Victorian Era jewelry is steeped in royal British tradition and influence. From 1837 – 1901, Queen Victoria oversaw an extremely prosperous time for the Great Britain and its citizens. A steep rise in commerce and industrialization caused the middle class to explode, which gave a large boost to consumer goods industries like jewelry. With extra money to spend, the public looked towards Queen Victoria for fashion and jewelry wearing etiquette, and the Victorian Era was born.
The Periods of Victorian Era Jewelry
This time frame in estate jewelry is generally separated into three different periods: Romantic, Grand, and Late Victorian. Each one marked the emergence of new style trends, and the transition between styles was not strict. Often times there were hybrid jewelry designs that incorporated some or all of the elements of each period. The time periods saw different rules and influences that directly changed how British and even American women wore their jewelry.
The Romantic period was all about love and marriage. Queen Victoria had recently married Prince Albert, and the jewelry during this time was created to show harmony and love. Hearts, birds, floral designs, serpents (symbolizing eternity), and other holdovers from the Gregorian period were used. The pieces were often very intricate and detailed, and even incorporated extremely thin gold and enamel.
Jewelry during this time was often worn in multiples. Queen Victoria was known for wearing several rings and necklaces at a time, which also trickled down to the middle class and other Queen Victoria admirers.
The 27 years of the Grand period were marked with mourning and sorrow. Prince Albert passed away, causing Queen Victoria to mourn for almost three decades. The abundance of the Romantic period faded as the Queen wore only black and opted for darker jewelry. Whimsical pieces were replaced with simple jewelry featuring red garnets, onyx, and black enamel. The trend of using jewelry to mourn set in across Great Britain, and continued all the way to the Late Victorian period.
As Queen Victoria and the public finally moved on from Prince Albert’s death, so did the jewelry. The nation was ready for a period of resurgence that resembled the happier times of the Romantic period. Jewelry began to incorporate animals in a similar way to the Romantic period by including dragons and even insects. Stars and flowers were used to symbolize looking to the future.
Along with the Late Victorian period came a massive rise in the availability of precious stones and metals. Gold had been scarce since before the Romantic period, but the Late Victorian saw much more silver used as mines were found and extracted in the late 1870’s. Diamonds also became readily available in the mid 1860’s as African mines were put into production. Before that time, gemstones like turquoise, opals, amethysts, coral, and garnets were used to fill the demand by the growing middle class.
Jonathan’s Fine Jewelers has dealt in vintage jewelry for over 25 years. One of the early staples of our business revolved on identifying, buying, and selling vintage estate jewelry. If you are interested in Victorian Era jewelry or would like us to evaluate pieces in your possession, call or send us an email to schedule an appointment. You can also view our eBay store to find some of our current inventory.
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