6 Brooch Designs and Styles

Updated May 27, 2021
Vintage brooch

Brooches teeter a fine line between being considered an accessory, a fashion item, or a hair piece because of the way that they've been used in historic and contemporary dress for hundreds of years. While these statement pins have waxed and waned in popularity, brooch designs have continued to evolve as new techniques and materials became available. Take a look at some of the longest-lasting brooch designs and see which one's catch your eye first.

Popular Brooch Styles

The brooch had varying bouts of incredible popularity between the 17th and 20th centuries, most notably during the Victorian era of the late-19th century. Talented artisans created both delicate and bold pieces to reflect the artistic sentiments of the time in which they were created, many styles of which actually remain in circulation today. Here is a sampling of the most commonly worn brooch styles that still have an influence on contemporary jewelers.

Brooch designs infographic

Aigrette Brooches

Aigrette brooches are one of the most consistently beloved types of brooches; these bejeweled accessories have a feathered style of decoration inspired by the impressive egret's plumes and were popular between the 17th - 20th centuries. Oftentimes, these brooches were richly colored and set into silver, with their feathers wisping into one direction as if caught on the wind.

En Tremblant

A very innovative design, the En Tremblant is a French style that features a creative mechanism (a 'trembler') in the center of the brooch that acts like a spring and allows the brooch to be sensitive to motion. These types of brooches quiver when they're worn, hence the brooch style being named for the French term for trembling.

Miniature Painted Brooches

Portraiture was a successful artistic trade during the Renaissance that was brought back into the public consciousness in the 18th century, and you can find both historic and contemporary brooches that feature miniature paintings of portraits, landscapes, and travel scenes all displayed on their typically oval faces.

Cameo Brooches

This historic brooch design continues to be worn by contemporary fashion enthusiasts because of its classical inspiration and crisp, modern texture. Although these brooches have been worn since antiquity, they were most frequently worn during the Victorian period. Cameos during this time most commonly featured male or female profiles being carved in relief on the faces of circular and oval stones.

Mourning Brooches

Victorians are well-known for their obsession with death, specters, and the supernatural, and their jewelry sometimes reflected it. Wearing mourning brooches was one way for Victorians to stay connected to their dead loved ones, as these open-faced accessories let a person secure a piece of their loved one's hair inside. These brooches are particularly beloved by oddities collectors, and you can find many examples for sale at unique antique stores around the United States.

Dress Clips

These modified brooches came into popularity in the 1920s and 1930s as the Hollywood machine created, and publicly marketed, a fantasy of high-fashion; the slippery fabrics that Hollywood designers gravitated towards could be accentuated with the glittering shine of diamond brooches. Therefore, a new style of brooch called the dress clip evolved. These brooches were specially designed so that they could be clipped to your clothing at the edges of the necklines of a dress or blouse.

How to Wear Brooches

Brooches are one of those accessories that has a dated connotation, but what most people don't realize is that brooches can be worn in many other ways than clipping one underneath the clavicle. Rather, depending on how creative you are, you can transform a conventional brooch into a new accessory altogether. These are a few of the ways that you can incorporate a brooch into your contemporary style without feeling like you're wearing a costume.

  • Accentuate Your Hair - Placing a brooch in the center of a delicate updo can add a pop of color to your hairdresser's hard work.
  • Pin Your Collars Closed - A refined way to add a brooch into a modern ensemble is to clip it at the base of a blouse's neckline.
  • Mix and Match Styles - Mixing and matching the patterns and colors of your brooches together can tie the visual effect of your whole outfit into one unique look.

First Development of the Brooch

Humans have been manipulating the tools of the natural world in order to outfit themselves for their survival for thousands of years, and the fibula is one such unique invention from antiquity. Fibulas were brooch styles that developed out of the human need for a way to keep their clothes fastened tight, and these circular pin pieces helped secure the ancient garments in place.

It wasn't until around 400 BCE that evidence shows European communities decorating these pieces, and transforming them from purely functional tools into a type of proto-accessory. These penannular brooches were a type of circular pin brooch which developed during this time that archaeologists continue to find extant examples of.

Bring Brooches Back

As with all sorts of historic trends, its come time for brooches to be brought back into the mainstream fashion industry. Whether you're a fan of bold colors, statement pieces, or antique finds, there's a type of brooch out there designed just for you and you can easily find hundreds of affordable examples at your local antique and jewelry stores.

6 Brooch Designs and Styles