Brooch fastenings

One way of evaluating the age of a brooch is by looking at the fastening (although you must of course take everything into consideration).  There are some hard and fast rules that can be applied but there are also exceptions. You must take into account that a brooch might have been remounted with a more contemporary mount (or, in rarer cases, remounted on an older mount). Also, it’s important to look at both the pin, the clasp and the hinge. 

(For clarity’s sake, a brooch consists of: the pin i.e., the sharp metal piece that pierces the clothing, the hinge, i.e. the part that allows the pin to pivot, the catch, i.e. the part that holds the pin in place. The main, decorative part is called the body and all else are called findings.)

Presuming it has not been remounted or modified, the follow rules of thumb apply for dating brooches:


The basic c-clasp brooch (or ‘pin’) fastening was used through out the 19th century and into the 20th century (ending around 1910).

C-Clasps were nearly always hand-made. 

V&A Museum       C Catch - Likely to be a Pre-1910 piece

V&A Museum       C Catch – Likely to be a Pre-1910 piece

C-Clasp extending beyond edge of brooch

Probably pre-1850

Remember: as the 19th century progressed, the pin generally got shorter and finer. 

V&A Museum Pin extending beyond the edge of the brooch with a c-clasp Likely to be from the 1800's and probably pre-1850.

V&A Museum

Pin extending beyond the edge of the brooch with a c-clasp

Likely to be from the 1800’s and probably pre-1850.


From around 1850 to 1910 (Also used in other eras to a lesser extent)

These hinges were made by hand and consisted of three cylinders or tubes, one attached to the pin itself, the other two to the sides of the pin.

The ‘T-Bar’ hinge narrowed and became finer in the early part of the 20th century.

It is important to note that although the hinge of the C-Clasp narrowed with time, the actual clasp itself could be broader in more recent times. 

Georgian era C-Clasp Brooch with broad 'T-Bar'  hinge. 

Georgian era C-Clasp Brooch with broad ‘T-Bar’  hinge.


In the early 20th century, around 1920, the ‘T-bar’ or ‘tube’ style hinge was replaced with a rounded, ‘ball-style’ hinge.

These hinges were machine-made and became standard around 1930. 

The pin itself became one single piece, as opposed to a pin soldered to a tube or cylinder, as with the ‘T-Bar’ or ‘Tube’ Hinge.

Edwardian era brooch with 'ball style' rounded hinge. 

Edwardian era brooch with ‘ball style’ rounded hinge.


All of the below were invented post-1849

They were hand-made until the late 1920’s

Early Safety Catches were created to prevent loss of the brooch from the clothing.

These were usually one of the following styles (although there were lots of creative variations):



On a lever catch, you find a small piece at the top of the clasp to lever the catch open.

Often used on small brooches

Morning Glory Antiques. This brooch is post-1901 and pre late 1920s.

Morning Glory Antiques. This brooch is post-1901 and pre late 1920s.



Brooches were secured with the additional use of a safety pin and chain. Associated with the mid and late Victorian era. 

Brooches were secured with the additional use of a safety pin and chain. Associated with the mid and late Victorian era.


Post 1849

A safety pin was embedded into or attached onto the body. 

Art Deco era brooch with body attached to a large safety pin style fastener. 

Art Deco era brooch with body attached to a large safety pin style fastener. 



This is when a pin slips into a barrel. Specifically European pieces.


These were similar to the trombone style catch but without the push-pull mechanism.


Patented in 1901 / Widely used from 1910 onwards / Handmade until late 1920s

These used a spinning locking mechanism.

Early locking C clasps opened downwards, and more modern ones open upwards.

Early locking clasps usually had a small rounded mechanism.

Later versions ones had a locking piece that was separate and slipped over the holding piece of the clasp.


Machine made roll-over, locking or safety catch as we know today. 

Became widespread in the late 1920s to early 1930s.

Usually combined with a round hinge and often pre-assembled as a single unit, bought separately and added to the piece by the jeweller.


1927 (spring system patented by Cartier)

1931 (mechanism patented by Coro)

These gained popularity in the 1920s and were worn until the 1950s. Quintessentially ‘Art Deco’.

Double clip brooches could be worn separately as dress clips or together as a larger brooch. They were sometimes placed on bags and scarfs and fur coats as well as on clothing.

Langs Antiques. 

Langs Antiques. 



1928 (patented by Cartier)

Designed to hold on to thick pieces of fabric, these involved a double pronged clip with a heavy-duty spring mechanism. Although these were known as ‘fur clips’ they generally weren’t worn on fur as they would have ruined the pelt.

Back of an 'Eisenberg Original' brooch with a double hinged clip or 'fur clip'. 

Back of an ‘Eisenberg Original’ brooch with a double hinged clip or ‘fur clip’.


Sources / further reading:


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Categories of Brooches

A brooch can be defined as an item of jewelry which is attached to the clothing or hat, usually by means of a pin which may or may not have a clasp.

The different categories of brooches can generally be defined in the following ways:

Aiguillette (also aguillette, aiglet or aglets)

From the French for ‘needle’, aiguillettes were a type of ornamentation used to secure a ribbon to a dress.

In the first half of the 15th century, they came to be worn as an ornamentation in their own right.

Bar brooch

A bar brooch is any horizontal elongated brooch, often rectangular but not necessarily.  During the Victorian era, bar brooches tended to have a central motif or defined central decorative area. In the Edwardian era, bar brooches tended to be bordered with cut stones, pearls or decorative elements.  Art Deco bar brooches followed the Edwardian style with more geometric designs.


Europe, c. 1910-1920
Bar brooch of gold and platinum set with diamonds
V&A Museum

Beauty Pin (also called Handy Pins)

These were small pins used to secure veils, cuffs, hats, scarves and lace.  They were often decorative.

Bodice brooch

A bodice brooch is a brooch originally designed to be worn in the center of the bodice of a woman’s dress.  Early bodice brooches were sewn on to the clothing. Later, when pins and clasps developed this ceased.  After around 1920, bodice brooches became smaller and could be worn elsewhere, not necessarily in the center of the dress.


Europe, c. 1700-1800
Bodice brooch, chrysoberyls and pink topazes set in silver
V&A Museum

Dress Clips

A dress clip can be defined as a brooch with a clip style back. These can be either the ‘double prong’ style clip, which pierces the clothing like a standard brooch pin or a metal back which holds the fabric by tension (in a similar way to a ‘clip earring’.) There are also ‘double dress clips’ which can be worn apart as matching items or worn together to create a larger brooch.  These were particularly popular during the Art Deco period.


England, c. 1940
Dress clip with double prong backing, platinum set with diamonds
V&A Museum

Double-clip brooch

England, c. 1930-1940
Back of double clip brooch, platinum set with brilliant, baguette and square-cut diamonds
V&A Museum


A fibula was a decorative brooch used by the ancient Romans and other ancient cultures, usually to secure a cloak at the shoulders.  They were similar to a safety pin.  They were sometimes worn in the Victorian and Art Nouveau ears as part of the archeological revival fashions.


Italy, c. 500 BC
Gold Fibula
V&A Museum

Fichu Pin (or Lace Pin)

A fichu or lace pin is a kind of brooch used to secure two ends of a scarf at the front.  ‘Fichu’ comes from the French for neckerchief.

Princess Mary wearing a Fichu Held by a Fichu Brooch.
Bartholomeus van der Helst, c.1652.

Jabot ( also called ‘sûreté’ or ‘cliquet’ pins.)

A ‘jabot’ brooch has decorative or jeweled ends and is worn in such a way that the center of the brooch is hidden under the clothing, revealing only the ends.  They were particularly worn in the middle of the 1700s and were worn to secure the ruffled pieces that men wore at the front of their clothing.  They emerged again in the Art Deco era when they were worn by women and worn on the label or at the front of a cloche hat.  They were particularly popular around 1925.


Europe or USA, c. 1920-1930
Jabot pin platinum set with coral, onyx and brilliant-cut diamonds
V&A Museum


A locket brooch would generally be a type of bodice brooch, which can open to contain hair or a picture.

Locket brooch

USA, c, 1850
Brooch, gold, rock
V&A Museum

Penannular (or Celtic Brooch).

Penannular means ‘having the shape or design of an incomplete circle.’ Penannular brooches are shaped like a ring which is not completely closed and have a pin. Many Celtic cloak pins are penannular brooches.


Ireland, c. 1851
Penannular brooch, oxidised silver, parcel-gilt, set with pearls, ‘Irish diamonds’ and amethysts
V&A Museum

Ring Brooch

A ring brooch is defined by the way it fastens: the wearer pulls the cloth through the central hold, and the spears it with the pin.  Ring brooches originate from the medieval era and are found throughout Northern Europe.

Ring brooch

Sweden, c. 1830
Ring Brooch, silver and filigree
V&A Museum


A ‘sévigné’ is a type of brooch that was worn low on the bodice and was shaped like a bow. They were particularly popular during the 1700 and 1800s.  In the beginning they were symmetrical, flat bows and over the years they became more naturalistic, asymmetrical, sometimes with girandole settings of suspended gems, paste or pearls. They were named after the Marquise de Sévigné.

Portrait of Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, Marquise de Sévigné, wearing a ‘Sévigné brooch’.
Claude Lefebvre


Western Europe, c. 1760-1770
Sevigne brooch, rock crystal set in gold and silver
V&A Museum


Western Europe, c. 1830
Sevigne brooch, silver, gold, brilliant-cut diamonds, emeralds, ruby, pearls, and mother of pearl
V&A Museum


(also referred to as ‘pins’, ‘lapel pins’ or ‘scarf pins’ .)

This would be a long pin with a decorative top.  They would normally be worn vertically.  Traditionally they were to fasten scarves, but they came to be worn on the lapel, particularly by men.  The pin can be straight or twisted and sometimes come with a protective cap.

Scarf pin

England, c. 1865-70
Scarf pin with gold and powder granulation
V&A Museum


Paris, c. 1855
Stick pin, cast and enameled gold
François-Désiré Froment-Meurice
V&A Museum

Sources / further reading: