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Medieval Jewelry : Ring Brooches

Jewelry today is almost always decorative. But jewelry in the past was also functional. The ancient and medieval ring brooch, called a penannular brooch was the forerunner of the modern brooch and the humble safety pin. Ring brooches were essential in a time before zippers, buttons and velcro were invented! They were used to fasten cloaks and the tops of gowns. Wealthy people could afford to have elaborate ring brooches made from precious metals such as gold or even bejewelled.

In Hugh Tait's book (details below), there is a picture of a gold ring brooch dating from 13th century England which has this inscription on both sides : IEO:SUI:FERMAIL:PUR:GAP:DER:SEIN:+ KE: NU:SVILEIN:NIMETTE:MEI . It translates as "I am a brooch to guard the breast that no rascal may put his hand thereof"!

Photo credit : Crowolf on Flickr
who took this picture of a Celtic Penannular ("nearly round") cloak pin brooch at the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD, USA.


Hugh Tait (1986). Jewelry : 7000 years. British Museum


  1. Isn't the ring and pin style actually a penannular (a long loose pin that slides around a ring) while a fibula is a straight pin design using spring tension, more like a safety pin.

  2. You are absolutely correct. I have amended the post to read penannular instead of fibula. Many thanks for picking up the mistake.


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