Brooches come in and out of fashion with a certain predictability, but a recent flourishing of bejewelled pins confirms that not only are brooches in style, they are this season's most on-trend accessory. Forget the twee little golden bouquets of old, politely anchored to tweed jackets. Today, all the top maisons, from Chanel and Dior to Boucheron and Van Cleef & Arpels, are injecting a heady dose of glamour and attitude into this forgotten jewel.
The renaissance of the luxury brooch
A visit to Paris Couture Week this summer confirmed the emerging trend for fabulous brooches as maisons both big and small are pinning their hopes to the revival of the brooch. I saw everything from elegant sheaves of wheat to cute dachshund dogs and luxuriant beetles, confirming that the brooch is the hottest ticket in jewellery this season.
Suzanne Syz, the Geneva-based artist jeweller with a penchant for strong colours and original designs streaked with a sense of humour, is adamant that the brooch is the hero of jewellery. Ever chic and immaculately dressed, the last time I saw Ms. Syz in Paris at Couture Week she was wearing a spectacular amethyst, rubellite, spinel and pearl brooch the size of my palm. “I have made many brooches in the last few years as my clients are asking for something very personal that is easy to wear all day. A brooch is so much more comfortable to wear than a necklace of a similar size; it is the most elegant way to wear jewellery.”
Why are brooches fashionable today?
A brooch is a very efficient vehicle for showcasing extravagant, outsized creations. And as larger-than-life jewellery remains strongly in vogue, there comes a point when pinning a gem-laden lizard, owl or turtle to your gown is easier than dangling it from your lobes or wielding it, weapon-like, on your finger.
At the same time, as one-off haute joaillerie creations are gaining favour amongst the uber-wealthy, jewels are becoming increasingly extravagant and elaborate. To allow owners to get more mileage from their investment, jewellers are reviving the tradition of versatile jewels. Often, these transformable jewels feature a section can be removed to become a brooch, pendant or earrings.
And right on cue, Giampiero Bodino, jewellery-design master and purveyor to the private yacht crowd, presented four necklaces at Paris Couture, all of which feature elements that can be removed and worn as brooches. Brilliantly bejewelled baroque crosses become brooches, as do luxurious blooms and the central stones of magnificent necklaces. Likewise, the central flower in Chaumet’s Passion Incarnat tiara can be dismantled and worn as a brooch or necklace.
Who is making fashionable brooches?
With the most revered names in jewellery turning their attention to brooches, expect some magnificent creations. This summer, Chanel and Chaumet both presented wheat-inspired brooches. The Dior à Versailles collection included two hugely extravagant rococo-inspired brooches that capture the opulence of the era. Across the pond, Tiffany breathed new life into a historic Schlumberger seashell clip - a writhing marine wonder resplendent in sapphires and white and yellow diamonds.
Final confirmation that brooches are the jewel du jour is the fact that Van Cleef & Arpels has dedicated a whole collection to just brooches. The Arche de Noé is a family of pairs of animal brooches, including owls, dogs and koalas.
Independent designers such as Lydia Courteille of Paris, Suzanne Syz of Geneva and Fendi-scion Delfina Delettrez are also embracing the trend, and the results are marvellously daring.
Are brooches for old ladies?
The answer is that they are definitely not just for old ladies, unless they are of the Iris Apfel ilk. Busting the lazy myth that pins are for pensioners, designers like Delfina Delettrez, one of the coolest jewellers on the block, is bringing brooches to the millennials.
Delettrez’s new-wave jewels include directional brooches that are a favourite with the Fashion Week crowd. Her surreal bejewelled Face brooches, composed of a cartoon-like eye with pearl-tipped eyelashes chained to a pair of ruby-studded lips, are guaranteed to get you noticed, while the scarily lifelike, over-sized Insect brooches, clutching precious stones between their pincers, will attract attention and maybe a shriek or two.
Lydia Courteille, master of extreme eccentricity, saves some of her most extravagant creations for brooches. The large, flat surface of a brooch is the perfect canvas for her eye-popping jewels, and it is here that Lydia can really unleash her rampant creativity. Most of her collections include a brooch, and often it is the most spectacular jewel. In her current collections, a carved stone pussy cat peeps out from behind a diamond fan and an ornate gentleman carved from coral slumbers comfortably on an emerald crescent moon.
How, where and when to wear brooches
While we are still adhering to the tradition of wearing brooches on the left-hand side of our dress, shirt or jacket, this is the only way in which today’s brooches resemble your grandma’s Sunday-best pin.
Suzanne Syz recommends wearing brooches with more structured, well-cut clothes to keep the jewel in place and prefers pinning brooches to sturdier, tightly woven fabrics, avoiding silk or jersey knits.
Lydia Courteille, who has a gift for subverting convention, suggests you wear a brooch any which way you want. Use a brooch to ruche a sleeve, to cinch the waist of your dress or as a suggestive cleavage enhancer.
Brooches are the business woman’s best jewellery ally as they are particularly suited to formal office attire. It takes just one great brooch to make a staid outfit exceptional.
But brooches are not limited to the working hours and are a chic alternative to outsized earrings for a night out. I chose a diamond and tourmaline Tiffany Dragonfly brooch to wear to a gala dinner in New York recently and was able to wear a very valuable jewel unencumbered by heavy earrings or a necklace. Diamond-set brooches are best worn at night to create a rich shimmer of light.
Can men wear brooches?
It is clear that brooches are back in grace, but it took Suzanne Syz to point out an obvious appeal I had overlooked: men can wear brooches too. And you can’t say that about chandelier earrings, multi-tiered necklaces or big bracelets. What other jewel offers that much versatility?