Humans have been adorning themselves with brooches crafted into animal figures for centuries. Whether you identify with a butterfly, poodle or something altogether more mythical, like a dragon or unicorn, there is a brooch out there for you, and not just in antique stores.
Arctique polar bear brooch by Boucheron
The Pursuer horse brooch by Wallace Chan
As brooches become fashionable once again – they were prevalent on the AW16 catwalks, from spiders crawling up fluffy jumpers at Les Copains to clusters of vintage-style pins on lapels at Dolce & Gabbana – more contemporary designs are being made, making it time for jewellers to look again at how precious pin-ups can be incorporated into a jewellery offer.
While most of the European luxury jewellery houses have included brooches in their new collections this year, Van Cleef & Arpels went one step further with an entire collection of animal brooches that was unveiled to its clients and the general public simultaneously at an open exhibition in Paris this month.
Arche de Noe koala brooches by Van Cleef & Arpels
The inspiration for the L’Arche de Noé collection of 60 pairs of animals – some brooches featuring two animals, while others were split into two separate brooches that have to be bought as pairs to keep the animals together – was the biblical tale of Noah’s Ark, or at least an artistic imagining of it.
“The concept of staging 60 or so animal pairs in connection with Noah’s Ark originates from a painting by Jan Brueghel the Elder, exhibited at the J. Paul Getty museum in Los Angeles,” explains Van Cleef & Arpels chief executive and creative director Nicolas Bos. “I will never forget the shock I felt as I stood gazing at the painting The Entry of the Animals into Noah’s Ark, and the journey it embarked me on at once.”
While Van Cleef & Arpels’ L’Arche de Noé was a wild expression of animal prowess, other jewellers have been more subtle, hiding animal brooches within transformable jewellery designs. Chopard, for example, included detachable gem-set titanium butterflies in a cuff presented as part of its haute joaillerie collection at the beginning of the year, with two transforming into a pair of earrings and the third, the largest of the trio, to be worn as a brooch.
Butterfly brooch by Chopard
Fei Liu has also made his latest animal brooch deliver multiple functions. The Unicorn brooch – a horse’s head carved from Russian nephrite and accessorised with a flowing articulated diamond and white gold mane – offers two looks and can be worn as a brooch or as a necklace when attached to a dramatic lava rock and diamond neckpiece.
Unicorn Brooch Fei Liu Fine Jewellery
Perhaps the reason that we are so attached to animal brooches is the symbolism they carry. This can be something deep and meaningful – a wild horse, a settled butterfly, a busy bee – or something more obvious, such as a koala for an Australian, perhaps, or a cat brooch for a lover of felines. So get busy unlocking your customers’ connections with the animal kingdom, as this traditional trend is coming out of hibernation this winter.
Bee brooch by Theo Fennell
Jewels Verne Langoustine brooch by Stephen Webster