Victorian Pin Buying Guide

Like if this guide is helpful
Victorian Pin Buying Guide

Queen Victoria's reign, from 1830 to 1901, is the longest in English history. It is no wonder that Victoria's influence on culture ensured that there would be an entire era named after her. The Victorian era is known for many unique fashions, but one in particular that stands out is the Victorian pin. While pins were used for brooches in the earlier Georgian era, they became more ornate, and heavy, during the Victorian period. At the same time, women began wearing hats in public and so the hat pin also became an important fashion accessory.

Today, both kinds of pins are highly sought after by collectors, as well as by those who want a unique pin that they can use as a lapel pin, brooch, or in various other ways. Tracking down the perfect Victorian pin can be tricky in antique stores, but there are many options available on eBay. When buying a Victorian pin, whether it be in a store or online, there are a few things to keep in mind that make the process easier. First, it is helpful to know what kinds of pins were made, and how to identify them. Then, it is helpful to know how to correctly identify a genuine Victorian pin.

The Nature of Victorian Pins

During the Victorian era, pins, like most jewellery were made using precious and semiprecious metals. While gold pins were not unheard of, the majority were made using sterling silver. Not only is sterling silver less expensive than gold, but it is usually more pure than the gold used in jewellery, and it is much harder. This is important for a pin, which has by nature a long, narrow portion that can be easily bent. There were also other materials used in pin construction, including gemstones, pearls, and more exotic materials like shell, mother-of-pearl, amber, resin and ivory.

Early Victorian Styles

Since the Victorian era covered the better part of a century, it is reasonable to conclude that styles and fashions, including those related to pin, changed as well. The early Victorian era coincides with the Romantic period, in literature and art. This is the era when writers and poets were celebrating romantic love, and the beauty of nature. This is reflected in the jewellery of the time, including pins which were made with a lot of nature motifs, such as animals and flowers. Brooches were more common during this period as well.

Mid-Victorian Styles

Queen Victoria dearly loved her husband, Prince Albert. However, he died in 1861, which meant that Victoria spent most of her extremely long reign in mourning. In fact, Victoria would wear black and dress in mourning for the rest of her life. Because of the Queen's influence on styles and fashions, brooches and other pins would be made using black and other sombre colours. Pins of this period became more ornate and heavier, designed to be worn with heavier fabrics. This is a marked departure from brooches made before Victoria's reign, which were mostly designed for use with lace and very thin materials. Mid-Victorian brooches and hatpins were also influenced by Asian art and culture, particularly by Japanese aesthetics.

Late Victorian Styles

The mourning style eventually faded in popularity, and pins once again became more casual in design. The late Victorian era saw many brooches and pins that reverted back to earlier styles where nature was very prominently on display. At the same time, however, the idea of femininity was very popular and jewellery was designed to be as feminine as possible. In many cases, this meant more reliance on jewels and more intricate metalwork so as to create a lighter appearance. Hatpins were extremely popular in the late Victorian era as women were expected to wear hats while in public. The pins were designed to keep the smallish hats firmly attached to the wearer's hair.

Types of Victorian Pins

Most pins from the Victorian era fall either into the category of brooches, which were worn attached to clothing, and hatpins, which were worn in the hair. That being said, there are several varieties and variations within each group.


Cameos were extremely popular during the Victorian era. Basically, a cameo is a very small relief carving typically worn as a brooch. The most popular type of cameo worn during this period were those carved to display the profile of a young woman. In some cases, these carvings were based on real women, and were meant to be unique. In other cases, they were more generic, depending on the skill and wishes of the Jeweller.

Construction of Cameos

Cameos were usually carved into a semiprecious stones such as Sardonyx, or into a piece of shell or resin. Some cameos are painted, or otherwise coloured, in order to create a dynamic difference between the raised portrait and the background, which might have been yellow, black, brown, or other colours depending on the jeweller.

Cluster Brooches

Cluster Brooches are identified by their use of several gemstones that are usually clustered together. In many cases, these gems or pearls can be arranged in unique shapes, like an animal or important symbol. Fruits and flowers were also popular choices.


Hatpins, long straight pins that were used to keep women's hats in place, were worn throughout the Victorian era, but as hats got larger over the course of the 19th Century, hatpins became larger and more ornate. Many hatpins are considered works of art as they became more and more ornate as time went one. Some of them are made with extremely intricate detail and of exotic materials like ivory. The heyday of hatpins came in the 1920s, which coincided with the rise of shorter hairstyles for women, who stopped wearing hats and therefore no longer needed hatpins.

Establishing the Antiquity of A Victorian Pin

There is a common problem with antiques, including Victorian pins, in that there are many of them surviving, but in some cases, they have been repaired or modified over time. Even worse is when fake pins, or pins from another era are sold as genuine Victorian pins, at times even without the knowledge of the seller. There are, however a few tips to help anyone have a better sense of whether or not a Victorian pin is the genuine article or not.

The Clasp

Brooches made during the Victorian era were made with a simple clasp that resembles a 'C' in shape. There is no locking mechanism in place to ensure that the pin stays in the clasp. Such locking mechanisms were not developed until the early 1900s. At the same time, Victorian pins often extended past the clasp, a move that could be painful for the wearer, is distinct enough that it is not found on pins from other eras.

The Hinge

Brooches all make use of a hinge that makes it easier to attach them to clothing and keep them secure. In the Victorian era, hinges were a basic and simple tube shape, but they were known for being rather wide. After the Victorian era, hinge technology improved, and hinges became much smaller, while still retaining the tube shape.


Hatpins are tricky to verify in terms of age, because they do not have any obvious signs. However, because the age of hatpins began shortly before the Victorian era and ended only two decades afterward, it is a good bet that many genuine hatpins come from this period. In some cases, however, hatpins are created, or modified, from existing jewellery. One option is for a brooch to be soldered onto a pin and passed off as a hatpin. If any of the soldering on a hatpin appears to be recently administered, this may be the case. It is also possible for multiple hatpins, or pieces of jewellery, to be combined into a hatpin. If a hatpin features two seemingly incongruous designs, this is likely the case.

Buying Victorian Pins on eBay

Sellers from all over the world offer their wares on eBay, and for this reason, there is a massive selection of Victorian pins available. There are pins in various conditions that feature a number of unique designs. In order to best view what is available, a simple option is to enter the term, 'Victorian pins' into the search bar on the eBay home page. This search can, of course be modified, and once conducted, it is a simple matter narrow down the results even more to make it possible to buy the very best option for you.

Study Each Item Thoroughly

Every item on eBay comes with a product description. This description can be extremely helpful, especially when buying antiques like Victorian pins. A good description details any flaws or damage to the item, and in some cases may reveal the existence of a certificate of authenticity, or history of the item. It is important to read both the product description, as well as the seller feedback and profile, in order to determine if a particular sale is the right one for you.


Victorian pins are relics of an elegant era when style and fashion were everything. Owning a Victorian pin is a great way not only to have a little piece of history, but to create and display a unique style as well. Victorian pins changed greatly over the course of the life of Queen Victoria, the woman for whom the period is named. They were even influenced by Victoria's personal style, as the long period of mourning she went into after the death of her husband prompted dark colours and heavy designs.

Victorian pins consist of both brooches and hatpins, the latter of which became longer and larger as hats became bigger. When buying a Victorian pins, it is always important to understand the construction methods of the period in order to better ascertain whether or not an individual item has been modified or is, in fact from a later era. Keeping all of these things in mind make it much easier to purchase a pin on eBay or anywhere else.

Have something to share, create your own guide... Write a guide
Explore more guides