Once left to gather dust in grandma's jewellery box, brooches are springing their way back into fashion. Exactly a century ago, a Sunday edition of the New York Times reported: "The modern fashion of decorating one's hat brim or pinning one's veil with a jewelled clasp or pin of fancy design is now so universal that we no longer regard it as anything peculiar."
These days, the practice of brooch-wearing could hardly be considered universal; however, it seems that pinning jewels to clothing is again becoming somewhat trendy.
On the Washington Post website during June this year, Mary Tomer blogged about fashion hero Michelle Obama's penchant for pins in both vintage and contemporary styles. In her recent ads for Gap, Sarah Jessica Parker chose to cluster three floral statement pins at her waist, and in Australia, fashion glossies Cosmopolitan, Madison and Elle have recently published features devoted to hot brooches.
The rebirth of brooches can only be positive for women, and retailers in turn; they always fit, they're equally flattering on a wide range of consumers, and can be found at all price points.
"They're definitely selling," says Sybella Morris of Sydney importer wholesaler Sybella Jewellery. "We did four small brooches last year because retailers were requesting them, and they all sold out so we've made another four larger ones. I'd say now that four out of every 10 orders will include brooches."Morris' brooches, which are each made from a combination of sterling silver, CZ and occasionally pearl, are based mostly on animals.
"History tells me that animals have always been popular," she says. "They were big during the 1920s and again in the 1980s. If you look in any major jeweller's catalogue, such as Jan Logan, Rutherford Jewellery and Kosminsky, you'll always find animal brooches in diamonds and rubies and set in platinum."Her whimsical bees, dragonflies, frogs, flowers and stars have been popular with many.
"The Eastern suburbs set, about my mother's age, go for them without a doubt," Morris explains. "These are ladies with sophistication and elegance who put a beautiful brooch on a black dress and go to dinner or to the ballet; however, across the road here in Double Bay, there's a very cool shop called Duo, which sells heaps of our brooches to young women who might pin them to a coat to jazz-up their jeans."Pinning sparkling adornments to outfits isn't for every woman and brooches are dragging a fair distance behind necklaces, bracelets, earrings and rings in the popularity stakes.
"They're the most underrated type of jewellery," laments Sarah-Jane Adams, an antique dealer who now heads-up the three year-old SJ Jewels, a Sydney supplier of jewellery based on styles from the past."But if you've got style and know how to put a look together, a brooch is possibly the most expressive statement you can add. I will often wear one on my shirt cuff, or on my shoulder, so they look like they've just landed."
SJ Jewels' vast collection of brooches contains one opulent item in freshwater pearls, marcasite and rubies inspired by a pair of buckles presented by Marie Antoinette on her betrothal to Louis XVI, as well as a butterfly made in silver and set with amethyst, blue topaz, garnet and diamonds. There's also a silver and bright-blue enamel botanical brooch in the Art Nouveau style and a cherry blossom brooch inspired by a Faberge piece that doubles as a pendant.
"Some of our pieces are almost as big as the palm of a hand," Adams says.
"Those ones sell in Melbourne when it's colder and they can attach them to jackets. Sydney girls tend to go for quirkier, lighter and more humorous things, and country girls go for all the animal brooches like serpents, sheep, owls, birds and horses."Meanwhile in Victoria, Australian manufacturer Gilbert & Jones continues to sell its pin wares to "the old dears", according to manager Michael Glendenning.
"The traditional 9-carat gold stone-set brooches that were made in the 1970s are still part of our range today," he says. "You can try and reinvent your look but sometimes people just want what people bought decades ago." Glendenning predicts that around 90 per cent of these brooches are stocked in country areas."I wouldn't say it's a lucrative area, but it is certainly consistent," he says.Adams of SJ Jewels has some pointers for displaying brooches to their best ability.
"Don't just stick it in a window, get a mannequin and put an outfit on it and show people where brooches can be worn," she says. "Bring in a pair of gloves, or a hat, and stick a brooch to the side of it."Morris from Sybella Jewellery adds: "Brooches can actually work to make a display more interesting. Rather than having a window full of earrings, place a brooch in there and it will always draw the eye."So pin it on and present it with pride. The customers are sure to follow.
The writer is a freelancer
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