Brooches have been at the height of women's fashion for centuries. The Victorian era saw brooches used in everyday fashion with styles to fit any situation. Most Victorian brooches also doubled as a pendant for necklaces. In the 1960s, a Victorian revival was born, bringing back the same styles with a few differences such as different clasps and materials. To determine the actual age of a brooch from the Victorian era, you must know what to look for and be able to tell the real thing from the 20th-century revival pieces.
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Inspect the backing of your brooch. Lobster claw backs were not used in the Victorian era. Instead, Victorian brooches sported the "C" clasp. This clasp consisted of a straight pin that fit into a C-shaped hook.
Examine the art and workmanship of the brooch. Victorian era brooches were sturdy and detailed. According to the website David Frith Jewellery, Victorian brooches were commonly made of Pinchbeck, a low-cost alternative to gold. Aluminium, copper, stainless steel and white gold were not used until the 20th-century Victorian revival.
Determine if the brooch is handmade or produced industrially. Handmade brooches were the norm in the Victorian era. Carvings and enamel paints were carefully applied to add detail and elegance. Mass-produced brooches are less detailed and are made of cheaper materials such as plastic.
Note the colouring of the brooch. Victorian brooches were commonly softer and paler than newer brooches of the revival era. During the Victorian revival, colours became more vibrant, indicating they are newer.
Weigh the brooch in your hand or with a portable scale. Victorian brooches seem heavy by sight, but were made fairly light to prevent snagging and stretching of clothes.
Look closely at any jewel setting. Jewels from newer brooches are simply glued into place, while Victorian brooch jewels are faceted. Popular jewels during the Victorian era include seed pearls, mother-of-pearl, black onyx and black glass. Paintings and carvings also portrayed Greek and Roman figures, vines, grapes and floral patterns adorned with the jewels of choice.
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