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:

Pearl jewelry in art

Pearls have been worn throughout history and have rarely fallen out of fashion. Real pearls have a sublime beauty that is unrivaled. Unfortunately, there are so many imitation pearls on the market, that many contemporary women have a false impression of pearls as they have never actually experienced real quality pearls.  They are truly something to behold up close; women who have worn or owned good pearls will understand exactly what I mean. Sensual, mysterious and delicate, real pearls are a feminine treasure every women should have.

One of the things that I love about studying jewelry worn in old art is, not only can we enjoy the beauty of the great works, we can also get a good sense of how jewelry was worn and use this information for assessing pieces in the future. I think what is really interesting, in studying these old works, is looking at the lengths of pearl necklaces and styles of pearl jewelry in general through the ages.  This is something I will talk about more in the future, along with much more information about pearls in general. 

For now, here are some beautiful portraits of ladies with pearls. 

A diamond and pearl brooch captured in a portrait by the leading 19th Century artist John Singer Sargent is among a collection of Duke of Portland family heirlooms that are to be sold at auction for an estimated £6 million.

A diamond and pearl brooch captured in a portrait by the leading 19th Century artist John Singer Sargent is among a collection of Duke of Portland family heirlooms that are to be sold at auction for an estimated £6 million.

 Gustave Jacquet painting: An Elegant Lady with Pearls

Gustave Jacquet painting: An Elegant Lady with Pearls

Girl with a Pearl Earring, Johannes Vermeer

Portrait of Empress Maria Fiodorovna in a Head-Dress Decorated with Pearls
Portrait of Empress Maria Fiodorovna in a Head-Dress Decorated with Pearls
Kramskoi Ivan Nikolayevich
Location:     Hermitage Museum

Rosalba Carriera (Venice 1675-1757) Portrait of a young woman, bust-length, with a pearl necklace and earrings.