Among the gold chains, bracelets and rings at the recent For the Boys selling exhibition at Sotheby’s was a large array of brooches.
“I’ve been a champion of the brooch now for 10 years and think I’ve played a small part in its popularity,” says exhibition curator Frank Everett, the auction house’s vice chairman of jewelry for the Americas. “You cannot watch a red-carpet event now without every guy wearing a small brooch on his lapel.”
He’s right; from the Oscars to Cannes, actors are turning up with vintage pins from the likes of Tiffany & Co., Cartier, Verdura, Fred Leighton and Boucheron on their jackets.
The feedback for the Sotheby’s exhibition was overwhelmingly positive, with several high-value pieces selling. Those included two pricey brooches: a 19th-century floral spray for $36,000, and a sunburst brooch from between 1905 and 1910 for $40,000. There were also brooches from David Yurman and Shaun Leane.
Everett himself is a fan of this jewelry category and sees it as part of his job to wear brooches for events and shoots. His go-to favorites are a 1950s Hermès gold rose, and a diamond and enamel gardenia by Oscar Heyman. “I love a flower brooch,” he says. “As a man, I think it makes perfect sense, as men used to wear a real flower in their buttonhole — except this one never wilts.”
Always in fashion
While men have been taking the lead on the red-carpet, fashion designers have been putting brooches back on the runway. Chanel, Schiaparelli, Moschino, and Balmain are among the houses featuring bold, artsy, or signature pearl pieces on jackets and dresses. During the winter months, a brooch is the perfect way to liven up a dark jacket and make a statement.
Taffin, Oscar Heyman, Silvia Furmanovich, Wilfredo Rosado, Shaun Leane and Tomasz Donocik feature brooches in their jewelry collections, mostly in floral and animal varieties. There are also the more punk-style jeweled safety pins at Sydney Evan, and Elizabeth Locke’s hammered-gold designs make for a contemporary-vintage look. Big brands like Tiffany, Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier, and Chanel offer diamond brooches in their fine- and high-jewelry lines.
“Brooches sell consistently, though less than other categories, because they are such an expressive medium of jewelry,” says Tom Heyman, co-president of Oscar Heyman. In the fashion world, he sees men as the ones driving the renewed interest. His company’s collection encompasses a range of motifs, from flowers to animals to flags, as well as custom-designed pieces.
Brooches have always played a huge role at David Webb and continue to be popular with the brand’s clients. The jeweler has recently seen “a trend toward more joyful self-expression, and our highly bold and colorful animal brooches lend themselves well to that,” remarks Levi Higgs, the company’s head of archives and brand heritage. Designs range from animal motifs and Maltese crosses to rock crystal and hammered-gold geometric designs. “There’s truly one for every taste,” he says.
Stores like Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, and the jewelry brands’ own flagships tend to dominate this specialized market, although some independent specialists carry David Webb and Verdura editions. Florida retailers Greenleaf & Crosby and Marissa Collections are among that number, as are California boutique Cayen Collection and Connecticut jeweler Famille.
As the red carpet and the Met Gala have shown, both vintage and current Verdura and Belperron brooches pack a punch. One aspect drawing people to Verdura brooches recently is their convertibility. The brand’s Octopus brooch, for example, can also serve as a torque necklace or as a pendant on a chain.
Elizabeth Locke’s Maltese crosses and ancient Roman coin brooches have necklace options as well.
Although some women might consider it a tad old-fashioned to sport a brooch, there is a host of different ways to give these pieces a modern vibe. “We have seen clients wear brooches at their throats, on the strap of a gown, at the waist, on a lapel, and on a scarf,” says Higgs.
One can also wear them “on a velvet ribbon as a choker, pinned to a velvet headband and worn off to the side, or fixed into a chignon,” says Everett. He likes the double-clip type as well, citing the pair that Boucheron designed for its Like a Queen collection; the wearer can style this brooch as a bowtie or pin the detached pieces to a cardigan as fasteners. The latter is a styling trick that actress Sarah Jessica Parker demonstrated a decade or so ago in a Gap advertisement with music icon Lenny Kravitz, and it still looks great today.
“Basically, there is no wrong way to wear a brooch,” asserts Higgs. “The right way is to just embrace it.”
Main image: Boucheron’s Like a Queen brooch in tourmaline and diamonds on model. (Boucheron)
This article is from the November-December 2023 issue of Rapaport Magazine. View other articles here.