For many jewelry lovers, nothing compares to antique brooches’ timeless beauty. These exquisite pieces of wearable art are coveted for their craftsmanship. It’s impossible to not fall in love with their unique designs passed down through generations. Antique brooches represent a time when artisans labored over each work with meticulous attention to detail. Their rarity and quality materials used in construction make them sought after today. Collectors see great value in these pieces because each brooch reflects its era and is an example of the artistry lost to mass-produced jewelry.
From ancient Etruscan pieces featuring intricate twists of gold and gemstones to more modern designs inspired by nature or popular culture, antique brooches are a fascinating reminder of the past and a way to add pizzazz to any outfit. Whether it’s the Victorian-era brooch encrusted with brilliant jewels or an Art Deco pin featuring angular lines, each piece reminds us of the craftsmanship that went into creating these works of art.
In this article, we will explore why these beautiful pieces remain so highly valued and how they reflect the era from which they originated and showcase the centuries-old artistry still appreciated today.
The History of Antique Brooches
Nowadays, brooches are often associated with formal wear and fancy occasions. Their origins can be traced back to ancient civilizations. Clips were first used to fasten clothing, dating as far back as the Bronze Age in Europe when metal pins were used to secure cloaks.
Their real-time in the spotlight came during the Renaissance when brooches became popular as decorative adornments and status symbols. Wealthy families wore gold or silver pins encrusted with brilliant jewels to showcase their wealth and power.
These exquisite pieces were often crafted by skilled artisans who took great pride in creating unique designs that no one else had. This level of craftsmanship continues to make antique brooches so highly sought after today.
Brooches’ popularity waned during the Industrial Revolution when mass-produced jewelry became commonplace. But they have enjoyed a resurgence of popularity in recent years as more and more people are looking to invest in pieces with a story to tell.
Let’s see what makes them so valuable to collectors today.
Evaluating an Antique Brooch
Evaluating antique brooch is a job for expert appraisers. However, you still need to know the basics to recognize quality and determine its worth.
Another perk of knowing how to evaluate an antique brooch is that you can identify a fake or poorly crafted one from the real thing.
- Construction quality: When it comes to quality construction, antique brooches are typically made of solid precious metals like gold and silver. Look for hallmarks or other metal stamps indicating its grade and purity.
- The nestled gems: The stones and gems used in construction also play an essential role in determining a brooch’s value. Some pieces feature diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, or other precious stones. Look for any chips or nicks in the rocks and ensure they are securely set.
- The piece’s design: The design of an antique brooch also tells a story about its era of origin. Unusual or intricate designs may indicate that it is from a specific period or have been crafted by a renowned artisan.
- The piece’s condition: The piece’s overall condition is also essential. It can significantly reduce its value if the metal has been scratched or tarnished. Look for chips, nicks, or other signs of wear.
- Age: Each era had its own style, and the age of a brooch can be determined by its design. For example, Victorian-era pieces typically feature intricate patterns with gemstones. In contrast, Art Deco pieces often have a more angular or geometric look. On the other hand, Renaissance-era pieces usually feature floral or natural motifs.
Editor’s note: Speaking of age, this is where you have to pay the most attention, as dishonest or misinformed people will claim their piece comes from an era it doesn’t belong to. It’s also the area most commonly faked.
Here is a video that shows an expert identifying antique brooches:
You’ll still need an expert appraiser to determine the precise worth of an antique brooch. Still, if you understand the basics of evaluating one, you can confidently invest in a quality piece.
The 10 Most Valuable Antique Brooches
Now that you know what makes an antique brooch valuable, let’s look at the ten most sought-after pieces. These pieces have sold or are selling for incredibly high prices, making them some of the most valuable brooches.
Editor’s note: While the term “antique” refers explicitly to items more than a hundred years old, we’ve included several brooches from more recent periods that have seen their value skyrocket due to rarity and other factors.
Without further ado, let’s get into the list.
TIFFANY & CO. ANTIQUE DIAMOND 10.50CTW F/VVS PLATINUM RARE BROOCH – $11,008
This hands-down stunning brooch is crafted in platinum with a 10.50ctw of F/VVS diamonds. 10.50ctw f/vvs diamonds refer to diamonds with a combined weight of 10.50 carats that have a grade of “fancy vivid” (also known as “internally flawless”) and very, very slightly included.
The piece features an openwork design and looks modern yet timeless. It’s a brooch that would look good in any era and is sure to garner attention.
Plus, it’s multifunctional as it can be worn as a brooch or pendant, which is always a plus in our books.
An interesting thing to note is that the original price for this piece was $55,000, but it sold for a fifth of that at an eBay auction. Yet, the piece’s conditions are excellent, so one can hardly tell it’s been pre-owned.
This piece looks best in a vintage-style setting, and it’s sure to add a classic yet modern touch.
Diamond, Enamel, Gold Pendant-Brooch – $11,875
This timeless pendant brooch features a sparkling antique pear-shaped diamond that weighs around 2.40 carats, surrounded by 8.10 carats of glimmering mine-cut diamonds with bright rose-cut accents and an enticingly dark applied black enamel trim to tie it all together–all set in luxurious 18k gold for a total weight of 22.70 grams.
The average color grade of the diamonds on this piece is J-K-L, which stands for “almost colorless.” This pendant-brooch shimmers as bright and bold as the day it was made. Heritage Auction reports the condition as “good,” and conducted tests to ensure the gold was actually 18k.
The eye-catching floral design is sure to draw attention, making it an excellent conversation starter for any occasion.
Wedderien, Large Jadeite Jade, Diamond and 18 Karat Turtle Brooch – $56,000
This one-of-a-kind Wedderien turtle brooch is crafted from 18k gold with a large piece of jadeite jade encrusted in brilliant round diamonds.
The total diamond weight of this piece is 4.25 carats and the jade measures approximately 1 3/4 x 2 1/2 inches.
It’s the most recent piece on this list, as it was made in the 80s, which makes it not an antique. However, the piece has tremendous value and is highly sought after by collectors due to its unique design, rare materials, and intricate craftsmanship, so we decided to include it in our list.
It’s a truly stunning piece that is sure to make a statement wherever you go. It’s perfect for anyone who wants an eye-catching addition to their jewelry collection.
Due to the strong green color of the jade and its unique setting, this piece goes best with neutral colors such as beige or black.
Van Cleef & Arpels Diamond Flower Brooch – $61,850
This diamond flower brooch is a timeless classic. It features two tiers of diamonds, the top tier set with round brilliant cut diamonds and the bottom tier set with baguette-cut diamonds.
The total diamond weight of this piece is 8.50 carats, and it’s made from 18k white gold.
The piece was made by Van Cleef & Arpels, the renowned high-end jewelry brand known for its impeccable craftsmanship and classic designs. The 18k gold and the diamond cut perfectly combine to create an eye-catching piece.
This brooch would be an excellent addition to any collection, as it will stay in style for years to come. If you were to wear it, it’d depend on the type of even you’re attending.
For a formal event, jewel-toned dresses in emerald green, sapphire blue, or ruby red would perfectly complement the diamond flower brooch, while for a more casual event, a simple white dress would allow this piece to really stand out.
Late Victorian Diamond-Set Butterfly Brooch – $72,614.58
An exquisite late Victorian diamond-encrusted butterfly brooch, fashioned in the shape of a butterfly and featuring old brilliant and rose cut diamonds estimated to weigh 15 carats. This regal design is further enhanced with ruby eyes set in silver on top of a yellow gold mount and fitting circa 1890. At 7.1x4cm, it makes for an imposing accessory.
This piece comes from Bentley & Skinner, the renowned master jewelers from London. The butterfly’s intricate design and sparkling diamonds make it a stunning work that will be remembered by all who see it. It is sure to be a showstopper at any event.
This brooch would look gorgeous on a simple black cocktail dress or a traditional evening gown. It’s the perfect accent piece to make any look stand out.
Art Nouveau Grasshopper Brooch – $75,456.02
This one is definitely one of the most unique brooches on this list. The Art Nouveau Grasshopper Brooch is a prime example of late 19th century craftsmanship. Art Nouveau was a style that was popular at the time, featuring organic shapes and natural motifs.
This intricately crafted insect features a cabochon ruby-set eye and gorgeous, shaded green opalescent champlevé enamel wings adorned with rose cut diamonds. The tergum is finished off with a pear shaped cabochon opal and the finely engraved sternite is framed by two shimmering rose-cut diamonds, all set in beautiful yellow gold and silver accompanied by an elegant gold brooch fitting.
The details and the uniqueness of the piece contribute to its huge price tag of $75,456.02. This piece would go great with any outfit, though it’d probably pop with a neutral-toned dress or a black blazer.
David Webb Rose Diamond Brooch – $85,000
If diamonds are forever, this rose-shaped brooch from the esteemed jewelry house David Webb is an eternal classic. Set in platinum, it is covered in 28 carats of diamonds.
The craftsmanship that went into making this piece is truly remarkable, and it’s no surprise that it has become one of the most beloved pieces in jewelry history. Each petal fold was meticulously crafted and looked like a natural rose. The diamonds are cut and set to perfection.
It’s not an antique brooch per se, being from 1970, making it only 50 years old. But this piece is so sought after that it has passed into legend among jewelry aficionados.
If you’re unsure what to pair this with, don’t worry. It goes with practically everything – it looks great with a cocktail dress, you don’t need to reinvent your wardrobe.
Child & Child Rare Magnificent Diamond Platinum Pendant Brooch, circa 1900 – $125,654.80
This stunning piece was crafted around 1900 by the renowned London-based jewelry firm Child & Child. This stunning three-piece neckpiece boasts an elongated octagonal top featuring inwardly curved sides that houses a sparkly central diamond collet of 2.50 carats and is complemented by six diamonds in bead settings for an additional 1.20 carats weight on a millegrain vertical bar backdrop embellished with twenty-six scalloped border diamonds, summing up to 13.00-carat total weight.
This piece is a pendant brooch, which could be worn as a brooch and pendant. It is set in platinum, making it even more valuable.
This rare piece sells for an impressive $125,654.80, and if you’re located in the United States, you’ll need to fill out a CBP 5106 form to purchase it.
Wondering what to wear with this? The options are endless – it looks great with a dress or blouse, but you could also wear it as an eye-catching ornament with a simple t-shirt.
Yellow Sapphire and Diamond Cluster Brooch/Ring – $186,272.19
This brooch is a perfect example of Victorian craftsmanship. It doubles as a pin and a ring, featuring an intricate design of yellow sapphires and diamonds set in 18K gold.
The yellow sapphire is the centerpiece of the brooch with its 31 and a half carats of vibrant yellow stones. It’s surrounded by a halo of diamonds (approximately 2 carats – or 400 milligrams), giving it an eye-catching shine.
This brooch belongs to the Bentley & Skinner collection, a renowned jewelry house in London that has worked with the royal family for the last 150 years.
Editor’s note: If you planned to get this as a ring, make sure to notify the seller about your finger size, as it might need adjusting.
This piece is truly a timeless classic and it will look great with any outfit. Whether you go for a dress or jeans, this piece is sure to make a statement, although it’d really pop with a black blazer
Paul Flato Sapphire and Diamond Feather Brooch, New York, circa 1940 – $375,000
This stunning brooch crafted by New York-based jeweler Paul Flato concludes our list. The creator didn’t skimp on the gems, mounting 129 diamonds, weighing around 2.60 carats in total (that’s over 500 milligrams of diamonds) onto a platinum silver feather. But diamonds aren’t the only precious gem set in this piece — there are also 351 sapphires weighing approximately 35 carats (the same weight as 7 grams of sapphires).
These are just a few reasons why this piece is so highly valued. Its rarity, intricate craftsmanship, and timeless design have made it one of history’s most valuable antique brooches. It is currently on sale for an astounding $375,000 over at 1stdibs, a reputable luxury and antiques marketplace.
Afraid you don’t know what to wear with this piece? We recommend something plain like a suit or typical dress to really let the piece shine and become the center of the attention.
Brooches might feel like something only our grandmas would wear. Still, as we’ve seen here, they are also timeless pieces of jewelry that can add a touch of style and elegance to any ensemble. Whether you’re looking for a statement piece or something more subtle, these brooches will help you stand out.
If you’re on a budget and want an antique piece that won’t break the bank, don’t worry. There are plenty of beautiful brooches and pins that you can find for less than $50.00. Scour places like Etsy or eBay for these more affordable pieces. So choose the one that speaks to your style and enjoy a part of history.
If you plan on investing in one of the more expensive pieces, purchase it from a reputable source.