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25 Nov 2019

Lady Hale knows it, Michelle Obama knows it, Coco Chanel knew it, Her Majesty knows it… brooches never go out of style, says Belinda Morris.

Ok, so their fortunes wax and wane; they have their moments in the spotlight then step aside for chandelier earrings or chunky gold chains. But brooches (or pins as they’re known in the US) will never fade away – they’re just too useful and they have a lot to say. The huge spider brooch worn by Supreme Court president, Lady Hale, when she declared the PM’s prorogation of parliament “void and of no effect” certainly spoke pretty eloquently! “The quiet power of the well-placed brooch” observed Vogue.com.

From left to right: CW Sellors, Kohinoor, Farah Quereshi, Ute Deckerbrooches 1

If the coded message was lost on Tweeters and Instagrammers, the fashion statement wasn’t – apparently there was a significant rush on-line for arachnid brooches… not just in the UK but internationally too. Good news.

Certainly it’s good news for those designers, brands and retailers who love brooches as much as I do. Just as pearls are no longer the sole preserve of an older ‘twin-set’ generation, so brooches deserve a place in any jewellery box. While the Queen demonstrates very neatly that the best position for a brooch (particularly a sizable one) is to the side of a lapel, not on it (where it can make the fabric flop), there are numerous ways to carry one off.

Georg Jensen 'Mobius'

Left: Georg Jensen

In Roman times brooches (known as fibulae) were functional as well as decorative – they held together pieces of cloth wrapped round the body or neck. And while this is not an admission I’d wish my mother to read, I’ve frequently used a brooch to replace a missing button on a jacket or cardigan. Call it laziness if you like; I prefer to think of it as creative quirkiness. I’ve also attached brooches to hats and handbags to (hopefully) charming effect and a brooch over the done-up top button of a white shirt is very chic indeed.

“Fashion is about making a statement, and brooches are a great way to do this, whether that be a statement of glamour, or of individuality,” says Penelope Gilliver, cataloguer from the Jewellery Department at Fellows Auctioneers. “Brooches of considerable age, such as diamond brooches of crescent or star design from the late 19th century, consistently sell well at auction, along with novelty brooches, particularly those designed as animals.”

Rebecca Sellors at CW Sellors agrees. “Since launching the 74-piece House Style collection which featured many brooches (as well as pendants, rings and earrings), inspired by the late Duchess of Devonshire at Chatsworth, we’ve seen an increase in brooch sales,” she says. “I think they’re very much on trend currently, particular anything inspired by nature such as dragonflies, butterflies, spiders etc.”

 Left to right: Fei Lui, Sarah Zuang, Tomasz Donocik brooches 2

“Brooches demonstrate wearability and are not specifically for the more mature lady,” argues designer Fei Liu, who’s been known to sport some pretty dramatic variations himself. “The brooch is actually a very diverse accessory; it can adorn different parts of the body and become a different type of accessory. The brooch has almost replaced the lapel pin as a man’s accessory. There’s no boundary [when it comes to] size, therefore allowing more creativity and personality within the design.”

Designer Tomasz Donocik receives regular private commissions from men for bejewelled brooches (plus Ghurka) buttons. “Interestingly my own brooches from the Stellar Collection were sold to ladies. (I actually designed them for me to wear on my lapel when I do shows, to pep-up my suit jacket).” At SJ Pearls there’s been a resurgence of sales in brooches recently.

Left to right: Boucheron, Pandora, Susan Caplan Michelle Ongbrooches 3

“We’ve been asked to find pieces for the mothers of brides, as well as for 21st birthday gifts,” explains Claire Maymon. “We try to cover all budgets by manufacturing in both 9ct and 18ct gold.”
The scale and sculptural fluidity of Ute Deckers’ jewellery lends itself well to the statement brooch – the latest collection inspired by Japanese calligraphy.

“Controlling the balance of composition through asymmetry and irregularity is an important aspect in my work,” she explains. Farah Qureshi’s bold brooch in polished silver with cream freshwater pearls would also complete a coat, jacket or scarf with style. “Brooches are versatile and effective,” she says. “And they are definitely on trend right now.”

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