As a magpie, I am inordinately attracted to small, shiny things. Sparkly things. Glittery things.
Over the years, an eclectic collection of brooches has made its way into my nest. Ranging from vintage to highstreet, individually they have little intrinsic value but all have a tale to tell.
Most of the vintage brooches in my collection were bequeathed by granny dolittle. Indeed, she left me her entire stash of costume jewellery, stored in a blue leather case, with her initials on the lock.
A large proportion of the brooch collection harks back to when granny dolittle lived in Malaya. She was there from the early 1930s until 1942, at which point a hasty exit from Singapore was required owing to the Japanese invasion. She returned after the war but the precise dates are hazy. All of the brooches from Malaya are typified by filigree, black enamel and oriental designs. They seem timeless. Indeed, granny dolittle bought me a brand spanking new one when she visited Malaysia (as it’s now called) in the early 1980s. It is hard to tell the new brooch apart from her originals.
I love butterflies and so, it seems, did granny. I have butterfly scarves, butterfly t-shirts, butterfly dresses. The small blue, medium cream and large filigree butterfly brooches were all hers. As an aside, the butterfly is the international symbol for the thyroid gland. Perhaps granny was a closet endocrinologist.
The masks hail from my amateur theatrical days, representing as they do tragedy and comedy. I bought this brooch from a craft fair in Eugene, Oregon, on my first ever trip to the US of A.
The large silver lizard is pure 1980s. This brooch was inspired by jewellery from the collection of Wallis Simpson, AKA the Duchess of Windsor. I think I got it mail order from a Sunday newspaper and I wore it to my 21st birthday party on a plain back dress with red evening gloves. Well, that was the ’80s for you…
The silver oblong-shaped brooch is a Charles Rennie Mackintosh-inspired design. It was a gift from my flatmate’s mum on the day that I made the transition from miss dolittle to doctor dolittle. It is also a symbol of my adopted city of Glasgow.
I am particularly fond of the three floral brooches, which all belonged to granny. I remember her wearing the large pearl one on a cardigan when I was a child. The three small leaf brooches linked by chain are very unusual (and a total nightmare to pin on!); I also have the matching earrings.
The Prefect’s badge is my actual one from highschool. My first taste of power!
The bird brooches represent my tendencies to “twitch”. The diamanté bird brooch is classic Primark; the pink bird brooch is bakelite repro. I am slowly building up a stash of bird-related jewellery. My pride and joy is a pigeon pendant from The Mymble’s Daughter.
The small blue turtle was a Christmas present from my brother. Like the lizard, it is an art deco repro. I am totally fascinated by the 1920s and 1930s. And turtles.
The purple stone brooch was a souvenir from a family holiday on Guernsey. The day after we got home, I went for the interview that secured me my first ever job after leaving school.
Seeing my brooch collection laid out in its full glory, I do feel that I should try to wear them more often. Style guru Genevieve Antoine Dariaux recommends pinning a brooch to a dress, as long as it is “simple and unadorned”. Or on the collar of a coat or suit.
The world’s number 1 brooch-wearing style icon is, without doubt, HRH Queen Elizabeth II.