The Victorian Era is one of the closest to my heart. It’s the sentimental and symbolic jewels that were made in this era that speak to me and certainly inspired more modern designs and productions in later jewelry periods till date.
In this blog post, I talk mostly about the accessible and less popular styles of Victorian jewels. Though beautiful diamond and precious metal jewelry in remarkable designs was produced in this period, it’s the unusual jewelry made of unconventional materials like steel, tortoiseshells and hard stones is what triggers curiosity and interest.
Victorian Jewels go back to the coronation of England’s Queen Victoria, hence the name. This period lasted her entire reign and ended with her death in 1901. Queen Victoria was much loved and was known for her love for her husband Prince Albert, romance , nature and Jewelry.
Though Victorian jewelry is often associated with England, a lot of it was produced in Europe, particularity France.
Much of the jewelry produced in this period had religious connotations including the cross for faith, anchors for hope, hearts for charity and serpents for eternity. These symbols continue to exist to date and are widely popular and sentimental. The early Victorian period was also influenced by jewels produced in previous eras with Gothic and medieval influence with designs like armors and skulls.
Though not very popular amongst the upper class society, Victorian Silver was extremely, and continues to be, wearable with a bold and statement presence. Intricate engravings featuring flowers, motifs, doves as well as figural jewelry such as anchors, arrows, and heart lockets were typical designs and often executed beautifully.
Animal Jewelry ~As women became more liberated in the mid 19’th century, jewelry designs depicted their new lifestyle and the sports they took up. Stylized brooches with fox heads, horses, bicycles and tennis rackets were worn by the huntresses, equestriennes and riders expressing their love for their hobby.
Steel Jewelry~ A surprisingly interesting style of this period was jewelry made of cut steel, aluminium and gunmetal! The origins of this jewelry goes back to the 18’th century often worn by the Nobel men who donated their precious jewelry to their country.
Cut steel jewelry was made of tiny nail like studs mounted on steel plates. The studs were often faceted to create brilliance and diamond like effect.
Probably the most popular type of jewelry from this era, sentimental jewelry was made for the purpose of love and remembrance. The most romantic and emotional type of jewelry made of all sorts of symbols, from hearts to cupids, angels and endless knots. All social classes wore sentimental jewelry and in all materials, silver and gold, diamonds and hard stones.
Mourning Jewelry~ Believe it or not, the Victorians actually made special jewelry to be worn during the mourning period to honor the dead. As morbid as this may sound, some of the most beautiful jewelry ever made and that I have seen is mourning jewelry.
The mourning period in the Victorian age had a stringent code and demanded certain type of jewelry. All black jet, which is a coal like carbonized black substance formed by heat and pressure, black enamel and Onyx were materials used for the full mourning period (6 months post death).
Jet was light in weight and was used to make beautiful looking jewelry sets, from earrings to necklaces, bracelets and hair pins, that complemented the mourning attire.
Hair Jewelry~ Hair locks of beloved ones or of the deceased were used in sentimental jewelry, often plaited and placed behind a glass compartment.
Later in the mid 19’th century, hair was used to make complete pieces of jewelry, such as necklaces and bracelets. The hair was boiled, glued and enforced with horse hair and braided into the desired design.
Victorian jewelry has a special place in my heart, for all the sentimental connotations it carries and for its emphasis on the meaning rather than the materials used to make it. Sharing below a couple of pieces in my personal collection that I cherish and which effortlessly go with my more modern jewels.
I hope you enjoyed this brief take on Victorian Jewels. There are lots of resources out there to expand your knowledge help you start a collection. I personally always refer to Victorian Jewelry: Unexplored Treasures a book by Corinne Davidov and Ginny Redington.