A brooch (pronounced /ˈbroʊtʃ/);
also known in ancient times as a fibula; sometimes spelled broach,
a homophone meaning both to open a cask and begin a new discussion, is a
decorative jewelry item designed to be attached to
garments. It is usually made of
gold but sometimes bronze or some
other material. Brooches are frequently decorated with
enamel or with
gemstones and may be solely for
(as in the
or sometimes serve a practical function as a fastening, perhaps for a
The earliest known brooches are from the Bronze Age. As fashions in brooches
changed rather fast, they are important chronological indicators.
fibula or fibulae (plural) is an ornamental clasp used by
Romans, Greeks Germanic peoples, and also by Celts and migratory tribes
Europe from the Early Bronze Age.
They may have replaced fibulae made of more perishable Neolithic materials,
such as bone to as late as 800 AD. Fibulae are useful type-objects: carefully
catalogued local typologies, dating and distribution of fibulae can help
date finds where neither numismatic nor ceramic materials provide a secure
date. 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.
The same types of fibulae can often be found on either side of the Roman
both among "Roman" and "barbarian" populations. The
cultural interplay of elite objects designed to show status can be quite
complex. For example, Lawrence Nees, Early Medieval Art
notes fibulae depicted in ivory
and his entourage:
"The type of fibula worn by Stilicho and his son, and
by Turcius Secundus, occurs also among metal works of art commonly
termed barbarian, as new Germanic figures usurped the symbols
of imperial authority. It is likely that this type originated
among Celtic groups and came to be adopted as an exotic fashion
by Roman aristocrats, becoming 'naturalized' as an important
Roman emblem, and then exported".
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 fascinating array
of shapes and
Hair and portrait brooches
From the eighteenth century through the Victorian era
it was fashionable to incorporate hair and portraiture into
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.
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.
Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 75
Tanenbaum, Carole; Rita
Silvan (2006). Fabulous Fakes: A Passion for
Vintage Costume Jewelry. Toronto: Madison Press.
p. 12, 18–19.