Ancient brooch forms for contemporary jewellery with Sarah Macrae

Ref: SLW09075


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About this course

Make a brooch from silver inspired by historic fibulae, bow, circle and penannular examples, which seamlessly integrate form and function. Examine these ancient examples then design your own brooch incorporating both a practical and decorative function.

Course Description

There is a particular beauty in these ancient forms of the brooch where the form and function are completely integrated, this course will give you the opportunity to learn about the different types and to make your own individual brooch developed from your investigations.

Through human history the brooch has served both a practical and decorative function. Between the Neolithic straight pins and the invention of buttons in the Middle Ages, the fibula was the early form of a safety pin used to fasten clothes. Fibulae were made from one continuous piece of metal or sometimes two in bronze, iron, silver and gold, worn by everyone, they range from the simple functional pins to highly decorative designs. The bow brooch was a more elaborate form of fibulae with a high arched design and which often incorporated a horizontal spring. Circle brooches were sometimes inscribed with messages and given as love tokens. Of the Annular brooches one of the most famous is the 'Tara' Brooch, an amazing example of decorative metalwork. Penannular, which means broken circle, brooches vary from tiny delicate Indian examples to the massive Celtic thistle brooches which were status symbols indicating high rank. For some the decorative focus is the circle, for some it's the terminals at the break in the circle and particularly in North African jewellery the focus is a decorative or symbolic element at the head of the pin. Double Penannular brooches joined by a chain were worn in some cultures indicating marriage.

You can work with silver, base metals, wood and acrylic using a variety of techniques including piercing, carving, soldering and texturing. You should complete several samples or can focus on making one finished brooch.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials


  • Sundries including solder and saw blades.

What students need to bring

  • An apron
  • Shoes that cover your feet (no sandals or flip flops or high heels)
  • Something to tie your hair back with, if it is long
  • Silver, if you have any, or wish to purchase in advance.
  • Please email any details of any relevant previous experience, ideas and what you would like to achieve on the course to before the course. This will help the tutor plan the best course possible.

Available to buy

  • Silver in a variety of forms: sheet, wire and tubing
  • A range of tools (a basic kit will also be available to borrow)
  • Saw blades, drills
  • Abrasive materials
  • Medium solder
  • A sketchbook and pencil
  • The tutor will bring a selection of alternative materials for purchase

Recommended supplier for tools, metal and stones: Cookson Precious Metals Note: Some bullion suppliers have minimum order levels (e.g. £25). Ask for your requirements to be checked against this before placing an order.


Sarah Macrae

Sarah graduated Brighton Polytechnic in 1981 and has combined her studio practice as a jeweller with teaching part time. A member of The Designer Jewellers Group, she has exhibited at the Barbican Arts Centre (London) for the last twenty eight years. In 2000 Sarah was invited to write an introduction to Jewellery for Crowood Press and she features in several youtube videos. Sarah's work can be seen on Facebook and Instagram.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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