , these include Mizpah and name brooches as well as brooches decorated with hearts and flowers.
Edwardian brooches and up to circa 1920s are generally lighter in weight and form than Victorian brooches . You can find very stylish art nouveau brooches from this time which are now quite collectible.
Original Art deco brooches and through the 1930s , 1950s and 60s to 1980s are wonderful. Look out for costume jewellery brooches from this time they are most creative in there design and colour and materials.
Size of a brooch
The size of a brooch is important depending upon where you want to wear it. A large brooch needs a heavier material than a small pins type. Some ladies like to place a large brooch to distract the eye from the neck or bust line or to pin together two halves of a gaping blouse. A small brooch may not be noticed immediately and so is best when a more subtle effect is required. Do not rely on a small brooch to keep two pieces of material pinned together , it will probably not be strong enough.
The shape of a brooch
The shape of the brooch is very much a personal choice. You can find abstract and figural brooches. Brooches in strong art nouveau, art deco or modernist styles. One option often suggested by antiques experts is to buy pieces which are typical of their era for example a strong art deco shape for a brooch from the 1920s or something space age from the 1950s.
In general terms the material which a brooch is made dictates its quality and its price. A gold brooch is going to be more expensive than a silver brooch which in turn will cost more than a piece of costume jewellery. Of course there are exceptions to this where a desirable piece of named designer costume can be more expensive than a cheaper light weight gold brooch from the 1970s.
The material that your brooch is made of can also affect its durability. Silver and gold are both strong and long lasting but do take care with some costume jewellery brooches which may not stand up so well to getting wet ( in the rain?) or being dropped ( glass and hard plastics)
As with most things, a good quality vintage brooch will generally cost more than a lower quality piece. What do we mean by quality when it comes to vintage brooches? I think that its more than a designer name, some designer brooches are quite expensive but not good quality. Quality is to do with how well the piece is designed, put together. A vintage diamond brooch with a large poor quality diamond is possibly not as desirable as one with lots of good quality diamonds well designed and well set. With costume jewellery a brooch which has prong set stones is generally better quality than a brooch where the stones are glued in. Hand made pieces of jewellery are normally better quality than mass produced factory made pieces .