May 27, 2012

Broaching the subject of collecting brooches

One would be more than justified in saying that I need another collection like a need a whole in the head. In fact, I'd thoroughly agree with them - which part of the reason that right before moving from Ontario to B.C. earlier this year, I actually sold off two large collections of items I'd been gathering for nearly five years. However, there are times when starting a new collection - especially if it doesn't stand to take up much space - is completely acceptable, no matter how many other roundups of beloved items you already own.

As I've touched upon occasionally in past posts (such as this one about my hunt for plastic bobby pins), I'm extremely allergic to nickel. Be it on bra straps, shoe buckles, jeans' buttons, hair accessories, purse hardware, jewelry, or a myriad of other spots, I must always ensure that I do not let any metal which contains nickel come in contact with my skin (or else I will very rapidly develop a horrible case of contact dermatitis that usually takes weeks to clear up). This is not an easy feat when you consider that many metal items that one routinely comes in contact with do not include a marking or any other indication to let you know what they're made up of.

As such, I learned very early on in life that it was best to pretty much avoid putting any metal on my body unless I was certain (or as certain as one can - I've bought plenty of earrings from reputable shops over the years, such as H&M, that were marked as being "nickel-free" and which still bothered me, and which - according to my home nickel detection kit -  turned out to actually contain the offending metal) that they were safe (sterling silver, brass, copper, and gold that is 14 carat or higher are generally safe, for example).

This means that the vast majority of costume jewellery pieces (often including even high end and designer pieces) are completely off the (dressing room) table for me. I can admire them lovingly - and longingly - from afar or buy them to give as gifts for others who are not allergic to nickel, but there's rarely any way for me to wear them safely myself.

Thus, for most of my life I've not given much thought to the idea of wearing brooches (much as I've always liked them). That is, until this year. You see, I realized that if I put a couple of layers of fabric (clothing) between the brooch (decorative front and pin back) and my skin, and ensured it did not come in contact with my exposed skin in anyway, I could safely wear most brooches, even those with nickel in them.

This discovery might seem like a small one, but to me it was rather monumental because it suddenly opened up a whole new, massively yearned for corner of the jewelry spectrum for me. While many bracelets, earrings, necklaces, rings, and hair accessories are still out of the questions (because, again, they'd come in direct contact with my skin), brooches - my new jewelry BBFs - are an avenue that I get to really explore for the first time ever.

Since determining this point a few months ago, I've been rapidly building up a collection of costume jewelry brooches from various online and real world sources. As with most things I wear, the brooches I'm purchasing are either vintage or vintage appropriate, and so far I've not paid more than $20.00 for a single one of them. In fact, the vast majority have been $10.00 or less (with a few being as affordable as $0.99!).

While one can certainly spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on vintage and antique brooches, I'm happy as a clam to seek out budget-friendly options and find myself especially drawn to brooches that feature some of my favourite things (roses, keys, cute animals, etc) or which I look at and can instantly see that piece working with one or more outfits I already own.

In the first five months of this year alone, I've taken what previously amounted to three or four brooches and morphed them into a collection of more than thirty! Of that, I'd say that about 15-20% are actual vintage (from the 40s, 50s, or 60s) and most of the rest are 1980s through present day pins that have a distinctly vintage appropriate vibe to them.

I've always adored the look of brooches and the accessory versatility they offer. One can wear them on a lapel, shoulder, waist, scarf, handbag, hat, or even tucked in your hair. They're very easy to find (even vintage ones) and truly do not have to break the bank, especially if you're not buying pieces made with precious metals, gemstones, Bakelite, lucite, or other pricy/highly sought after materials.

I'm definitely not looking for brooches of that nature right now (not, of course that I'd turn any down, if offered!), which means that on a shoe-string budget I can quickly add some much needed hits of sparkle, shine, and accessory elegance (or fun - as the case may be) to my wardrobe.

At the moment I find myself drawn to brooches that depict something, instead of just being a clustering or geometric shape of metal, rhinestones, gems, pearls, etc (though I do have a few of those types, too). Cameos, bows, lockets, animals, holiday and seasonal pins (e.g., snowflakes or wishbones), food (especially fruit), and flora (flowers, branches, leaves) are amongst my favourites right now. I love scatter pins and chain linked/double chain pins, too, though so far I haven't picked up any of those styles yet.

Down the road as my brooch collection (and knowledge on this topic) has grown even more to encompass a wider selection of styles and subject matters, I plan on doing a post showcasing how I store them and highlighting some of my favourites (which you'll also see in various "what I wore" outfit posts).

For today however, I thought it would be oodles of fun to share a mixed bag selection of twenty vintage brooches with you that I've spotted etsy lately (all priced under $50.00) and which are all firmly pinned onto my vintage jewelry wish list.

{A romantically charming vintage sweetheart brooch in which you can store super tiny photos of your favourite folks. $40.00 from Happy Moon Designs.}

{Whether you're an artist or lover of the arts, this delightful painter's palette brooch is for you. $8.00 from Vintage Necessities.}

{Sweet as the pie they're so often whipped into, this 1940s wooden cherry brooch is definitely worth picking! $27.00 from Sun City Center Jewelry.}

{Mr. Pink Kitty is chatting up a storm on this super cute 1950s novelty brooch. $38.00 from Orbiting Debris.}

{Luck be a lady tonight! With this cool pair of dice face scatter pins, you're sure to win big on the fashion front. $20.00 from RuthEyes.}

{Put on the kettle - and this wonderfully cute vintage teapot and teapot chain brooch - it's time for a stylish afternoon cuppa. $24.00 from Malibloom.}

{Instantly call to mind fond childhood memories of watching a classic TV western series with this great Lone Ranger brooch. $18.00 from Squidgie Peach Bottoms.}

{Whether used as a set of chained pins or as a sweater clip to hold your favourite cardi closed, this elegant double chain butterfly brooch is sure to set your heart a flutter. $16.00 from Buy Old School Jewels.}

{A poignant link to the tragedies of war that ravaged the 1940s, this red and blue "Remember Pearl Harbor" brooch is a meaningful reminder of a the hardships those who lived during one of our favourite decades endured. $20.00 from Ozark Prairie Antiques and Collectibles.}

{Measuring 2.25"x2.2.25", this lovely 1940s carved wood horse head pin is sure to be a favourite with wild west and pony enthusiasts alike. $28.00 from Wildfell Hall Vintage.}

{One of the neatest things about vintage brooches is the wide array of materials that were employed in their construction. Case in point, this cute blue sequins flower brooch from the 1950s. $18.00 from Flipsville.}

{If one vintage moulded plastic dog's face is cute, than two is bound to be extra adorable, and that is definitely the case with this fun novelty pin from the 40s or 50s! $34.99 from HartsCloset.}

{I really fancy vintage brooch with wirework words on them, so I was instantly drawn to this touchingly special US Navy wife heart dangle brooch from the 40s. $24.00 from Boopsie Vintage.}

{Keep a beautifully attired friend with you on the go with this sweetly sophisticated hand painted vintage lady's head brooch. $25.00 from Love and Dust Vintage.}

{Hued as brightly pink as a rhododendron, this lovely pair of vintage celluloid rose earrings with a matching brooch is so marvelously well suited to the vibrant days of summer. $27.00 (for all three pieces) from Malibloom.}

{Lend any outfit a hit of pretty lilac hued charm with this splendid 1950s ballerina brooch. $15.97 from Resurrections.}

{It's anchors away - or at least onto your lapel, with this colourful nautical themed 1940s brooch. $22.00 from Luxxor.}

{I've always associated bowling with the 1950s more than any other decade, so when I saw this fabulous heart charm dangle brooch with a gal bowling inside, it was love at first sight. $19.00 from Red Truck Designs.}

{No matter if it's the dead of winter or the dog days of summer, you can always keep a basket of beautiful blooms close with this sweetly lovely hand painted 1940s celluloid brooch. $38.00 from CraftySara.}

{This darling, adorable vintage cat's eye glasses brooch is just through-the-roof fabulous! $12.00 from Angeline's Attic.}

♥ ♥ ♥

I hope that you enjoyed seeing these delightful pins, too, and would love to hear about your own brooch collection and to know what your favourite kind of brooch to gather and wear is.

Happy collecting, and accessorizing, sweet dears - may you each have a Sunday that glistens with as much beauty as the most resplendent brooch in the world!


  1. hi Jessica :) these are all fabulous...and I think it is really okay to start and stop collections house may be proof of this! lol I personally love the pink cat, the tea cup and those last spectacles are AWESOME...OH, hope u r not enabling me! Have a great weekend- btw...loving your pic here=gorgeous!

  2. Oh my goodness! I am sorry to read about your allergy. However, I am glad that you have realized your ability to wear brooches while wearing layers! I understand the brooch love, and I haven't even dared count how many I own, and there are always more I'm interested in. Like here, there are at least two that I am contemplating purchasing!!

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Gosh darn it, now I want to go to all of the yard sales this summer looking for fun brooches! I love the ones that you've shown. The little glasses and the rose set are too cute! I have a hard time with metal earrings (only titanium seems to not infect my ears) so the posts would have to be used for something else, but bright pink flowers always catch my eye.
    I love reading your blog. Your style and great looks make me want to be a cool retro girl, too.

  4. Cute brooches. My skin has issues with cheap metal (and many other things) too. The other day I bought a cute vintage necklace (it had a pendant of dice in a little cage) that I unfortunately had to take off after a few minutes due to the unbearable itchiness. I really should be more careful about jewelry.

  5. Every single one is fabulous. I'm like you in that i also have an allergy to nickel. :( I can wear brooches, though, and they don't bother me. :) Earrings are a total no-no. I love all these, but being a lover of felines, and the color pink, i have to say Mr. Kitty is my absolute fav! The glasses are super cool too. Hope you're having an excellent weekend, Jessica!

  6. Hi Jessica,

    Wonderful post about something close to my heart, collecting vintage brooches. I have a serious addiction to collecting them. I too love the more unique, novelty ones. I have the almost identical brooch to the flower basket celluloid one above. So sweet! Hope you get some of the treasures you're eying.

  7. All such lovely brooches! I'm so pleased you've found you can wear them - it really is the small things in life. (And being a doll's house lover I learned a long time ago that large collections of little things don't count as hoarding!)

  8. Cannot even deal with the kitschy awesomeness of that telephone-kitty one! They're all great, though.

    It's great to hear you've been able to find a way around your allergy to some extent. I have a couple friends with similar issues and it's always crazy to see the ubiquity of some materials...

  9. Those rose earrings are so beautiful!! :O
    Oh snap, I'm your 1500th follower!! Aw yeah! XD

  10. Apparently painting the back with a couple of coats of clear nail polish should help with the nickel allergy when it comes to things like brooches.

  11. Hi sweet ladies, thank you each very much for your comments. It's awesome to know that many of you enjoy (and collect) vintage brooches, too. By all means feel free to share snaps of your collections with me anytime.

    @ Miss Magpie, good suggestion! Indeed, clear nail polish can create enough of a buffer for some people, but it doesn't do the job for me unfortunately. Usually I find I have to put at least a couple of layers of fabric between me and the nickel, and even then the amount of nickle (say a brooch pin back or tiny clasp of a necklace) has to be very small; I think I'd need a parka to protect me from something bigger like a belt buckle :P).

    @ Ashesela, that's thoroughly awesome! Thank you very much for being my 1500th follower, I'm honoured.

    @ Kim, I'm sorry to hear about your recent experience with that necklace. It can be soooo frustrating to constantly deal with a nickel allergy. Perhaps try wearing the necklace over a thick cotton blouse (with a button up collar) or turtle turtleneck, so that the necklace does not come in direct contact with your skin. Depending on how sensitive you are, this might be able to do the trick and allow you to wear your lovely new accessory.

    Thanks again everyone, I love hearing from you!!!
    ♥ Jessica

  12. I'm addicted to brooches too, they are about the most fun type of jewellery you can collect and they suit everyone. Love the little scotty dogs.

    Penny Dreadful Vintage

  13. I cannot imagine owning vintage brooches and not being able to wear them at all, ever. That's just a nightmare. Being sensitive to nickel (but not nearly as allergic) I do understand the problem somewhat, so I'm very, very glad that you found a solution! I love seeing your accessories.

    That cat's eye brooch is just the cat's meow! (Couldn't resist!)

  14. I have been collecting brooches for many years as a way to mask the fact that I only owned two styles of black suit jacket. In the heat, I would wear a dressy tank and pair it with a fashionable brooch. 100% of my finds are at swap meets and yard sales, I have never paid retail. I have encountered avon, jj, jji in my collection and am so excited to know that I have pins that are not of the cheaply made modern decade we now find ourselves in. But my choices had been fairly conservative up to know, mostly flowers, leaves, circles with rhinestones and holiday pins. I got excited about collecting the other day when I spent 3 dollars on two pins and discovered that my eye must be really on target as both pins, mixed in a pile of scrap finds at a swap meet booth, were 70's vintage and still worth from $5 to $15 a piece. I looked back through my collection, and have identified a few vintage 70s pieces and at least one with a closure that looks like it dates back to the 1920's. As a result I am going to keep hunting! and I am so excited, I am going to use a cloth purse with a cloth strap so I can pin my finds right on the moment I purchase. Happy hunting! Look for a swap meet in your area... there are many often during the week it's worth a day off to hunt around. I suggets buying more than one item from a single seller and ask for a deal!

    1. Hi Monica, thank you very much for your terrific comment and for sharing about your own fantastic brooch collection with me. Love your idea of carrying a cloth purse with you when out hunting for brooches so that you can pin them onto it right away (I usually wrap mine in a cloth handkerchief and put into the zipper pocket inside my purse, if I find one while out yard saling or thrifting).

      I wish you tons of luck on all your brooch hunting trips,
      ♥ Jessica