Brooch, Or Broach (from the Fr. broche, originally an awl or bodkin; a spit is sometimes called a broach, and hence the phrase "to broach a barrel"; see Broker), a term now used to denote a clasp or fastener for the dress, provided with a pin, having a hinge or spring at one end, and a catch or loop at the other.

Brooches of the safety-pin type (fibulae) were extensively used in antiquity, but only within definite limits of time and place. They seem to have been unknown to the Egyptians, and to the oriental nations untouched by Greek influence. In lands adjacent to Greece, they do not occur in Crete or at Hissarlik. The place of origin cannot as yet be exactly determined, but it would seem to have been in central Europe, towards the close of the Bronze Age, somewhat before 1000 B.C. The earliest form is little more than a pin, bent round for security, with the point caught against the head. One such actual pin has been found. In its next simplest form, very similar to that of the modern safety-pin (in which the coiled spring forces the point against the catch), it occurs in the lower city of Mycenae, and in late deposits of the Mycenaean Age, such as at Enkomi in Cyprus. It occurs also (though rarely) in the "terramare" deposits of the Po valley, in the Swiss lake-dwellings of the later Bronze Age, in central Italy, in Hungary and in Bosnia. (fig. 1).[1]

Fig. 1.  Early type from Peschiera. Fig. 1. - Early type from Peschiera.

From the comparatively simple initial form, the fibula developed in different lines of descent, into different shapes, varying according to the structural feature which was emphasized. On account of the number of local variations, the subject is extremely complex, but the main lines of development were approximately as follows.

Towards the end of the Bronze Age the safety-pin was arched into a bow, so as to include a greater amount of stuff in its compass.

In the older Iron Age or "Hallstatt period" the bow and its accessories are thickened and modified in various directions, so as to give greater rigidity, and prominences or surfaces for decoration. The chief types have been conveniently classed by Montelius in four main groups, according to the characteristic forms: -

I. The wire of the catch-plate is hammered into a flat disk, on which the pin rests (fig. 2)

Fig. 2.  Type I. with disk for catch plate.

Fig. 2. - Type I. with disk for catch-plate.

II. The bow is thickened towards the middle, so as to assume the "leech" shape, or it is hollowed out underneath, into the "boat" form. The catch-plate is only slightly turned up, but it becomes elongated, in order to mask the end of a long pin (fig. 3).

III. The catch-plate is flattened out as in group I., but additional convolutions are added to the bow (fig. 4).

IV. The bow is convoluted (but the convolutions are sometimes represented by knobs); the catch-plate develops as in group II. (fig. 5). For further examples of the four types, see Antiquities of Early Iron Age in British Museum, p. 32.

Among the special variations of the early form, mention should be made of the fibulae of the geometric age of Greece, with an exaggerated development of the vertical portion of the catch-plate (fig. 6).

Fig. 3.  Type II. with turned up and elongated catch plate.

Fig. 3. - Type II. with turned-up and elongated catch-plate. a, "Leech" fibula; b, "Boat" fibula; c. variation of "Boat" fibula.

The example shown in fig. 7 is an ornate development of type II. above.

In the later Iron Age (or early La Tène period) the prolongation of the catch-plate described in the second and fourth groups above has a terminal knob ornament, which is reflexed upwards, at first slightly (fig. 8), and then to a marked extent, turning back towards the bow.

A far-reaching change in the design was at the same time brought about by a simple improvement in principle, apparently introduced within the area of the La Tène culture. Instead of a unilateral spring - that is, of one coiled on one side only of the bow as commonly in the modern safety-pin - the brooch became bilateral. The spring was coiled on one side of the axis of the bow, and thence the wire was taken to the other side of the axis, and again coiled in a corresponding manner before starting in a straight line to form the pin. Once invented, the bilateral spring became almost universal, and its introduction serves to divide the whole mass of ancient fibulae into an older and a younger group.

Fig. 4.  Type III with disk for catch plate, and convoluted bow.

Fig. 4. - Type III with disk for catch-plate, and convoluted bow.

With the progress of the La Tène period (300-1 B.C.) the reflection of the catch-plate terminal became yet more marked, until it became practically merged in the bow (fig. 9). Meanwhile, the bilateral spring described above was developing into two marked projections on each side of the axis. In order to give the double spring strength and protection it was given a metal core, and a containing tube. When the core had been provided the pin was no longer necessarily a continuation of the bow, and it became in fact a separate member, as in a modern brooch of a non-safety-pin type, and was no longer actuated by its own spring.

The T-shaped or "cross-bow" fibula was thus developed. During the first centuries of the Empire it attained great size and importance (figs. 10-12). The form is conveniently dated at its highest development by its occurrence on the ivory diptych of Stilicho at Monza (c. A.D. 400).