Many people want to know about dating vintage and antique brooches, and how they can tell if a brooch is old. As with anything to do with jewellery, things can get complex pretty quick, but here are 5 simple beginner’s tips for dating vintage brooches – please note these are general guides only for people new to the vintage jewellery world.
- If you see a brooch, the first thing to do is to check out its clasp mechanisms. The ‘T-bar hinge and c-clasp’ types (see photos below) were generally used from the 19th Century up until the around 1920s. Some modern artisans still prefer to use a c-clasp – but on modern brooches you’ll probably never see a T-bar hinge.
- Check the length of the pin itself – generally speaking, the longer the pin, the older the brooch (this was perhaps due to clothing being much thicker and heavier in the old days, so a long pin was needed to keep it in place securely).
- From around the 1910s to 1930s we occasionally see what we call in the trade ‘trombone’ clasps, which are tubular cylinders used to keep the pin itself in place rather than a c-clasp (though c-clasps were still common in this period too). This is general age dating only, and trombones can occasionally be seen on pre-1910s jewellery up to the 1960s in my personal experience.
- Generally speaking you tend to only find the roll-over clasps on brooches made from around the 1960s onward. (Note: Early experimental prototype roll-over ‘safety’ clasps can be seen as early as the 1900s, though these are uncommon – I’ve only ever seen a small handful made before the 1940s in the last 10 years).
- There are no hard and fast rules to dating a brooch – things other than a pin and clasp must be taken into account,such as design, metal type, glass/ enamel/ stone cuts and types etc; the tips given here are general tips only for general guidance, and you may occasionally find a crude c-clasp on a piece of 1970s jewellery, or a long pin on 1990s jewellery (eg, so though I’ve personally never found the T-bar hinges on post 1930s jewellery, it’s doesn’t mean it won’t happen!).
Below, you can see some photo examples of the age and types of brooch clasps, starting from the earliest. Remember, the key words here are **general speaking** and not hard rules (there are c-clasps you may find on modern jewellery, and rollover clasps you may find on very early 20th Century jewellery):
Finally, the most important tip when learning to date vintage jewellery is to handle as many pieces as possible. Go to auctions, antique fairs and proper vintage shops and have a really good look at what genuine vintage jewellery looks and feel like. And remember – as pointed out previously, these are general guidelines only – you may find c-clasps on modern brooches, and early types of rollovers on pre-1950s jewellery. Get advise and guidance from as many different people and sources as possible 🙂