Part One of a two-part post.
May I broach a subject? Brooches are the calfskin gloves of the jewelry world, a specialty not to everyone's taste, but deeply pleasurable once you make their acquaintance.
(Shown, Austrian sterling and turquoise vintage brooch, ca. 1890, from V&M; price, $245.)
They are slipping back, under fashion's scrutiny, but for those collecting jewelry, vintage brooches are still brilliant buys compared to other pieces.
Rings, especially engagement rings, are frequently overpriced. The merchant counts on the pull of social custom and the power of marketing.
Earrings? Think about it: you need two of everything. And you don't even see them on. Bracelets? Well at least you see them, but that's a lot of real estate.
Brooches (or pins, if you prefer) were rather out of favour with the mainstream and I hope they slip back into semi-obscurity. When I see an entire page in InStyle devoted to brooches, I hiss, get away! Like teacup poodles in handbags, thanks a lot, twenty-somethings, for appropriating the purview of grown women.
Where was I?
Buy them vintage; buy them real
By which I mean, the noble metals and stones or organic materials. I'm especially drawn to brooches from the latter part of the 19th and earlier part of the 20th century: Victorian, Edwardian and Deco pieces.
Since many assume a brooch requires a jacket, I'm showing examples you could wear with a sweater and pants or a simple dress.
This antique Edwardian amethyst and pearl brooch is under $5,000 (the web site gives price ranges only) from S.J. Shrubsole. It contains a luscious 12ct. amethyst surrounded by seed pearls and diamonds.
At 1 1/8 inches, the piece has presence but is no Madeleine Albright whopper. (I enjoyed what she did with pins, but wish she'd worn only fine jewelry.)
A delicate Edwardian 14k seed pearl and pearl brooch, 1 5/8 inch, conveys discreet Merchant & Ivory charm; price, $235 from Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry. Really, why buy costume?
Lovers of modern pieces, here is a rare Georg Jensen biomorphic pin with crysoprase, 5/8" long x 1 1/4" wide, $995 from Trocadero seller The Lush Life Antiques.
Bar pins ease you into brooches if you are worried about too much flash.
For our blogfriend hostess of the humble bungalow, I would select this ca. 1900 Arts and Crafts blue chalcedony and aventurine quartz pin set in silver; price, $230 from Trocadero seller Period Pieces.
An enchanting 1 1/4 inch (diameter) Victorian seed pearl brooch from Beladora II; such marvelous design and charisma in this piece; price, $395. Wear it pinned on a jean jacket or linen shift, it will look perfect anywhere.
This Art Deco 2-inch brooch is silverplated copper. Though not fine jewelry, this is elegant deco design. $30 from Pierre Bex. This site sells old stock; the company, a darling of costume designers, stopped producing in the '80s.
I'm delighted by the whimsy of well-made figural brooches; this mid-century 18k, coral and pearl turtle's a pet. 1 3/4 by 1 1/2 inches, from Beladora II; price, $895.
Taller, larger women can wear an imposing 4-inch brooch. A one-inch pin will look lost unless worn on a collar or near the neckline, with a necklace. That's why (you know it had to be coming) pearls and a pin complement each other. That turtle brooch at a collar, worn with pearls, bellissima.
Consider size, but also weight. Here's an airy Georg Jensen 18k gold and moonstone Torun brooch ca. 1970, about 1 1/2 inches high by 1 1/5 inches wide.
Because of the negative space, it 'floats', making it much lighter than a solid piece. Price, $2,400 from 1st Dibs seller Alastair Crawford.
Like a scarf, once you try a few simple placements with your brooch, you'll enjoy its charm and character. Add a distinctive pin to your jewelry basics– pearls, a chain, gold or pearl earrings–and see how it extends your wardrobe.
Last Thursday, HRH Queen Elizabeth II, here on a royal visit, celebrated Canada Day (July 1) on Parliament Hill, wearing a stunning diamond maple leaf brooch, symbol of her fondness for the country she calls "my second home".
To find your treasure, shop antique or vintage, via shops, jumble sales or your Aunt Susan's jewelry box. The workmanship is superior and you'll find real pieces for the price of current "designer" paste and plastic.