The Victorian Era of Jewellery making spans betweens the years of 1837 and 1901. Because Queen Victoria was at the time Englands longest standing monarch, the Victorian Era of jewellery is split into the early, mid and late eras and styles, motifs, fashions and so stones varied within the period. In fact, during the 64 years Queen Victoria occupied the thrown just about every material imaginable was used to create jewellery items, from diamonds which dominated the period as a whole to far less popular and celebrated materials such as human teeth.
Huge technological advances during the Victorian era also bore a notable influence on the styles and motifs celebrated in jewellery design, the techniques used to cut stones and create jewellery and too made new and more exotic gem stones and materials possible too because of new techniques and methods to mine and ship materials from all over the world. Hence, the Victorian period was and remains one of the most exciting times in the history of jewellery design and making and introduced a veritable treasure trove of new stones to the market. Then, lets take a look at what some of the favourite stones of the Victorian Era proved to be, and why.
The Unbreakable Appeal of Diamonds
Diamonds, which were already massively popular, continued to dominate jewellery fashions throughout and beyond the Victorian era.
During the Victorian period, the British Empire had control over Australia, South Africa and India, where the bulk of the worlds diamonds were mined. Consequently, diamonds featured in every kind of jewellery made at the time from rings to ear rings and bangles to brooches.
As new diamond mines were discovered during the Victorian Period and so the wealth of the British Empire grew, so too did the size of the diamonds used in Victorian Jewellery, and the ways in which they were cut and used.
Black Stones and Mourning Jewellery
Jet and onyx, both recognised for their distinctive black colouring grew hugely in popularity during the Victorian Period. At least part of the rapid rise in popularity of black stones during the era was the rise in popularity of mourning jewellery. Those able to afford jet and / or onyx too had mourning jewellery pieces made to commemorate the losses of their own loved ones.
In fact, black stones became massively popular, to the extent that those unable to afford genuine black gem stones would instead use black glass, bog oak (a dark brown wood), fossilised coal (often that found around Whitby) or even vulcanite (a hardened, black rubber) to create mourning jewellery items.
Opals, Pearls, Ivory
Throughout the Victorian Era ivory was used to create elaborate portraits to fix the face of a loved one into a pendant, locket, broach or even ring. Pearls, meanwhile shared a similarity with opal in that both are far softer than most stones. Hence, although opal and pearl rings were made on a larger scale than ever before during the Victorian period, many have not survived. Fortunately, pearls and opals alike were too used popularly to create elaborate broaches, often being cast alongside diamonds.
Mixing Stones and Sentimental Jewellery
The Victorian Period is a famous for its sentimental jewellery perhaps as for its production of mourning jewellery, and no discussion of the stones popular during the era better explains why such a vast array of stones are associated with the Victorian period than the fashion at the time to use the beginning letters of stones to create jewellery which spelled out sentiments or a lovers name.
Hence, acrostic rings, which were most commonly set with a diamond, emerald, amethyst, ruby, emerald, sapphire, and topaz to spell out dearest, were popular and gifted between lovers to celebrate their love and lives together. The limit to what could be spelled out when creating acrostic sentimental jewellery though was almost limited only to a persons budget. Hence, today there is a wealth of unique sentimental Victorian jewellery pieces which display variations of most often rubies, diamonds, sapphires, emeralds and topaz.
To see for yourself some of the creative ways Victorians used stones and colour to create jewellery and convey feelings and meanings, take a look at the Victorian Jewellery available here at Heritage Gemset Jewellery.