There’s something about a brooch that exudes femininity and romance. From intricate Victorian diamond and ruby pins, to clean, geometric art deco pieces, there’s a number of styles, handed down from generation to generation, and all perfect for collectors.
With so many different varieties to choose from, it’s sometimes hard for a new collector to know where to start. The key is to sharpen your focus: identify and investigate the kind of style that appeals to you, and use that as the basis for your search. For instance, you may be drawn to the original style of brooch, one that dates back to the Stone Age. The fibula consists of a pin, hinge, spring and bow – it’s minimal and it’s practical. If the brooch is round, then it is dubbed annular, and if there are gaps in the ring (similar to a letter C), it is penannular, a form that was developed in the Celtic period.
Beyond the shape of the brooch, there are also six different eras by which to classify them: Edwardian or Victorian; art nouveau; art deco; New Look; Mod and Hippies; and New Wave. Kaye Haddy, the WA branch president of the National Council of Jewellery Valuers (NCJV), says each era will also have a niche, whether it’s a specific gemstone, animal, object, or style. One of the rarest brooches she has seen was worth around $100,000, and it consisted of a pink topaz design from the late Victorian era.
It may seem obvious, but another key determining factor for price and collectability is what the brooch has been created from. “Make sure that you know the materials your brooch is made of, and find out how to take care of it,” says Anne Haile, owner of UK business AntiquesAvenue. “Many brooches have mixed materials, and you need to treat the whole piece like it is made of the most delicate in it. For example, a solid silver brooch can be cleaned in an ultrasonic machine, but never put anything with pearls in, or the brooch will be ruined.” This also relates to the way pieces should be cared for. “Each should be wrapped in non-acidic tissue paper or its own box before they go into the jewellery box. This stops them from spoiling each other.”
Anne says she first became interested in antique jewellery as a child and would go to auctions with her dad, hunting for the perfect pieces. After spending a number of years collecting, selling and trading antique jewellery at fairs and on eBay, she officially opened AntiquesAvenue in 2007. The vintage jewellery collector and aficionado says you should only buy what appeals to you. “Collect what you love, but in good condition.”
Which bring us to quality. An older brooch that has been kept in very good condition will be worth more than a recent piece that hasn’t been cared for. Designer names, rarity, content, jewels, and whether or not the piece is hand-made are all elements that also help to determine the value of what you collect.
Finally, where can you get your hands on these beauties? “Visit your favourite antique fair,” says Anne. “Find a dealer who has a good selection of brooches for sale – they will normally have some expertise, and you can discuss your purchase with them.”
She says websites such as her own make it easy and convenient for collectors to look at a huge selection of antique pins. eBay has vintage gold-plated Victorian brooches selling for as high as $42,000, but Anne warns to be careful with that type of site. “Many of the brooches you see are not really antique. Unless you are sure you know the difference, then I would avoid that option.”
Local shops such as Subiaco Antiques & Fine Jewellery are good places to start, because they stock more affordable brooches. They have an assortment tray of pieces ranging from $15 to $90, so people can hunt down their specific niche at an affordable price. For the more experienced aficionado, they also sell more extravagant brooches, such as a Victorian Italian micro-mosaic 15ct gold pin that’s worth nearly $2000.
Owner Emma Gryg says, in her line of work it’s common to see customers buy multiple brooches at once, either to add to their collection or as a way to start building one. “We are always surprised by the continual demand for brooches,” she says. “From fun plastic ones made by Lea Stein of France, to very precious gemstone brooches that make you weak at the knees.”
|Edwardian/Victorian||Dating from late 1830s-1910, when earlier Victorian fashions were adopted and modernised in pieces made by hand, and consisting of pearls, rhinestones and enamel pins.|
|Art Nouveau||Typically popular between 1890 and 1910, with designs characterised by long, curving lines that abruptly change direction.|
|Art Deco||Ranging from the early 1920s into the 1940s, these consist of geometric designs, florals and female silhouettes.|
|New Look||This style emerged shortly after the end of WWI, and featured clean lines, pearls and bold rhinestones.|
|Mod & Hippies||Popular during the 60s and 70s these mainly featured earth-tone gems, natural metals and warm woods.|
|New Wave||Beginning in the late 70s and 80s, this style is characterised by an increased interest in plastics, neon colours and big, bold designs.|