Five tips on how to date a vintage brooch…. with pictures to help!

Many people want to know about dating vintage and antique brooches, and how they can tell if a brooch is old. Here are a five tips to help you find out…

  • If you see a brooch, the first thing to do is to check out its clasp mechanisms. The ‘T-bar pins and c-clasp’ types were used from the 18th Century up until the around 1910s, after which they fell out of favour.
  • Check the length of the pin itself – 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 1950s 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 very common in this period too).
  • Generally speaking you tend to only find roll-over  clasps on brooches made from the 1960s onwards. (Note: Early experimental prototype roll-over ‘safety’ clasps can be seen as early as the 1910s, though these are exceptionally rare – 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 are taken into account; 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 1980s jewellery (though T-bar hinges are never found in post 1930s jewellery, so that’s a help anyway!).

Picture time! You can see some examples of these  types of brooch clasps below, starting from the earliest type:

antique scottish agate victorian banded agate brooch jewellery dating tips

VICTORIAN T -BAR HINGES: A typical antique T-bar hinge and C-clasp shown on a brooch dating circa 1880s. The T-bar is named after the T shape of the hinge (left of picture), while the C-clasp is named after the c shaped hook catch the pin fits into (right). This type of brooch fixing was used throughout the Victorian period and up until around the Art Deco era.

antique scottish agate banded brooch 1a close up T- bar hinge jewelry dating

VICTORIAN T -BAR HINGES: Close up of an antique t-bar hinge, used on circa pre-1920s jewellery, with the blue ring circling a good example of one.

whitby jet brooch jewelry

VICTORIAN T -BAR HINGES: The back of a circa 1880s Victorian Whitby Jet mourning brooch shows a crude T-bar hinge and c-clasp.  Note the long pin, which stretches way over the brooch itself.

antique edwardian glass paste rhinestone brooch vintage dating jewelry tips

EDWARDIAN HINGES: In the early 20th Century the T-bar hinge was gradually replaced with a smaller rounded hinge, as seen on this circa Edwardian 1910s brooch (and like on the brooches we see nowadays). Note that the long pin is still popular.

vintage 1950s brown banded glass agate brooch green pearl rhinestones dating help jewellery

20TH CENTURY TROMBONE CLASPS: The trombone tube clasp never really became commonly used, and was generally seen on brooches from around the 1910s up to the 1950s. It consists of a cylinder tube within a cylinder – you pull the inner cylinder out to release the pin.

vintage 1970s rolled gold shell cameo brooch pendant (3)

A standard roll-over pin and clasp, which became the standard brooch fitting around the 1960s onwards to today. Note how short the pin itself has become, especially when compared to the long Victorian pins.

victorian vintage antique etruscan gold emerald green brooch glass

ROLL-OVER SAFETY CLASP:  A good close up of a modern roll over clasp. Just to confuse things, this is actually a repair job – a modern clasp fitting on a very old antique Victorian mourning brooch. Note the silver soldering, which gives the repair away  – the roll-over clasp has been put on there as the original 120 year old  c-clasp had broken off.  Dating old jewellery can be complicated!

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.


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6 thoughts on “Five tips on how to date a vintage brooch…. with pictures to help!

    • Oh no – I see what you mean, all my brooch pictures have totally disappeared?! :O 😦

      No idea why this has happened, many thanks Eileen for notifying me about it – I’ll sort this out ASAP.

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