What is Victorian Jewelry?
When designing a current piece of jewelry that replicates one from the Victorian era, you may stop and wonder What is Victorian Jewelry ? Take time to research the designs and materials used during this period. I also find it very helpful to research the fashions during the era also, this way you will understand how the jewelry was worn. In this blog post, I give you a summary of the jewelry of the Victorian era.
Victorian Period 1837-1901
Victorian jewelry was produced during the reign of England’s Queen Victorian from 1837-1901. The year 1837 is generally recognized as the beginning of a new era, although some types and styles of jewelry carried over from the previous decade. The time span of the period is lengthy, so it is usually divided into three sub-periods. While there is a difference of opinion as to the exact years when one sub-period ends and the next begin, there is a general recognition of their names: Early Victorian or Romantic, the Middle or Grand, and the Late Victorian or Aesthetic Period.
The Romantic period of the Victorian age reflected a time of well-being for Queen Victoria and her jewelry displayed this with brightly colored Pearls, Turquoise beads and Pink Coral. This jewelry utilized light through subtle designs with elaborate, detailed, sophisticated engravings.
During the middle of the Victorian era (the Grand period) these subtle designs developed into heavier, bolder designs, changing into the style that most of us would associate with the era.
The new Aesthetic period meant lines were simpler, fabrics were lighter. Delicate lace replaced heavy fringe. Elaborate designs gave way to refined simplicity. Heavy, dark, somber, massive and ornate jewelry was losing popularity to light colored, delicate pieces.
A Few Defining Elements of Victorian Period:
In 1861 both Queen Victoria’s mother and husband, Albert died. The Queen became obsessed with her mourning and as a result black jewelry and clothes became fashionable. Black jewelry was in high demand due to the length of time she mourned.
Cameos are known as the “old-fashioned” look. Their widespread popularity began in the nineteenth century as a tourist souvenir when visiting Italy. The most common material for cameos is shell, which is soft and easy to carve. A distinct cameo of Victorian design is habille’ (French for “dress-up”) which a woman is wearing jewelry, most of the time a diamond necklace. Cameos where set into rings, brooches, earrings and bracelets. The men wore them in watch fobs, rings and pins.
Another type of souvenir jewelry is Mosaic, miniature works of art in glass or stone resembling a painting. Mosaics of superior quality were mounted in solid gold frames. Those of lesser quality were set in gold filled or brass settings. Mosaic designs were popular 1820 – 1860.
Throughout the nineteenth century; chokers, lockets and long chains where in vogue. Sautoirs, long ribbon necklaces or pearls with tassels, where worn throughout this century. Necklets which were longer than chokers but shorter than the necklace we know today, where popular in the early period. Festoon necklaces, which make a lace-like pattern, usually made with a series of chains, where fashionable in the late part of the era. Also in high fashion where chokers, dog-collar and fringe necklaces.
Bracelets were worn in multiples. Wearing 2 or more bracelets at a time was very popular. Cuff, multi-strand, and link bracelets were made in abundance. Filigree bracelets with lacey and detailed scrolling designs were made of polished silver; burnished gold, brass or gilt and were high fashion.
Many motifs were used in this period which include; bowknots, flower sprays, anchors, stars, crescents, hearts, buttercups, daisies and leaves. A considerable amount of glass stones were used in brooch designs.
The type of earring worn depended on the hair style at the time. Earrings were made for pierced ears until the last decade of the century, and then the screw-back earring was invented. Styles alternated from dangle to stud. In the early period, the style Creole was popular, which is similar to our present day hoop earring. In the later period, tassel and long drops were popular. Pierced earrings in the shapes of hearts, leaves, daisies, fans, filigree balls and cones were made out of brass, gilt and burnished gold.
Popular Stones & Materials
Amethyst, Coral, Jet, Diamonds, Garnets, Opals, Emeralds, Pearls (freshwater & seed pearls), Topaz, Cameos
Celluloid, gold, gold filled, silver, brass, gilt, gold plated, horse and human hair
Thank you for reading my blog. I hope you enjoyed this article.