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HomeHow to buy jewelryHow to Buy Pins and Brooches
How to Buy Pins and Brooches
By Ettagale Blauer

What a remarkable history the pin has! This pretty, decorative object, ready to sparkle on your suit jacket lapel or on the shoulder of a dress, has been part of many cultures for centuries, even millennia. The notion of creating a decorative metal fastener that would hold a garment together securely has been with us at least 2700 years.

Fibulas found at ancient Etruscans sites feature decorative granulation as well as a sharp pin to do the actual work of piercing fabric. We have nearly abandoned the functional aspect of the pin or brooch, although we'll consider ways to use them as practical additions to a wardrobe down below. But even with our practical buttons and zippers, we still enjoy pinning one of these charming pieces of jewelry on our modern garments. See more examples below

Expressing Your Style
Fashionable women often choose a special pin as the signature of their style and there's certainly no shortage of designs to suit virtually every taste and every woman. And you certainly don't have to be a diplomat or someone in the public eye to merit your own special badge of distinction. Let's look at some styles and all the interesting ways to wear pins.

Perhaps no other type of jewelry allows the broad scope of choice as does the pin or brooch. Unlike rings, earrings and necklaces, size is not a factor when choosing pins. Petite women can wear large pins without worrying about proportion. Just look at the pictures of the slender, short Duchess of Windsor, wearing one of her enormous sapphire or ruby feather brooches.

If you can't choose between this pin or that one, choose both and then wear them together, as a pair. We don't hear much about scatter pins these days but the concept hasn't disappeared. A group of small pins, artfully placed together on a jacket, makes a dramatic statement, or a whimsical one, depending on the style of the pins. Scatter pins have the appeal of charm bracelets - they allow the wearer to combine a number of pieces and wear them together as a decorative group and a fashion statement.

Building A Collection
Collecting pins is one of the most delightful ways to brighten your wardrobe. Once your family and friends catch on, you'll find yourself deluged with pins. Are you a dog or cat fancier? There are myriad designs available. Hobbies such as golf or tennis are natural inspirations for pin collectors. Are flowers your delight? You'll need a new jewelry box to accommodate all the exquisite, graceful flower pins available. A flower pin can be a simple gold design, set with diamonds or colored gemstones at the center, or perhaps with one diamond dew drop set on a leaf. Or, the entire pin can be created from gemstones, fashioned into a glittering and colorful floral display, and one you don't have to worry about being allergic to! The setting, made of platinum or gold, gracefully curves around to emulate the look of real petals. Flower pins are made with or without stems - it's your choice.

Then there are the flying creatures -butterflies and bees are two of the most beloved designs. With the variety of butterflies found in nature, designers find endless inspiration - and butterfly pins live forever, unlike their real life counterparts. The value of these pins varies widely too - while you can spend many thousands of dollars for an all-diamond pin you can also find a delightful design for a few hundred dollars. More expensive gemstones, especially fine quality rubies, sapphires and emeralds raise the price but there are exquisite, less expensive colored gems available too - pink and green tourmaline, amethyst and garnet just to name a few, in the designer's palette. Enamel offers a colorful choice as well and enables the artist to most faithfully reproduce the colors of the butterfly's wings. Gem-set bees are absolutely nothing like their real-life inspiration - they won't ever sting! Instead, they look as if they've just flown in to alight on your shoulder. Pair up a bee with a flower pin and you can create a whole scene from nature, right on your lapel.

The traditional bow shape is a favorite choice of jewelry designers. The bow, with its folds and center knot artfully worked out in metal and gemstones, may be as delicate or as bold as you are. Two popular motifs, the feather and the arrow, are often interpreted by designers. A feather pin, worked entirely in diamonds, gracefully echoes the look of a real feather. The arrow pin is often cunningly designed so that the shaft is hidden beneath the fabric leaving the point and the feathered tail showing; the two ends create the look of two separate pins.

Getting away from nature, there's a world of abstract and geometric designs to choose from. If you prefer something without the symbolism of a bird or a butterfly, or even a flower, look at bar brooches. The placement of colored geometric shapes in enamel and gemstones, in the Art Deco style, offers another world of color and design. The bar brooch is one of the most enduring designs. It can be worn either horizontally or vertically or even at a diagonal, along a lapel. Bar brooches may also be used to support a hanging watch, a charming reminder of the days before the wristwatch was invented. When you don't want to wear the watch, just detach it. You can also suspend a favorite pendant from a bar brooch to create your own ornament when your outfit precludes wearing the pendant around your neck. Bar brooches have a sophisticated elegance about them and show that there is a pin design for every woman's taste and style.

Where To Wear A Pin
There are pins to wear in daytime and for gala evening events. A glittering gemstone pin is just right at night, sparkling on the bosom of a strapless evening gown. A pretty rose flower brooch can highlight a daytime outfit, adding color and flair. And who says there's only one place to wear a pin?

Yes, the lapel or breast pocket of a jacket is a fine spot for a pin, but it's hardly the only place. Try placing a pin up toward the shoulder of your garment where it will definitely catch the eye. Or place a row of small pins along the center of a dress, as if there was a row of buttons there.

Do you wear hats? They're coming back into fashion and offer another delightful place to wear a pin, and one that is sure to draw attention to your face. And just when you thought pins had lost their original, functional use, think of adding a generously sized pin to hold a shawl in place. With shawls being worn as often as lipstick, it's time to revive the practical use of pins. If you become too warm and want to loosen your shawl, move the pin to enfold just one layer of fabric; now it's just pretty!

You can choose pins to match every outfit - there's no limit to the colors or styles available at just about every price range. Even if you're a basic black kind of person, there's a great deal to choose from. White diamonds set in platinum, gold sparked with diamonds, black enamel or black diamonds, there's a beautiful world of designs. If you're about to choose your first pin, welcome to the wonderful world of designs. If this is going to be a new addition to your collection, have fun making that next choice. You'll probably discover that you've been expressing your own signature style already. So whether it's butterflies or bar pins, flowers or geometrics, enjoy these magical bits of design.

Ettagale Blauer writes about fine jewelry for consumer magazines. Her books on jewelry include Contemporary American Jewelry Design (Chapman and Hall) and Wristwatches: Five Decades of Style and Design (Schiffer). Her latest book is African Elegance, on the arts and crafts of sub-Saharan Africa
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