The fibula, brooch, or pin, was originally used in Greek and Roman dress for fastening garments. The fibula developed in a variety of shapes, but all were based on the safety-pin principle.

An Improvement on the Fibula

A few years ago Mrs. John went along to a talk at her local Embroiderer’s Guild and when she arrived home proceeded to tell me of a New Yorker by the name of Walter Hunt. Don’t worry, I’d never heard of him either!

Hunt’s invention was not entirely novel; it was actually an improvement on a concept that the ancient Romans had used in jewelry, namely, fibulae, or brooches. His was not the first contemporary version of the safety pin either.  A version appeared in 1842 that did not include the spring mechanism that Hunt designed. This feature, of course, exists in virtually all safety pins the world is accustomed to using today.

The safety pin – The descendant of the fibula

Diligent research in the archives – with the help of Mr. Google – told me more. Hunt is often described as ‘the inventor of the safety pin’ (in the 1900’s), but most detectorists know that the safety pin, or devices virtually identical to it, had been in use for more than 2,500 years. Greece and Rome had its own forms of safety pins and clasp called the FIBULA (ancient brooch). There are so many different varieties that they are often used to accurately date an entire archaeological find. The fibula is an ancient precursor to the safety pin and used in the ancient world to keep togas, cloaks, hoods and other kinds of clothing fastened in place.

The fibula developed in a variety of shapes, but all were based on the safety-pin principle. Unlike most modern brooches, fibulae wernot only decorative; they originally served a practical function: to fasten clothing, such as cloaks. … In turn, fibulae were replaced as clothing fasteners by buttons in the Middle Ages.

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