A brooch // is a decorative jewelry item designed to be attached to garments, often to hold them closed. It is usually made of metal, often silver or gold but sometimes bronze or some other material. Brooches are frequently decorated with enamel or with gemstones and may be solely for ornament (as in the stomacher) or sometimes serve a practical function as a fastening, perhaps for a cloak.
The earliest known brooches are from the Bronze Age. As fashions in brooches changed rather quickly, they are important chronological indicators. Many of the ancient European brooches found in archaeology are usually referred to by the Latin term fibula.
The fibula (plural fibulae) is an ornamental clasp used by many people throughout history. Fibulae were shaped somewhat like a large safety pin and were used to hold clothing together. They came in many varieties and held prominent significance for the identity of the wearer, indicating ethnicity (until local costume became Romanized) and class. Elaborately designed fibulae were an important part of Late Antique dress, and simpler ones were part of Roman military equipment.
Ancient fibulae are prized items for collectors since they are well preserved in many cases and are not difficult to obtain; divorced from their cultural context, they still present a variety of shapes and decoration.
The distinctive metalwork that was created by the Germanic peoples from the 4th through the 8th centuries belong to the art movement known as Migration period art. During the 5th and 6th centuries, five Germanic tribes migrated to and occupied four different areas of Europe and England after the collapse of the Roman Empire. The tribes were the Visigoths who settled in Spain, the Ostrogoths in Eastern Germany and Austria, the Franks in West Germany, the Lombards in Northern Italy and the Anglo-Saxons in England. Because the tribes were closely linked by their origins, and their jewellery techniques were strikingly similar, the work of these people was first referred to as Barbarian art. This art style is now called Migration period art.
Brooches dating from this period were developed from a combination of Late Roman and new Germanic art forms, designs and technology. Metalworkers throughout western Europe created some of the most colorful, lively and technically superior jewellery ever seen. The brooches of this era display techniques from Roman art: repoussé, filigree, granulation, enamelling, openwork and inlay, but it is inlay that the Migration period artists are famous for. Their passion for colour makes their jewellery stand out. Colour is the primary feature of Migration period jewellery. The precious stone most often used in brooches was the almandine, a burgundy variety of garnet, found in Europe and India. According to J. Anderson Black, "designers would cover the entire surface of an object with the tiny geometric shapes of precious stones or enamel which were then polished flat until they were flush with the cloisonné settings, giving the appearance of a tiny stained glass window."
Brooch designs were many and varied: geometric decoration, intricate patterns, abstract designs from nature, bird motifs and running scrolls. Zoomorphic ornamentation was a common element during this period, in Anglo-Saxon England as well as in Europe. Intertwined beasts were a signature feature of these lively, intricately decorated brooches. Bow shaped, S-shaped, radiate-headed and decorated disc brooches were the most common brooch styles during the Migration period, which spanned the 5th through the 7th centuries.
The majority of brooches found in early Anglo-Saxon England were Continental styles that had migrated from Europe and Scandinavia. The long brooch style was most commonly found in 5th- and 6th-century England. Circular brooches first appeared in England in the middle of the 5th century. During the 6th century, craftsmen from Kent began manufacturing brooches using their own distinctive styles and techniques. The circular form was the preferred brooch type by the end of the 6th century. During the 7th century, all brooches in England were in decline. They reappeared in the 8th century and continued to be fashionable through the end of the Anglo-Saxon era.
Brooch styles were predominantly circular by the middle to late Anglo-Saxon era. During this time period, the preferred styles were the annular and jewelled (Kentish) disc brooch styles. The circular forms can be divided generally into enamelled and non-enamelled styles. A few non-circular style were fashionable during the 8th to 11th centuries. The ansate, the safety-pin, the strip and a few other styles can be included in this group. Ansate brooches were traditional brooches from Europe migrated to England and became fashionable in the late Anglo-Saxon period. Safety- pin brooches, more abundant in the early Anglo-Saxon period became more uncommon by the 7th century and by the 8th century, evolve into the strip brooch. Miscellaneous brooches during this time period include the bird, the ottonian, the rectangle and the cross motif. 
Celtic brooches represent a distinct tradition of elaborately decorated pennanular and pseudo-pennanular brooch types developed in Early Medieval Ireland and Scotland. Techniques, styles and materials used by the Celts were different from Anglo-Saxon craftsmen. Certain attributes of Celtic jewellery, such as inlaid millefiori glass and curvilinear styles have more in common with ancient brooches than contemporary Anglo-Saxon jewellery. The jewellery of Celtic artesans is renowned for its inventiveness, complexity of design and craftsmanship. The Tara Brooch is a well-known example of a Celtic brooch.
Germanic Animal Style decoration was the foundation of Scandinavian art that was produced during the Middle Ages. The lively decorative style originated in Denmark in the late fifth century as an insular response to Late Roman style metalwork. During the early medieval period, Scandinavian craftsmen created intricately carved brooches with their signature animal style ornamentation. The brooches were generally made of copper alloy or silver.
Beginning in the eighth century and lasting until the eleventh century, Scandinavian seafarers were exploring, raiding and colonizing Europe, Great Britain and new lands to the west. This era of Scandinavian expansion is known as the Viking Age, and the art created during this time period is known as Viking art. Metalwork, including brooches, produced during this period were decorated in one or more of the Viking art styles. These five sequential styles are: Oseberg, Borre, Jellinge, Mammen, Ringerike and Urnes.
A variety of Scandinavian brooch forms were common during this period: circular, bird-shaped, oval, equal-armed, trefoil, lozenge-shaped, and domed disc. The most common Scandinavian art styles of the period are the Jellinge and Borre art styles. Some of the characteristics of these related art styles are: interlaced gripping beasts, single animal motifs, ribbon-shaped animals, knot and ring-chain patterns, tendrils, and leaf, beast and bird motifs.
Style II bird brooch
Brooches found during the late medieval era, (1300 to 1500 AD), were worn by both men and women. Brooch shapes were generally: star-shaped, pentagonal, lobed, wheel, heart-shaped, and ring. Rings were smaller than other brooches, and often used to fasten clothing at the neck. Brooch decoration usually consisted of a simple inscription or gems applied to a gold or silver base. Inscriptions of love, friendship and faith were a typical feature of ring brooches of this period. The heart shaped brooch was a very popular gift between lovers or friends.
Amulet brooches were very common prior to medieval times. In late antiquity, they were embellished with symbols of pagan deities or gems that held special powers to protect the wearer from harm. These pagan inspired brooches continued to be worn after the spread of Christianity. Pagan and Christian symbols were often combined to decorate brooches during the Middle Ages. Beginning in the fourteenth century, three-dimensional brooches appeared for the first time. The Dunstable Swan Brooch is a well-known example of a three-dimensional brooch.
Dunstable Swan Jewel 14th century
From the 18th century through the Victorian era it was fashionable to incorporate hair and portraiture into a brooch. The practice began as an expression of mourning, then expanded to keepsakes of loved ones who were living. Human hair was encased within the brooch or braided and woven into a band to which clasps were affixed. It was not uncommon for miniature brooch portraits to incorporate ground human hair as pigment. Two sided swivel brooches would display a portrait on one side and a lock of hair on the other; the latter could be crafted with semiprecious stones to resemble a bouquet.
- Black 1988, p. 107.
- Tait 1986, p. 101.
- Gregorietti 1969, p. 146.
- Black 1988, p. 109.
- Tait 1986, p. 107.
- Gregorietti 1969, p. 139.
- Stoodley 1999, pp. 17—19.
- Walton-Rogers 2007, p. 121.
- Owen-Crocker 2004, p. 42.
- Owen-Crocker 2004, p. 138.
- Walton-Rogers 2007, p. 113.
- Weetch, Rosie (2014). Brooches in Late Anglo-Saxon England with a North West European Context (PhD). University of Reading.
- "Portable Antiquities brooches". Portable Antiquities Scheme. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
- Tait 1986, pp. 112-114.
- Black 1988, pp. 101-103.
- Graham-Campbell 2013, p. 25.
- Graham-Campbell 2013, p. 21.
- Graham-Campbell 2013, p. 66,88,117.
- Gregorietti 1969, p. 162.
- Tait 1986, pp. 138, 140.
- Tait 1986, pp. 205.
- Tait 1986, pp. 138.
- Tanenbaum, Carole; Rita Silvan (2006). Fabulous Fakes: A Passion for Vintage Costume Jewelry. Toronto: Madison Press. pp. 12, 18–19.
This article needs additional citations for verification. (March 2011) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
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