Supremely eloquent, the brooch can often be the most empowering of all jewellery gestures. For designers, its open form and size – absent the necessity to fit a particular body part – means free creative rein. For wearers, it presents a wonderful opportunity to make a statement, tell a story or simply meet a new friend.
(LEFT) AN 18 KARAT GOLD PLATINUM AND DIAMOND BROOCH, SCHLUMBERGER FOR TIFFANY & CO.. ESTIMATE: 4,000–6,000 USD. (RIGHT) THE DIAMOND MERCURY BROOCH FROM SOTHEBY’S DIAMONDS FEATURES FIVE PEAR-SHAPED DIAMONDS WEIGHING A TOTAL OF 5.29 CARATS WITH PAVÉ-SET
Always a sophisticated touch, a brooch conveys both inner and outward strength – just think of famous brooch wearers whose names immediately come to mind. HM Queen Elizabeth II is one formidable example, her diamond-bow brooch long a favourite among the storied family jewels. And as she recounted in Read My Pins: Stories from A Diplomat’s Jewel Box (Melcher Media, 2009), former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright used brooches as weapons in her diplomatic arsenal to send messages both warm and witty, along with warning signals. For her part, socialite and fashion icon Millicent Rogers telegraphed her magnetic eclecticism and style-making influence through oversize brooches that ranged from a stunning Boivin starfish to an antique diamond-studded order of the nobility. While editor Diana Vreeland asserted her power with rows of Venetian blackamoors, the Duchess of Windsor’s panther brooch – Cartier’s first three-dimensional panther in gold and black enamel poised on a massive cabochon emerald – spoke volumes about her stealthy ability to upend British royal lineage.
(LEFT) AN 18 KARAT GOLD, PLATINUM AND DIAMOND BROOCH, VAN CLEEF & ARPELS, FRANCE. ESTIMATE 3,000–5,000 USD. (RIGHT) AN 18 KARAT TWO-COLOR GOLD, GREEN GARNET AND DIAMOND BROOCH, SABBADINI. ESTIMATE 6,000–8,000 USD.
In recent years, a new fashion generation has rediscovered this particular jewel’s versatility. Brooches have appeared on the runway in abundance, especially at Prada. It was, in fact, Miuccia Prada’s clusters of antique enamelled flower brooches that heralded a return to adornment after the minimalism of 1990s fashion. Now, the latest high jewellery collections from Chanel and Chaumet also feature dramatic brooches in fresh interpretations of nature, as if their creators were eager to pin flowers to women’s lapels like corsages. The incomparable JAR in Paris has explored the poetry of the perfect flower brooch most memorably in its exquisite rose petal pins, which are made to be worn several at a time, tumbling over a shoulder or across a bodice. In the same spirit, brooches today are being worn in multiples and in unexpected places – in the hair, at the waist, on a belt, or even on the back.
(LEFT) A DIAMOND 'PRINCE OF WALES' PENDANT-BROOCH, TIFFANY & CO.. ESTIMATE 3,000–4,000 USD. (CENTRE) A RUBY AND DIAMOND BROOCH. ESTIMATE 7,000–9,000 USD. (RIGHT) AN 8 KARAT GOLD, PLATINUM AND DIAMOND CLIP-BROOCH, VAN CLEEF & ARPELS, FRANCE. ESTIMATE 3,000—5,000 USD.
Antique or modern, real or fabulously faux, brooches on trouser suits or tuxedo-jacket lapels seem the perfect touch to either counter or emphasise the era’s new androgyny. Now also adopted by men, they are pinned on ties or jackets, especially for evening. Both elegant and idiosyncratic, poetic and playful, brooches turn out to be ideal jewels for our gender-fluid times. So bag a brooch and express yourself, pin-perfect, this winter.
Vivienne Becker is a jewellery historian and a contributing editor of the Financial Times’s How to Spend It.