A Comprehensive Guide to Victorian Jewellery

Have you ever seen some pieces of Victorian jewellery? These accessories cannot be mistaken for any other type of adornments given their timeless beauty, distinctive motifs, and elegant look.

The life of Queen Victoria, one of the most prominent UK monarchs, had a direct effect on the themes and symbolism of the jewellery designed during her reign. Hence, it varied from amorous to mourning motifs, depending on the sequence of events in different stages.

Take a look at the following guide to get familiar with the Victorian periods, materials, and types of Victorian jewellery.

Victorian periods

The amazingly long 65-year reign of Queen Victoria had a tremendous influence on the forms of jewellery, as well as the materials and motifs used in their creation. In fact, Victorian jewellery belongs to one of the three distinctive periods starting from 1837 to 1901, referring to the Romantic, the Grand, and the Aesthetic Period.

The Romantic Period is known for its amorous motifs, affected by the recent marriage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. It was unsurprising for the events in the queen’s private life to dictate the fashion and jewellery trends of the period. Consequently, following the fashion of the serpent ring Prince Albert gifted to Queen Victoria when the couple got engaged, jewellers started designing all kinds of pieces decorated with a serpent. The symbolism of the serpent, representing eternity, was an additional reason for it to become common in jewellery.

Furthermore, sentimental themes were dominant in the course of the Romantic period, featuring vintage accessories with birds, flowers, and hearts as ornaments. Also, lockets became a trend at the onset of the Victorian era, containing a tiny picture of the wearer’s loved one.

As a complete contrast to the Romantic Period, the Grand Period was the darkest one in the Victorian époque due to the death of Prince Albert. Consequently, the selection of Victorian jewellery from the Grand Period depicts nothing but grief and mourning. It’s no wonder the mourning jewellery designed and worn between 1861 and 1885 is predominantly black, made from materials such as jet and onyx.

Moreover, the Grand Period jewellery pieces were worn after the death of a loved one or a relative to symbolize grief. At some point, jewellers started using Egyptian designs in the creation of accessories.

Ultimately, during the Aesthetic Period, art has become more appreciated, hence allowing jewellers to be creative instead of pragmatic. Hand-crafted accessories have restored their popularity, being reduced in weight and size. The black colour of jet and onyx was replaced with the picturesque hues of gemstones.

In addition, mourning jewellery gave place to floral, animal, and star themes. Instead of grief, these motifs depicted hope, serenity, peace, and progress.

Materials

Gold was one of the leading materials used in the creation of jewellery during the Victorian era. Due to the advancements in the field of metallurgy, low-carat gold has increased in popularity. These alloys allowed individuals of all social classes to be able to afford adornments, not just the royalty and nobility. Low-carat gold accessories were more long-lasting and sturdier than high-carat models. Also, it gave a chance to jewellers to show their inventiveness by using the art of filigree. Click here to check out a useful explanation about carats.

Silver, on the other hand, was a prominent material in the course of the Romantic Period. As strange as it may seem, silver was of the same value as high-carat gold at the beginning of the Victorian era. Wearing silver jewellery was exclusive to those who moved in the high society circles, serving as a symbol of wealth.

Nevertheless, over time, the quantities of silver have substantially increased, thus reducing the price of silver jewellery and silverware. At the end of this period, silver has become much more affordable for the members of the lower social classes.

The use of precious gemstones in Victorian vintage accessories has increased dramatically in the ultimate stage of Queen Victoria’s reign due to the expansion of the empire. The gems that were found in the mines of exotic countries like Australia allowed craftsmen to part from gothic accessories and turn to adornments in lively colours.

Additionally, jewellers mainly used gemstones in small numbers and tiny size but of remarkable quality. The most common types of gems chosen for the decoration of Victorian necklaces, rings, bracelets, earrings, and brooches are diamond, opal, ruby, emerald, sapphire, amethyst, etc. See this link, https://geology.com/gemstones/opal/, to learn more about the physical properties and sources of opal.

Types of Victorian jewellery

Victorian earrings were adored for their elegance, classiness, and a variety of colours and styles. Besides the Grand Period, when most earrings were designed in the black colour, these accessories were available in lively hues in the early and the late Victorian era.

Furthermore, Victorian necklaces refer mostly to decorative chains and long necklaces that include birds, hearts, and flowers as motifs. Also, people in this époque wore chatelaines, which resembled a tiny purse, attached to one’s belt. Despite being fashionable, these accessories were considered highly functional, allowing wearers to store some of their most necessary belongings.

Hair lockets are one of the most sentimental forms of Victorian jewellery, used for storing a lock of a person’s partner. Apart from being popular in the Romantic period, these lockets have remained popular in the Grand Period as well. As a type of mourning adornments, people kept a lock of their deceased partners inside the locket in order to honour them following their death.

Ultimately, acrostic rings are another distinctive accessory originating from this era. These rings were made with a couple of small gemstones arranged in a specific order so as to represent a particular word. The initial letter of each precious stone is actually a part of the word. The number of gemstones on the ring equals the number of letters.

Final thoughts

When shopping for Victorian jewellery, make sure you opt for a piece that suits your personal life!

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