This may seem an odd question to be posing here of all places. Surely Joanna knows the difference between a brooch and a badge. Well I thought I did, but sometimes I doubt myself. A few months ago I was at that august institution The Royal Academy, browsing round the shop and spotted a piece of jewellery, yes you’ve guessed, a brooch. But wait a minute; they described it as a ‘Badge’. Why? Size? Made of metal? To be honest I don’t know. It was based on a 1946 oil painting by Juan Melé called ‘Irregular Frame No.2’. To be honest I could see no reason why they had called it a badge and not a brooch.
This started me thinking what’s the difference? Is there a difference? According to the Oxford Dictionary a ‘Badge’ is “a distinctive device, emblem or mark in heraldry, a device borne for distinction by all the retainers of a noble house worn as a sign of office or licensed employment or of membership of a society”. Whereas a ‘brooch’ is “an ornament with a hinged pin and catch usually worn fastened to a woman’s clothing” or “any jewelled ornament; a trinket”. Oh dear, checking up on ‘trinket’ I find the Oxford Dictionary calls these “small ornament, article of jewellery etc. of little value”. Not sure everyone would agree with that!
For me a brooch should be a thing of beauty. Whether it is made of gold and diamonds or paper and cloth it is about the design and the craftsmanship. Sometimes there is an element of wit, I have a red wood spoon brooch from Estonia and a Pinocchio from Pisa (he has a big nose and dangling legs and arms). Sometimes people say “Wow, love your badge”. I always correct them saying it is a brooch. In my mind there is a clear distinction. I may not be as formal as the Oxford Dictionary but a badge has a specific meaning whereas a brooch is decorative. I’m also not so rigid in terms of how to ‘wear’ brooches – no longer simply pinned to a lapel, they can be worn on hats, handbags, grouped together to form bouquets for brides and displayed artistically arranged in frames as works of art.
When the 2012 Olympics were being held in London I noticed there was a whole marquee specifically for the sale and swapping of badges. Outside there was a long queue and a mêlée of folk displaying their badges from past Olympic Games and events – all comparing and sharing. I have to confess I did purchase a badge depicting the 2012 logo – well I had to have a souvenir and by wearing my badge I was showing the world my support for the 2012 Games. Would I have preferred a glitzy one with more style – you bet.
Brooches or Pins have been around for thousands of years. Some of the earliest are in the British Museum – below is an example of a Middle Bronze Age (1600-1200 BC) gold brooch found in Romania on the banks of the Danube.
Gold Brooch circa 1600-1200 BC (courtesy British Museum)
Throughout history brooches have gone in and out of fashion, depending on taste and the clothes of the day. They may not be today’s favourite fashion accessory, but for me they have charm and versatility. I see my drawers full of delicious treasures as beautiful, elegant, fun, quirky and unusual; expressions of my personality. My collection is nudging its way towards 650 and shows absolutely no sign of shrinking. I hope I can share in a small way through the Brooch of the Month feature my love of brooches. To help bring the brooches to life I have commissioned new photos of all the Brooches of the Month by professional photographer Mark Colliton. Look out for April’s Brooch of the Month coming soon, a stunning Eisenberg fur clip.