In this world people of exceptional skill are recognizable by brooches that they are awarded. These broaches are bestowed upon their bearers by one of the five grand cities, and for each city that acknowledges them the broach increases in tier. The tiers begin when one is recognized by a city most often there home city as being exceptional in a certain pursuit, in order to identify this person they are awarded a bronze version of the appropriate broach. For each additional city that acknowledges this persons skill they are awarded the next tier of brooch. The order is bronze, iron, silver, gold and when one is recognized by all five cities they receive a gemstone of their choice embedded into the brooch in an appropriate location. It is insanely difficult to be awarded a bronze brooch, and due to the strained relations between the cities it is even more difficult to get an iron, however people who possess brooches of the tiers beyond that are the stuff of legend. One can be awarded a brooch in many different skills, a comprehensive list can be found here.
list of brooch types