The Gift of History
Christmas is perhaps the most important yearly tradition in the western world; a beautiful celebration of midwinter which combines the ancient yule festivals of pre-Christian society with an affirmation of the birth of Jesus Christ. It is, to quote Bing Crosby, the most wonderful time of the year, with a history that reaches back into the hallowed days of ages past and calls one back to the wonders of childhood.
The celebration of history is integral to the Christmas experience. The ghosts of Christmas past are abiding testaments to the timeless nature of the holiday season, and there are few better ways to acknowledge this eternal festival than with a gift as historic and beautiful as the act of giving itself.
Modern Christmas can be an artificial affair – the gold and silver of tinsel is only plastic, the glittering reds and greens merely baubles on a tree – but the beautiful hues and sparkling decorations of the season can be contained within a gift that can be enjoyed for every Christmas to come.
Many pieces of antique jewellery can make truly spectacular Christmas gifts, but the most appropriate may be those which stem from a time where Christmas began to become the cultural phenomenon it is today – the Victorian era.
A Very Victorian Christmas
During the Victorian era the common people were fascinated and enthralled by their Queen Victoria and her young Prince Consort Albert. The exploits and behaviour of the young couple were emulated by their subjects during a time when the British Empire held sway over 450 million people.
Albert, German by birth, actively popularised many European Christmas traditions, making the decorating of trees and the giving of gifts into an integral part of the celebrations of the day. Whilst the evergreen decorations of pine trees, holly and mistletoe symbolised the new life which would emerge from winter’s grasp come the spring Albert was particularly fond of giving jewellery, particularly to his young queen.
Victoria and Albert’s engagement had been sealed with the giving of an emerald snake ring, a potent symbol of the eternal, and his wealth allowed him to provide both Victoria and her family with gifts befitting their royal station. This came at a time when the citizens of Great Britain were enjoying a time of increased affluence. Precious materials flowed in from every corner of the empire, and were worked by craftsmen of all stripes into wondrous items which were no longer only accessible to the upper elite.
Victorian jewellers emulated the designs popularised by their Queen and King, crafting less expensive pieces that retained the beauty of the priceless originals and disseminating them amongst those who could use their newfound prosperity to invest in truly beautiful pieces of wearable art.
Whilst the Victorians did not begin the traditions of Christmas they embedded them into the fabric of British life, and from there they spread across the globe. These traditions became all the more important to both Victoria and her subjects after Alberts untimely death. Victoria would mourn the death of Albert for the rest of her life, and in keeping the traditions he had so loved alive both she and her subjects could retain the memory of her young love.
A Christmas Celebration of Colour
The colours associated with Christmas symbolise many things –evergreen the eternal, red the blood of Christ, silver and gold the sleighbells of Santa Claus, the famous guiding star or even simple snowfall. All of these associations are rooted into what we as human beings have always found to be beautiful, and all are echoed in the materials that have been used to construct jewellery since ancient times.
Rubies and Emeralds exhibit the same ageless wonder and aesthetic worth which imbues the spirit of Christmas, and that most eternal of gemstones, the Diamond, has comprised some of the most truly appreciated gifts since it was first extracted from the bosom of the earth.
When choosing jewellery as a gift for a loved one there are many options available. Modern jewellers have access to a huge variety of beautiful gemstones and precious metals, and some truly remarkable pieces have been created by those who chose to specialise in the jewellers’ art today.
The differences between contemporary pieces and antiques are many and varied, but there are two major things to consider when you are weighing up a Christmas gift;
New jewellery needs new materials to be extracted from the earth and processed before they can be worked into the jeweller’s designs. Although some jewellers work in reclaimed materials the vast majority will craft from newly refined metals and gemstones, all of which add to the carbon footprint of the item. Awareness of the fragility of our climate has led many people to strive to make more ethical purchases. In choosing to rehome a piece from ages past you are conserving a piece of history without harming the planet’s future. You can read more about sustainability in jewellery here.
Modern jewellers are inspired to innovate, taking inspiration from the world, their own experience and the crafts of those who have come before. This innovation is to be commended, as the purpose of creating art is to blend the elements which speak to you into something new and wondrous. However, there is a joy to be had in owning the items which provided this inspiration in the first place – designs which have stood the test of time and are still as desirable as the moment their first owner donned them for the first time.
All jewellery is an investment in the future, from the relationships that it signifies or enhances, to the raw value attached to the item itself. As time flows ever onwards fewer and fewer items of antique jewellery are available. Pieces which are unappreciated or uncared for will inevitably disintegrate through neglect or mistreatment, making those which survive through the care and attention of their new owners even more valuable.
At Laurelle Antique Jewellery we have many years of experience in locating antique and vintage jewellery. If you’re looking for a special gift for a loved one this Christmas why not take a look at our full collection.
If you have any questions about the pieces which we sell feel free to get in touch on England: 0333 700 4500 or send us an email via firstname.lastname@example.org. Our team is always happy to help!