The brooch has not really changed much over the centuries. Basically, it is an ornamental piece with a pin of some sort. Its purpose has changed, however, as originally brooches were used to hold a tunic together at the neck or to keep a veil around the throat. It slowly moved from having a practical use to a predominantly ornamental use over time.  The clasps, hinges and other findings used for brooches can assist date them. The first type of brooch was the fibula which had a straight pin which was threaded through the garment and then caught up behind a part of the brooch. Then the pin was bent and coiled into a circle, becoming the forerunner of a safety pin.

The next main developments in brooches were the Celtic penannular brooch, a crescent shaped brooch, the circular brooch, basically a round brooch which originated from simple discs of coiled wire, and the ring brooch, which was popular in the 13th century. None of these had a clasp.

It was not until the 14th century that clasps began to be used on brooches. They took the form of a C and C-clasps would continue to be used up until the early Edwardian period.

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C-clasp on Victorian chalcedony mourning brooch

Some of the Georgian and early Victorian brooches had clasps that extended beyond the edge of the brooch.

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Early Victorian lace pin (in Navette on Ruby Lane)

The pins were attached to the brooches using tube hinges.

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Tube hinges on a Victorian brooch

In the mid 1850s, the European trombone catch also began to be used.

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Trombone catch


Next week, I will talk more about brooch clasps and hinges.