Brooches are one of the oldest forms of jewellery we wear. The name is derived from the French word ‘broche’ which means ‘skewer’ or ‘long needle’. Originally, brooches were used to pin the folds of a cloak together and came in the form of a long pin with a simple fastening. Other shapes began to be used – circular, ring, crescent and daggers. They became more decorated, with enamelling, goldwork and gems. The basis design of a brooch, with a flat decorated front and a pin behind, was developed in the Middle Ages, and from that time, there began the change in the use of a brooch as a means of fastening clothing to a purely ornamental use.
The size of a brooch varied considerably, depending on whether it was needed to pin together heavy woollen cloth, or delicate lace. As they became more ornamental pieces, they began to take different shapes – small animals, flowers, ribbons and knots – and to be set with carved cameos or miniatures.
Brooches can be worn in many different ways. Some can be pinned to a beret, to a neck scarf or to a jacket lapel. Small ones can be scattered over a jumper, larger ones on the shoulder of a coat or sweater. They can be worn by men as tie pins and hat badges. They can be worn as mourning brooches, to remember a loved one, or pinned to an evening bag. Many brooches contain watches or photos.