Selected books on brooches and badges

If you want to learn more about jewellery, there are some great books for you. I’ve put together a list of selected books about brooches and badges (if you’re interested in rings, click here).

Brooches can be tiny canvases – pinned to your clothes at eye level. Jewellers can use a brooch to make a work of art, a little sculpture or picture you can wear everyday. Brooches can also be political objects, in a way which is different to many other jewels. The political badge is still a staple of campaigns, protest groups and demonstrations.

So what books should you read if you want to learn more about brooches? 

Brooches and Badges – Rachel Church

My own book ‘Brooches and Badges’ was based on the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum. It’s organised chronologically. It begins in the middle ages, where the collection really comes into its own, and finishes with jewellery made in the early twenty-first century. It covers jewellery in the Western tradition. One of the challenges of writing about brooches is very basic -what is a brooch? Can it include breast ornaments, cravat and tie pins? Does it need to have a pin or can it be sewn onto clothing.?

I decided to include brooches, badges and pins – decorative objects attached to clothing whose importance waxed and waned alongside changes in dress fashions.  I used letters, court records and magazine archives to try and see how the use of brooches changed through time and how we understand them now and in the past. 

Available to buy here.

Brooches and Badges, Rachel Church. Thames and Hudson/ V&A, 2019
Insides pages of Brooches and Badges by Rachel Church. Part of the list of selected books on brooches and badges.
Inside pages

Brooches: Timeless Adornment – Lori Ettlinger Gross 

This was published by Rizzoli, New York in 2008. It’s a lavishly illustrated book, mainly featuring brooches from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. It’s written in a readable and enjoyable style and covers jewels from the creations of the great jewellery houses to much more affordable everyday pieces. It includes a glossary of different brooch types followed by chapters on style, craft, collecting and caring for your brooches. It’s probably aimed at the general reader and doesn’t have footnotes or references to follow up but it’s a great introduction to the sheer invention and variety of brooches. 

It’s out of print, but look out for a reasonably priced second hand copy.

Front cover of Brooches: timeless adornment by Lori Ettlinger Gross. Part of the list of selected books on brooches and badges.
Brooches: timeless adornment, Lori Ettlinger Gross, Rizzoli, 2008

The Brooch Unpinned: The Goldsmiths’ Company Collection 1961-2021 – Frances Parton and Dora Thornton

The most recent addition to the field is ‘The Brooch Unpinned: The Goldsmiths’ Company Collection 1961-2021’. It was published by the company in 2021.

Company curator Dora Thornton wrote this book as a follow up to the display of brooches at the 2021 Goldsmiths’ Fair. It includes introductory essays by the great collector and gallerist Helen Drutt English, and the jewellery historian Joanna Hardy.

It begins with short essays on the 1961 Exhibition of Modern Jewellery. The Exhibition was held at Goldsmiths’ Hall in 1961 and was the start of the Company collection.

Double page spreads on individual brooches, arranged roughly chronologically, follow. Each spread has a beautiful photograph of the brooch, shown front and back and a useful paragraph or two on the maker, the brooch and how it fits into their body of work. The Company actively commissions and collects new work. The book finishes with some of the most recent acquisitions by Kayo Saito, Emmeline Hastings, Christina Zani and Louise O’Neill

A final section includes early drawings and designs for some of the pieces in the book, high resolution photography of maker’s marks and an excellent bibliography. It is fully footnoted and will be a great resource for those interested in brooches but also in the wider field of contemporary artist jewellery. 

Available to buy here.

Front cover of The Brooch Unpinned by Dora Thornton. Part of the list of selected books on brooches and badges.
The Brooch Unpinned: The Goldsmiths’ Company Collection 1961-2021, Dora Thornton, Goldsmiths’ Company, 2021

500 Brooches: Inspiring Adornments for the Body – Marthe Le Van

The Lark series of jewellery books are a great resource for makers and jewellery enthusiasts. ‘500 Brooches: Inspiring Adornment for the Body’, edited by Marthe Le Van, brings together 500 jewels made by international studio jewellers, each one a unique work of art.

It doesn’t aspire to be a history of brooches but it presents a wonderful overview of the possibilities of the form and the inventiveness of contemporary makers. It’s a very visual book with often larger than life size photographs of the pieces. 

Front cover of 500 Brooches by Lark Books. Part of the list of selected books on brooches and badges.
500 Brooches – Marthe Le Van

Badges and Buttons

Badges, buttons and pins are a particular form of brooch – probably the kind with the most obvious political or communicative function. People have worn badges to show their identity, whether political or religious, since the livery and pilgrim badges of the European middle ages. This function has carried through to the ubiquitous campaign pin or protest badge. The following three books give a great introduction to badges.

Badges – Philip Atwood

A thorough introductory essay sets out the historical background and uses of badges, illustrated with images and objects from the British Museum collections. The book proceeds thematically with short chapters or double page spreads on topics such as national politics, the British monarchy, trade unions, sexual and identity politics, war, peace and the environment. 

Front cover of Badges by Philip Atwood. Part of the list of selected books on brooches and badges.

The Graphic Art of the Enamel Badge – Ken Sequin

The Graphic Art of the Enamel Badge, as the title suggests, is largely a picture book looking at the astonishing variety and fun of enamel badges in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. A brief essay is followed by a treasury of images organised thematically around advertising, entertainment, politics, travel, and war. It’s a great visual resource for collectors as well as a snapshot of social preoccupations, forgotten societies and cultural events. Be warned though, some of the badges shown include imagery which isn’t acceptable to the modern eye. 

Front cover of The Graphic Art of the Enamel Badge by Ken Sequin. Part of the list of selected books on brooches and badges.

Badge, Button, Pin – Gavin Lucas

‘Badge, button, pin’ by Gavin Lucas (Laurence King, 2007) covers the most disposable and humble member of the badge family, the plastic pin badge. Made to support bands, charities and social movements, the book features hundreds of badges made by graphic designers and artists from around the world. It’s a colourful exploration of tiny pieces of graphic art accompanied by text from the makers. It’s not a collector’s guide or a history of badges, more a source of visual pleasure and inspiration. 

Front cover of Badge, Button, Pin by Gavin Lucas. Part of the list of selected books on brooches and badges.

Read my Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box – Madeleine Albright

‘Read my pins’ by former USA Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is the perfect illustration of the power of a brooch to send a message, express a mood or support a cause. Albright became famous for her clever and subversive use of jewellery to send a non-verbal message. This book functions as a personal memoir told through jewellery – showing a whole range of brooches, from the humble to the precious, which she owned and wore through her life. In 2001, gallerist and collector Helen Drutt English commissioned 61 jewellers to make brooches in tribute to Madeleine Albright. The subsequent creations are recorded in ‘Brooching it Diplomatically: a tribute to Madeleine K. Albright’, a fun and irreverent collection of brooches by many of the major studio jewellers of the late twentieth century. 

Front cover of Read my Pins: Stories from a Diplomat's Jewel Box by Madeleine Albright. Part of the list of selected books on brooches and badges.