Your Guide to Buying a Hat Pin

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Your Guide to Buying a Hat Pin

Decorative pins used for holding the hat to the head sounds like a thing of the past. Still, they are very interesting pieces of women's jewellery that are being used to this very day. Granted, there are not many occasion is which one can wear a hat pin, but as long as there are hats, there will be pins. The pins are produced in many different materials and decorated in many different styles. Their age also adds to their value and some of them are even considered collectables.

To make the right choice when purchasing a hat pin one needs to have more than the desire to acquire it. In the following sections many of the different characteristic of the hat pins are analysed and explained to enhance the understanding and appreciation of anyone set on purchasing an accessory of this type. With the help of the provided information, one can form an opinion on the subject and make a more suitable choice.

History and Styles

The beginnings of the hat pin are considered to be during the early nineteenth century, even though hat pins and hair pins can be found in many archeological digs quite older than that. The birth of the modern hat pin has been placed somewhere during the eighteen twenties and pins older than that can not even be found on the open market. Modern hat pins became popular during the rise in popularity of ladies hats. The styles of both the hats and the hat pins have developed together during the last two centuries and many interesting combinations can be found.

The Early Days

The pins made in the early days were very short. Usual length was seven to ten centimetres, with the longest offered on the market close to fifteen centimetres. Sales in the beginnings were modest, but soon enough the demands increased and many hat pin manufacturers appeared on the market. Aside from the domestic productions, hat pins were even exported to match the market demands. The global trend of mass production and use of hat pins starts here, and ends somewhere after the Edwardian era.

Victorian Era

The Victorian era is famous for the very long hat pins used to support the complex hats of that period. Pins with lengths up to thirty centimetres can not be found today, but were quite common in those days. The pins that can be found of this period are usually those made in large numbers for use of the working class. These pins are more simple in design with a black or white bead as a finishing touch at the end.

Pins of this period made for the upper classes too. There is even a records within the Royal Collection Trusts indicating that Queen Victoria owned a gold pear shaped pin. Generally the pins made for the upper class are no strangers to precious materials and gemstones. Among the designs many oriental influences can be found during the Victorian era, and near the end it is quite common to find designs influenced by the rise of the Art Nouveau movement.This late designs are often inspired by nature.

Edwardian Era

The big hat trends continues within the Edwardian period, but the size of the pins does not remain the same. However, due to the concerns that women might use the hatpins as weapons during the fight for their right to vote, laws were passed to make hat pins shorter. Also, within this period, the safety guard for the sharp end of the pin was introduced. Hat pins were still sold in great numbers in this period, as hats were still very fashionable.

The End of the Hat Pin Era

After the Edwardian period, during the first world war women style drastically changed. Shorter haircuts became popular and hats went out of fashion. This made hat pins obsolete and stopped mass production. Still, hat pins were not totally eradicated and there are some pretty nice ones from the periods between the two world wars. The trend of short pins continued as smaller hars were only used in this period. Hat pins with buttons from the man that served in the war were quite popular among women, and they are very interesting collectables these days. Aside from that, the designs are mostly influenced by the rise of the Art Deco.

Materials and Decoration

Hat pins can be made out of many different materials. When speaking about materials, it usually refers only to the pin itself, not including the decoration. The decorations are very dependent on the era in which the pin is produced, while some of the materials are quite universal. The ones most commonly encountered are described in the table below.



sterling silver

Sterling silver is among the most common materials used on hat pins. Pins made of this material can be found in all sorts of designs from most simple ones to elaborate high-relief models.


Gold has never been cheap and it is understandable that the designs made of gold are more rare. The pins made of gold are often decorated with precious stones as they are intended for the upper class.

brass and copper

Brass and copper are used to create very affordable hat pins. Being intended for the global populace, models made of this material can be found in larger quantities. Some of them are gold or silver plated for a more luxurious look.

natural materials

Natural materials were also used to produce more luxurious models. The use of some of the materials has become illegal over the years. Antique nacre, tortoise shell, jet, ivory and similar pins can be found sold all around.

early plastic

Early plastic represents one of the man made materials used in the creation of headpins. This material was pretty convenient for mass production.

There are many different type of decorations on a hat pin. Gemstones can be found as decorations on many hat pins for special occasions. Pearls and beads are among the more commonly found decorations. Many hat pins also have a medallion on one end. Hat pins from later periods have a protector on the sharp end that is also decorated. Usually the protector carries the same style as the pin itself.

Combining a Hat Pin With a Hat

Those that intend to wear the hat pins they buy, could always use some advice on selecting the right pin for the right hat. There are no strict rules, but there are some general guidelines that can help all make the right decision. Usually, the hat fabric weave determines the length and the material of the pin that best fits. Brass pins work best with loose, fine, open weave hats. Nickel silver pins go better with the tight, thick and closed types.

The hat pin is mainly designed to be used with long hair. Still, women with short hair should not be discouraged in wearing one. To make the pin stick, just add a head turban underneath the hat and stick the pin on it. This trick allows all with shorter haircuts to wear hat pins both as a fashion statement and as functional clothing accessories.

Corroborate Antique Hat Pin Authenticity

Buying antique hat pins takes special considerations. Some claim that the market is consisted of ninety percent fake antique hat pins. There are a lot of hat pins labeled as 'antique' or 'vintage' that are only inspired by the old looks. It is also pretty difficult to verify the authenticity of an antique hat pin as it is a field in which not many possess a lot of knowledge. Among jewellery, a hat pin is among the easiest items to forge. That is why, the focus will be on disproving the authenticity, rather than proving it.

There are many ways to determine whether or not a hat pin is as old as the seller claims it to be. Researching the materials used in certain periods can help reveal if a pin is genuine or fake. The trends of using different materials in different periods are amongst the easiest ways to eliminate obvious fakes. Basic knowledge into the hat pin construction can also be very helpful in spotting a fake. Visible fresh glue is also a dead giveaway. Hat pins were handcrafted for a long time, so evidence of machine manufacturing can also be used to disprove claims regarding age. There are more sophisticated methods of accurately determining the true age of a hat pin but they do require more knowledge.

How to Find Hat Pins on eBay

As all other antiques, hat pins are also represented on eBay in great numbers. Modern hat pins are available too, but the old ones and the ones inspired by them are predominant. Even though hat pins are considered strictly a female item, there are some male models to be found too. These are the top hat ended collar pins which do not have the same function but fall under the same general description.

It is pretty simple to locate the hat pins on eBay. Just type in the words 'hat pin' in the search bar and all available items will turn out. At this point it is wise to select a category, as it can help separate the modern ones from the collectables. The vintage ones come with an extra advantage in filtering as they can be separated by time period. Other filters that apply to all are the type and the materials used. The decoration can also be specified through the beads/stones filter, but try searching without it, in order not to overlook some great models.

The hat pins can be accessed through the category menu too. All pins are well categorised and this approach can be very informative for those that are new to the subject. The category approach provides a good insight in all that is available regarding this subject.


The hat pin is a very simple accessory that adds to the looks of a hat while serving a purpose too. It can be a nice addition to modern clothing even though the hat era is long gone. It does not matter whether one intends to use a pin, or just plans to buy it as a collectable, it is very helpful to be well informed on the subject. Different periods have influenced the hat pins in different ways. Knowing about the development and history of the hat pin, helps in setting the expectations properly. Each period reflects on the length, materials, motives and decor of a pin, so guided by the personal preference, one can determine the specific style that is needed. This specifics are also useful in corroborating the authenticity of a pin. When it comes to proving authenticity is always easier to disprove it rather than proving it, so look for something that does not feel right.

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