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hat pins

Updated on November 23, 2010

Hat Pin Origins

Some sort of hat pin was in use from very early times to hold all manner of head gear in place such as veils and wimples. A wimple was a cloth covering for the head neck and sides of the face worn by well behaved women in medieval Europe; they can still be purchased today.

In those days hat pins were made in a small cottage industry fashion. Apparently around the time of the First World War demand for hat pins in Britain was so great that many were imported from France. Too many as far as the government were concerned so in order to stem the loss of revenue to France Parliament passed legislation which only permitted the sale of hat pins on 2 days in January. And we thought modern governments were interfering! It’s thought that possibly the term “pin money” comes from the women saving to buy their hat pins.

Growth Of Hat Pins

With the growth of a modern hat pin manufacturing industry which centred on Birmingham in England hat pins became more affordable. As they became available to more women they became fashionable especially as they were favoured by some of the top music hall stars to secure their large ornate hats without using strings. Some hat pins were 10 to 12 inches in length, formidable weapons no doubt. Of course if you had a collection of hat pins you needed somewhere to keep them so this gave rise to the manufacture of hat pin holders.

Hat Pin Collecting

Naturally as usually happens with something which has become unfashionable there has grown a world of hat pin collectors. One of the good things about being a collector of small objects such as hat pins is that you don’t need much room to house your collection. Never the less I’m willing to bet there are hat pin collectors who’s passionately searched for pieces have taken over the house.

The variety of hat pins is breathtaking from simple styles with just a bead on the end which were used by the working class women to elaborate concoctions in precious metals like silver and gold embellished with all manner of materials from enamel (glass fused to metal at high temperatures) to hand blown glass. The more expensive pins were made by jewellers who naturally used all kinds of precious and semi precious stone to decorate them. Materials such as ivory and tortoiseshell and coral were used too in those less enlightened times.

Modern Hat Pins

You can buy modern hat pins some of which are reproductions of earlier styles this of course means you must be on your guard when attempting to buy antique hat pins as it’s difficult to tell which are fakes without specialist knowledge. The fact that a seller may say it belonged to their great grandmother does not prove age. There are a number of societies for those interested in collecting hat pins Such as the American Hat Pin Society and the Hat Pin Society of Great Britain.

If you don’t want to collect antique pins but you’re interested in what’s available today just browse the internet you’ll find beautiful examples of modern creativity and design featuring every kind of stone, bead, jewel and feather you can think of. These modern pins are often designed and made by individual designers working in their own studios.

You can see a rather unusual Steampunk hat pin here.


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  • KevCC profile image

    KevCC 8 years ago

    Thanks, they are fascinating.

  • suziecat7 profile image

    suziecat7 8 years ago from Asheville, NC

    Nice Hub - Antique hatpins are beautiful.