Pins and brooches are both decorative pieces of jewelry that attach to clothing with a sharpened metal wire on the back. However, "pins" are the general category for such pieces of jewelry, and "brooches" are a specific type of pin. So all brooches are pins, but all pins are not brooches. Additionally, during the 1930s to 1940s, some brooches were made with clips rather than pins on the back and were called clips.
Brooches are characterized by their size, shape and the place they are traditionally worn. Since this is jewelry, these definitions are general, not narrow. A brooch is generally a larger pin, made particularly to wear at the throat or around the neckline. They have more dimensions than pins, while tend to have flatter designs. Brooches are often more horizontal in design than pins. These definitions are loose, and one person may call a piece a brooch, while another calls the same piece a pin. Both brooches and pins are meant to adorn clothing.
Timothy Tew of TEW galleries in Atlanta calls brooches "finely articulated miniature sculptures." Brooches offer a palette of self-expression for a jewelry artist in a way that other pieces cannot be. There is wide room for expression in brooches, both in design and materials. Brooches are made of both costume materials as well as precious and semi-precious materials. Famous jewelry designers use pave, enamel and cloisonné. Some famous brooch makers include Marcel Boucher, known for abstract animal figures, and Ann Hand, who has created patriotic brooches for top political leaders.
While brooches were traditionally worn at the neckline or on the lapel, the brooch is a form of self-expression not only for the creator, but also for the wearer. Brooches can be clipped to a waistband or belt, or pinned to a hat. They can attach a scarf, or adorn a headband. Pins can be scattered anywhere on clothing, from the traditional stick pin on a lapel to a line of small pins marching up a sleeve.
Collecting vintage brooches and pins is a favorite hobby for many people. Because of the variety and artistic expression found in these pieces of jewelry, they become a fascination for people. The hobby is not tremendously expensive, and the pieces can be found at secondhand stores, garage sales and thrift shops as well as at online auction sites.