Utilitarian Jewelry – Brooches | Stewart Kuper Jewelers

Utilitarian Jewelry – Brooches

February 17, 2019
Helix House

Jewelry is always a wonderful gift of course, but sometimes, we want something a bit more functional. Looking for decorative jewelry for the wrist? Well, that’s a bracelet, but for functionality, you might look at a watch instead. This time on the Stewart Kuper Jewelers blog, we are going to look at another kind of functional, utilitarian jewelry – brooches!

The Brooch

Brooches are pieces of jewelry specifically designed to be attached to clothes or garments, usually as a means of keeping them closed. Okay, you probably already knew that! But did you know brooches are some of the oldest examples of jewelry in the world, dating from the Bronze Age!

There are a few different kinds of brooches, each with their different styling but operating of the same principal. Let’s look at the fibula style brooch.

Components of the Fibula Brooch

A fibula is made up of four main pieces: the body, the pin, hinge, and spring.


The body of the fibula is commonly known as the bow or plate, depending on their styling. A plate is wide and flat (like a plate!) while a bow is going to be long, narrow, and arched. This portion of the brooch can be solid or done in an ornate, openwork form. These are often the most decorated portions of a brooch.


The pin is the portion of the brooch used to fasten clothing, by piercing through the fabric. Before brooches, the pin alone was used to fasten clothing together with a straight piece of material (bone, wood, what have you), and it was prone to falling out. The brooch includes a pin rest or catch plate to keep the pin place. The body and the pin connect at either the spring or hinge.

Hinge & Spring

Springs provide tension in the brooch to keep the fastener secure. These additions were seen as early as 14th century BCE. The spring can be out in the open or covered. The hinge was a later improvement to brooch constructions but hinge and springs were both used contemporaneously.

Celtic Brooch

The fibula isn’t the only kind of brooch, in fact one of the most common is the penannular brooch, also known as the Celtic brooch. This style of brooch first appeared back in the Iron Age, and the construction of it represents those ‘simpler’ times. The Celtic brooch is made up of a ring and pin that can move freely about the ring (penannular means incomplete ring in fact) and works incredibly simply. The pin is pushed through the fabric, which is then pulled through the ring which is then turned so that the pin lays across the rings side.  As long as there is tension on the brooch the fabric will remain secure.

As with all jewelry, brooches started out made with simple designs and material and began to be more and more decorated to reflect the power, wealth, and importance of those who owned them. Nowadays a brooch isn’t necessary to keep our robes and cloaks fastened but they still make beautiful, stated pieces of art to wear.

Looking to find something like this for someone special? Make an appointment with Stewart Kuper, browse our jewelry or custom pieces and together you’ll find the perfect treasure.