The first brooches, pendants and lockets were serving a practical function rather than their current purely decorative one. The modern “brooch” evolved from a twist of metal called fibula, which was used to keep garments secured. Their use spread as the Germanic tribes scattered at the end of the Roman Empire. Pendants also date from this period: the oldest known pendant was found in the ancient city of Susa in modern-day Iran and is thought to date from 3300-3100 BCE. The first pendants carried herbs believed to protect the wearer from the Black Death. In the Medieval period, brooches were made from different types of metals and worn by both men and women, while cross pendants have been produced and worn since the advent of Christianity. Lockets are believed to have evolved from amulets and pendants of ancient times and the Middle Ages. Sentimental lockets became especially popular at the time of miniature portraiture and were worn to represent the love for the person being depicted. These lockets are a lovely reminder of the sentimental jewellery of the past.
In the 1500s, expanding global trade routes brought prosperity and new discoveries to Europe and Great Britain. Specifically, for diamonds and gemstones as well as precious metals such as gold. Throughout the early modern period (1500-1800), demand for jewellery grew and styles and tastes changed rapidly. Gem-set brooches, pendants and lockets of all styles can be seen in portraiture from this period.
In the Georgian and Victorian era, lockets often held locks of hair as mourning jewellery, worn to remember a loved one who had died. The Georgian era (1710-1830) replaced the ornate and regal brooches and pendants of earlier periods with more delicate and romantic pieces. During this time lockets containing a vinaigrette – a compartment carrying scented salts or vinaigres de toilette (aromatic vinegar) dabbed on cotton to ward off poor smells were popular amongst elite circles. In the Victorian era, heart-shaped lockets became popular sentimental gifts, often given as betrothal or friendship gifts. Mourning lockets were once again in fashion, following Queen Victoria’s long mourning period after the death of her beloved Prince Albert in 1861.
Queen Victoria was given a magnificent sapphire and diamond brooch by Prince Albert, which she wore on her wedding day. Victorian brooches came in a variety of styles, from cameos to floral designs. The trend for brooches continued into the early 20th-century, with Art Nouveau, Edwardian, and Art Deco brooches all flourishing as adornments. Today, Queen Elizabeth II takes every opportunity she can to wear her collection of magnificent brooches. The brooches in the Royal Collection are worn by many members of the Royal Family, and each brooch has a specific sentimental meaning or history behind it.
Bentley & Skinner are delighted to have an extensive and important collection of brooches and pendants, ranging from the 18th century to the present. We are pleased to stock brooches in a variety of styles and from different time periods, including Georgian, Victorian, Renaissance Revival, and Art Deco. Pendants and lockets in Bentley & Skinner’s broad collection include crosses, decorative emblems, portrait miniatures, and gem-set designs.
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