On the Prowl: Collecting Animal Brooches

The striking accessories featured in Freeman's Jewelry Week

See how designers across time periods and styles have looked to the animal kingdom for inspiration.

05/11/2022     Latest News, News and Film, Jewelry and Watches

Almost as long as the brooch has been in existence—a long time, considering that metalworking gave rise to functional brooches as early as the Bronze Age—all manner of flora and fauna have graced the lapels and necklines of brooch wearers.

Animal motifs were considered auspicious symbols among ancient and medieval jewelry-makers, and though form and function has shifted over time, the appeal of bejeweled animal brooches has held lasting appeal over centuries. Jewelry Week at Freeman’s—including the May 18 Jewelry and Watches and May 19 Luxe: Boutique Jewels auctions—features several fine examples of highly collectible brooches inspired by the animal kingdom.


Sky: Owl and Rooster


Owl Brooch

Lot 170 | A gold, enamel, and gem-set brooch | $1,200-1,500


The avian brooches of Jewelry Week are led by a gold, multicolored enamel, and gem-set brooch designed as a dazzling owl (Luxe Lot 170; estimate: $1,200-1,500). Perfect for perching on the lapel of its wearer, this statement owl features intricate details like textured eighteen-karat gold feathers, single-cut diamond eyebrows, and ruby eyes that stare out directly forward.


Rooster Brooch

Lot 172 | A bicolor gold, cultured pearl, diamond, and ruby brooch | $800-1,200


A slightly more subdued example is the more land-bound rooster, rendered here in profile with a pearl body, textured eighteen-karat-gold feathers set with circular-cut diamonds, and a ruby eye (Luxe Lot 172; estimate: $800-1,200). With delicate contrast between the gold and diamond feathers and the pearl torso, this rooster—beak open, as if crowing at dawn—is a powerful accessory to help accessorize for a new day with confidence.


Water: Frog and Crab


Frog Brooch

Lot 15 | A gold, diamond, and enamel brooch | $8,000-12,000 

As the brooch developed over time from a functional pin to a symbol of courtly power or bereavement to a statement accessory, brooch designs themselves became increasingly playful. Case in point is a gold, diamond, and enamel frog brooch offered in Jewelry and Watches (Lot 15; estimate: $8,000-12,000), a critter with a cute over-the-shoulder expression. Because of the form’s small size, brooches are generally designed with many tiny close-set jewels; while the present frog does feature multiple rows of round brilliant-cut diamonds, it also puts front and center a large oval-cut citrine sure to catch the eye of onlookers.


Crab Brooch

Lot 95 | A coral, diamond, and bicolor gold pendant/brooch | $3,000-5,000


This charming crab manages to occupy the realms of sea and sky at once: the coral, diamond, and bicolor gold brooch is designed as both a crab and the Cancer constellation (Luxe Lot 95; estimate: $3,000-5,000). Perfect for the brooch lover with a June or July birthday, this piece features the crab flanked by gold stars—each set with a round brilliant-cut diamond—with one held between its front pincers.


Land: Salamander and Tiger


Salamander Brooch

Lot 22 | A gold, platinum, tourmaline, diamond, and turquoise brooch, Tiffany & Co., Schlumberger | $7,000-9,000


Jewelry and Watches features two standout brooches, both designed as animals that twist and turn to face the viewer. The first is a gold, platinum, tourmaline, diamond, and turquoise brooch designed by Jean Schlumberger for Tiffany & Co. (Lot 22; estimate: $7,000-9,000). The French designer became well-known for his animal-motif designs, particularly birds; Freeman’s sold a coveted Schlumberger “Bird on a Rock” brooch for $30,000 in 2019. The present design features a striking placement of emerald-cut tourmalines against the salamander’s gold body and piercing turquoise cabochon eyes.


Tiger Brooch

Lot 62 | A diamond, enamel, emerald, and gold brooch, David Webb | $18,000-22,000


The highlight of the brooch selection in Jewelry and Watches, this eighteen-karat-gold tiger with pear-shaped emerald eyes brings a slinking allure to the apex predator (Lot 62; estimate: $18,000-22,000). With stripes that alternate between black enamel and round brilliant-cut diamonds, this unusual brooch designed by David Webb is guaranteed to turn heads.



View the rest of our May 18 Jewelry and Watches auction.



View the rest of our May 19 Luxe: Boutique Jewels auction.



Have something similar? Get in touch with our Jewelry and Watches department to request a complimentary auction estimate.