The bar brooch is a widely-loved section of the antique jewellery world. Introduced to the mainstream in the 1890s, bar brooches became popular very quickly. As is the case with many antique jewellery trends, the popularity of the bar brooch originated from royal families around the globe.
Queen Victoria, for example, had a diamond bar brooch that she often wore on her Sash of the Order of the Garter. Accessorising was one of the queen’s many talents, and she passed the majority of her jewellery down to her children. In fact, there are many images of both Queen Alexandra and the Queen Mother wearing the very same diamond bar brooch – sometimes affixed to their own sashes.
Another example of a popular royal bar brooch can be found in Queen Margrethe II of Denmark’s jewellery box. The Connaught pearl bar brooch that the queen has been pictured wearing time and time again has a far-reaching history. Originally owned by Princess Louise Margaret of Prussia, the brooch was a gift from her husband, the Duke of Connaught – one of Queen Victoria’s sons. Princess Louise gifted the brooch to her daughter, Patricia of Connaught.
There is a photograph dated to the 1919 wedding of Princess Patricia where she can be seen wearing the Connaught pearl bar brooch on the bodice of her wedding dress. Although Patricia stepped away from royalty through her marriage, she gifted the brooch back into the royal rotation. Gifting the brooch to – then Crown Princess – Margrethe as a celebration for her eighteenth birthday saw the brooch brought back into the limelight, and the Queen has made excellent use of it in the decades since.
Popular Bar Brooch Designs
Early designs of bar brooch can be split into ‘day’ and ‘night’ brooches. Women of the Victorian era wore lots of jewellery, with their evening outfits requiring their more formal pieces. Bar brooches for the evening featured gemstones, diamonds in particular, in order to properly accentuate the woman’s overall attire. Bar brooches from this era that were intended for regular day wear were generally much plainer. Made with plain yellow gold, rose gold, white gold, and silver, these brooches were often without further ornamentation. These brooches walked the line between being decorative and practical for the typical Victorian woman.
As is always the case with popular jewellery, the bar brooches that were popular in the late Victorian period reflect some of the changing social attitudes of the time. It was becoming increasingly more common and accepted for women to partake in sports of many kinds.
This affinity for exercise and sport can be seen through the emerging bar brooch designs that were themed. Riding crops, tennis racquets, and golf clubs are just a few examples of the more sport-oriented designs that were very popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
As the 20th century developed, gemstones became a greater focus for brooches, and bar brooches would often have well-sized diamonds in a simple row rather than imitating a specific icon. Due to the advancements in jewellery-making technology, it became a more popular choice to wear geometric brooches. The Art Deco jewellery trend of geometry and oversized jewellery pieces seemed to spell the end of the bar brooch for a while. Larger brooches were the norm for a while, but the simplicity and elegance of the bar brooch has longevity, and it endures as a popular style today.
We are lucky to have many varieties of bar brooches among our extensive collection. Always a timeless style, the bar brooch has needed to change very little in its lifetime to remain very graceful and popular among women of all ages and tastes.