A Quick Look At Victorian Jewellery

The great difference between brand new jewellery and antique jewellery is the fascinating history and stories behind antique jewellery.

With at least one hundred years of history under the belt of any piece of antique jewellery, there is so much we can learn.

The age of antique jewellery is broken up into different eras to help us understand the period in history that they originate.

One of the most important periods in antique jewellery history is the Victorian era. To show you why this jewellery is still some of the most sought after antique jewellery on the market, heres a quick look at the era.

The Victorian Era

Like a number of other jewellery eras, the Victorian is named after a monarch. Queen Victoria was the first British monarch in her name and ruled from 1837 till her death in 1901, this is consequently the same time period given to the Victorian jewellery era.

While some jewellery eras may only take a monarchs name to help place it in history, the Victorian era takes its name firmly from Queen Victoria because she was the fashion icon of the age. Take a look at this post by The Enchanted Manor which describes it in more detail.

Historical Background

The Victorian era is most closely associated with the peak of the industrial revolution, which had a massive impact on the world of jewellery.

Before the industrial revolution, jewellery was entirely made by hand, meaning the process of production was relatively slow. However, once the revolution took hold, mass production became possible.

This meant two things, there was much more jewellery readily available and there were different levels of quality, opening up jewellery to the newly formed middle classes for the first time.

Learn more about the mass production of jewellery in this insightful post about the industrial revolution.

3 Jewellery Periods of Victoria

Because Queen Victorias reign was particularly lengthy, it is now broken down into three separate and distinctive jewellery periods. The three periods are the romantic period, the mourning period and the late Victorian period.

The Romantic period takes its name from the blossoming relationship between Queen Victoria and the man who became her husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

Their relationship culminated in a royal wedding on 10th February 1840, which proved to be a very important point in Victorian jewellery. This is because of Queen Victorias engagement ring.

Her ring, given to her by Prince Albert, was a gold ring styled in the appearance of a serpent, with emerald gemstones in the head of the snake.

This important ring threw serpent jewellery into the mass consciousness and suddenly, everything from earrings to necklaces, bracelets to brooches featured a snake and/or green stones.

The mourning period came following the death of Prince Albert in 1861 and refers to the lengthy period of mourning Victoria suffered as a result of her husbands death.

During this period, she almost exclusively wore black, which was in stark contrast to the brightly coloured jewellery of the period before.

Speaking to one of our experts, "The extravagant patterns and vibrant gemstones of the Romantic period were replaced with duller stones, the most influential of which being Whitby jet.

This stone was discovered in the cliffs of Whitby, a small town on the coast of North Yorkshire in England. Unlike other gemstones, it is actually fossilised wood, which is where it gets its distinctive dark brown or black colour.

Jet became a popular feature on brooches, earrings and rings in particular. Also, unlike other gemstones, it is incredibly light in weight and can be carved to create very precise images.

The third and final period came in the latter years of Victorias reign. The Late Victorian period very much reflects Victoria overcoming her length mourning period by returning to much more flamboyant and colourful jewellery.

The discovery of diamond mines in South Africa and the increasing use of silver meant that both became very popular among the emerging middle class.

Common motifs included crescents, flowers, dragons, insects and animals combined with a variety of coloured gemstones. The use of amethysts, garnets, opals and turquoise made the bright colours of Victorias jewellery more available to the average person.

These motifs and colour schemes were very influential on the following period known as the Edwardian period.