Bring Back Brooches

The pinned pieces have a strong connection with Irish history dating, back to the Iron Age.

09/02/2024     Jewellery & Gems


At O’Reilly’s Auction Rooms, we are no strangers to brooches. The pinned pieces have a strong connection with Irish history dating all the way back to the Iron Age. During this period, brooches were used as functional pieces rather than as a fashion statement, though occasionally both form and function came into play. For example, the Tara Brooch we all know and love, would have been commissioned for use by a High King of Ireland in the 9th Century AD so that he could fasten his cloak at his shoulder while also emphasising his status with the ornament of said brooch.


Jumping forward a few hundred years, brooches became more associated with specific occasions, as well as primarily being worn by women. As with many jewellery trends, Queen Victoria was instrumental in establishing the idea of mourning brooches in the late 19th century. When Prince Albert died in 1861, Queen Victoria entered a period of mourning that would last until her own passing in 1901; and she expressed this through mourning brooches as well as cameos that portrayed her late husband. There were however, limitations to the wearing of these brooches. During ‘full mourning’, they were not to be worn, and along with this, they were only worn by those who had the excess financial means to afford such a lavish form of grieving.


It was not , however, all doom and gloom in respect of brooches during the late 19th century and early 20th century. As society evolved, brooches became less-so just for the upper class, but also a means of general expression and a fun statement in an outfit. The late 19th century saw women branching out in how they were wearing their brooches as well as a boom in novelty brooches; it would not be strange for you to see a lady with butterfly or beetle motif in her hair. The early 20th century saw the increase of dress clips; these would start off as single large brooches but could then be split to be worn on both straps of dresses.


Today, the history of brooches is still being written; notably, by men on the red carpet. In the last twelve months we have seen stars like Ke Huy Quan, Colman Domingo, and of course Ireland’s star of the moment, Barry Keoghan wearing brooches to award shows and galas alike. At O’Reilly’s Auction Rooms, there are a variety of brooches available for auction on February 21st that cover a variety of periods in jewellery, and we encourage everyone to try their hand at styling them.

                        Lot 265                                                                     Lot 4


                               Lot 171                                                                     Lot 272


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