Vintage Jewelry of the Victorian Era

The Victorian Era is aptly named for the time period when Queen Victoria ruled England. From 1837 until her death in 1901, Victorian jewelry came to be popular among middle-class citizens.

Some of the most common styles of Victorian jewelry were brooches and engagement rings. Among these, cameos were particularly favored, as Queen Victoria apparently enjoyed this style the most. Many of these were made out of gold or ivory, and had designs such as snakes and hearts.

The Queen greatly influenced jewelry of this time because of her unique personality, the love her subjects had for her, and her relationship with her husband, Albert. Because of this, the era is separated into three different time periods, including the Romantic Period, the Grand Period, and the Aesthetic Period.

Rings of the Romantic Period

The Romantic Period is aptly named because it represents the nation’s adoration of its Queen. It also focuses on Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s affection and love toward one another, which was common knowledge in England. This period spans from 1837 until 1861. One of the most popular pieces during this time was the engagement ring, which often had names and dates engraved on it.

During this time, many engagement rings used extravagant stones and had symbols engraved on them. Diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and pearls were often found set in platinum or gold rings. Some rings even had hidden compartments underneath the stones, while others were decorated with flower motifs. Acrostic rings were a popular choice because they spelled out “dearest” with different stones. These stones were diamond, emerald, amethyst, ruby, emerald, sapphire, and topaz.

Snake Rings

Another style of engagement ring was the one that Prince Albert gave to Queen Victoria. This ring had a snake with its tail circled to its mouth because it symbolized endless love. Snakes were also used in other pieces of jewelry, like bracelets, necklaces, and pendants. Rings for couples separated by distance had the word “Mizpah” engraved on them, which is Hebrew for “watchtower.”

Jewelry of the Romantic Period

Cameos were one of the most sought-after pieces of jewelry during the Romantic Period. They were made from many different materials and were often decorated with diamonds. They could be found as either their own piece or as a part of other jewelry like rings and brooches.

Bangles and bracelets were two popular pieces that were made very large in size. These were commonly big and gaudy pieces, and these characteristics made them more desirable. They were crafted out of gold and had flowery designs with silver accents. Pins and brooches were also made of gold and silver, and were often in the shape of colorful birds.

Lastly, hair workpieces were common during this time. These were woven out of real human hair to make jewelry, such as earrings, necklaces, and bracelets. The woven hair was used in place of a chain for a necklace or bracelet, sometimes with jewels scattered through them.


Jewelry of the Grand Period

The Grand Period began in 1861 with the death of Prince Albert and lasted until 1880. Because this was a time of mourning and remembrance for Queen Victoria, the color of some jewelry shifted drastically to black. Materials such as jet, bog oak, onyx, enamel, and vulcanite were commonly used.

Also, during this time, jewelry became much more intricate. Mosaics became popular designs, along with animals such as peacocks and doves, and concise geometric patterns. These techniques were popular for pendants, pins, belt buckles, and cameos.

Necklaces faced major changes, with designs inspired by the Renaissance and Egyptians. Many were covered with leaves of gold and decorated with brightly colored grapes. They also contained colorful stones and motifs. Turquoise and diamonds were also popular choices for these pieces and often increased the value of them.


Jewelry of the Aesthetic (Late) Period

The Aesthetic Period spanned from 1880 to 1901, and symbolized a time of simplification for jewelry from many influences, and a turn toward infatuation with clothing and interior furnishings. This time is thought of as the Arts and Crafts Movement, and it came to be a period where women desired to keep up with modern trends. Japanese jewelry had a heavy influence on England’s jewelry, and women had recently entered the workforce. Because women were always on the move in their occupations, their jewelry had to accommodate this.

During this time range, Queen Victoria had ruled for sixty years, and the people celebrated with different kinds of jewelry. However, less jewelry was worn at this time, in order to keep up with modern trends. Because women were working, most pieces became smaller and much simpler than those that were popular during the other Victorian Era periods.

Adding to the simplicity, technology developments in the latter part of the 19th-century enabled manufacturers to start mass producing jewelry during the Late Period. Better designs and clasps were also discovered, to ensure that pieces were securely attached to clothing.

The end of this period came with Queen Victoria’s death in 1901. However, the styles and designs of the influential jewelry would continue on into the Edwardian Era.

Victorian Jewelry Today

After all this time, Victorian jewelry is still highly desirable. Because of the long reign of Queen Victoria, there are many vastly different styles and designs to choose from today that evolved during the time of her rule. These pieces are known for aging well, which is appealing to many buyers. They are also attracted to the historical representations that the styles of this jewelry naturally display.

Men often desire to buy their bride-to-be Victorian engagement rings because of the love story associated with the rings. The Queen and Prince have come to signify eternal love. Since these rings are considered antiques, many people who believe they have been in love with their significant other since the Victorian Era desire to show their love with engagement rings from the Romantic Period.


Final Comments

Though none are seen quite as symbolic as the engagement ring, other pieces of jewelry from this time are also still popular today. While they are modernized, in some instances, they still hold the true beauty and symbolic representations of those from the Romantic, Grand, and Aesthetic Periods.

The Victorian Era still influences public tastes in jewelry over 100 years later.