Victorian Jewellery

The Exciting Million-Dollar Guide to Antique Victorian Jewellery History

Have you ever wondered what kind of jewellery ladies would have worn “back in the day”?  Rivière necklaces, finely clustered rings, metals that fell out of fashion throughout history and brooches so shiny they would have made our heads turn...

At Carus Jewellery, we are very much antique jewellery aficionados - not a day goes by that we don’t think of the shine of a fine rose cut gem, or wonder about long-lost jewellery craftsmanship.

Our modern world is used to pushing forward delicate pieces of jewellery all more technical than the next, but we firmly stand by our vision: no piece of jewellery will ever be as appealing as one charged with history, pre worn and cherished in bygone times, by a romantic lady who would have been gifted by a courting lover that new ring or necklace your heart has just set on.

The Victorian era, in particular, has brought about tremendous changes to society as we know it, with its mass-produced jewellery and factory-based handiwork. But it was not always the case. The Victorian era, rich in society changes and romantic attributions, brought various possibilities of beauty to women of these days.

If you are looking for the perfect item for your anniversary or the birthday of a cherished one, we highly recommend you to inform yourself on the exciting Victorian Jewellery History.

You will learn about romanticism, beauty, hope and art - all combined together and influencing our life and aesthetics to a great extent even today… Dive with Carus into the ultimate guide to the History of Victorian Jewellery.

The Victorian Era: Social Expansion and Life Changing Discoveries 

From the Past… To the Future of Jewellery

The Victorian era started when Queen Victoria ascended to the throne in 1837, and the beginning of her reign marks the abrupt end of the Georgian era.

We remember the Georgian era to be the first to witness factory-based work, a rural exodus, the emergence of a middle class that would now have access to jewellery that was until then reserved to the aristocracy. 

We also remember the scarcity of expensive metals such as gold and diamond, explaining the extensive and seemingly endless creativity of Georgian jewellers who invented pinchbeck, Berlin iron and glass pastes, among other fascinating metals and ornaments of the 18th Century.

Influences of Victorian Jewellery

The Victorian era, a continuity of the Georgian era in terms of history, was equally its own beautiful era in terms of jewellery and personality. The 64-year long reign of Queen Victoria, from 1837 to 1901 witnessed an exponential social growth in terms of culture, art, industry and society, all of which influenced greatly fashion and more particularly jewellery.

Expeditions, discoveries around the world sharply depict an era marked with growth and hope translated into delicate, innovative designs based on symbolism. The Gold Rush in the USA, the American Civil war, various excavations in Greece and Italy and the ever-so-increasing financial stability of the new middle class all influenced closely the Victorian jewellery styles.

Fascinating Jewellery Movements of the Victorian Era

Much like the Georgian Jewellery era, the Victorian Jewellery era was split into distinct movements that were characterized by specific motifs and the use of materials variating according to the times.

During the Victorian era, various metals shaped up the most intricate, delicate designs; pinchbeck was still very much in vogue to replace gold, 18K to 22K gold, gold electroplate (an ancestor of gold plating) and less noble metals such as steel and aluminium were also used largely. 

Already known gemstones were widely used; from diamonds to rubies and emeralds, but the Victorian era saw a rise in the use of more sustainable, natural materials when cameos became all the rage, since they were mainly crafted from shell, lava stone and coral, or when jet and onyx became staples of mourning jewellery during the Grand Period of Queen Victoria’s reign.

The Romantic Period: Beauty, Hope and Love

The Romantic Period or Early Victorian era spread from 1837 to 1861 and coincided with the length of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s marriage. By gifting Queen Victoria a betrothal ring depicting a snake with its tail in its mouth - a symbol of eternal love, that’s how the Victorian Jewellery era started. This era cradled immense romanticism molten into delightful love motifs and abruptly ended in 1861, at the death of Prince Albert.

Common techniques during the early Victorian era comprised the Repoussé, a technique based on hammering metal into various designs, cannetille which featured intricate wire work designs or enamelling, that became very popular under Queen Victoria’s reign.

The Grand Period: Deep Mourning

The Grand Period or Middle Victorian era, spanning from 1861 to 1880, started after Prince Albert’s death.

The Prince’s death plunged Queen Victoria in a mourning deeply reflected by the dark jewellery and extensive use of spiritual, symbolic motifs produced after 1861. Jewellery from the Grand Period was often made out of jet, onyx or bog oak with a placement within the item made to bear woven hair and bearing inscriptions with the name and age of the person.

The Aesthetic Period: Art for Art’s Sake

The Aesthetic Period or Late Victorian era spread from 1880 to 1901 and ended with Queen Victoria’s death. 

After the Queen’s long period of mourning, jewellery started to bear different meanings, going forward and looking into the future. Jewellery trends dove well into the “Art for Art’s sake” movement, in which the beauty of the gemstones and the quality of the craftsmanship became prevalent. The monetary value was no longer a priority and feminine, ornate designs rose to fashion once more.

Victorian Jewellery Motifs and Patterns: A Panel of Possibilities

Inspirations of Victorian Jewellery Motifs

A wide array of motifs and patterns rose and fell out of popularity according to the times and movements they were mostly sported in. For instance, the early Victorian era, symbolised by Queen Victoria’s love for her husband, Prince Albert, and by the love of the people for their queen, displayed numerous love knots, hearts, eyes, anchors, hands, snakes as well as various nature-inspired patterns such as birds and leaves.

Once again, discoveries around the world would renew people’s interest for particular motifs, such as medieval enamelling.

As such, when the Suez canal was built, the Victorian era witnessed a rise in popularity of Egyptian patterns. Beetles and various insects became a whole jewellery trend during the Victorian era, not only inspired by the Egyptian culture but also revealing a melancholy of nature and countryside from a now factory-based society. Closer to home, archeological excavations - highly publicized at that time - brought Greek and Roman-inspired motifs to the spotlight again.

Aesthetic of the Victorian Jewellery

A wide array of gemstones was used throughout the Victorian era, from garnets to amber, from quartz to diamond, and during the romantic period often were combined in such a way that the arrangement of the gemstones to spell a word - acrostic jewels could read DEAREST, REGARD and other sentimental words.

Cameos, cabochons, chokers were all very much in vogue all throughout the different Victorian periods. The Grand Period saw flowers rise in popularity again to symbolise life, immortality, true love and absence. Ivy, Forget-Me-Nots, pansies and various nature-inspired motifs influenced greatly the Grand Period jewellery.

A wide aesthetic depicts the Victorian Jewellery era, a period in which jewellery was massively factory-produced. Although the Grand Period ended with hand crafted jewellery, the possibilities and options brought about by so many patterns and motifs now mostly factory-produced have a way of reminding us of our 21st century visions.

Influences of the Victorian Jewellery era on Modern Times

Victorian Jewellery influenced our modern vision of jewellery as much, if not more, as the Georgian era or jewellery. Queen Victoria’s 64-year long reign marked fast society changes, from industrial growth to cultural discoveries and her own personal life further influenced the aesthetic of the jewellery trends of the 19th century.

From new symbols for love like the snake to the continuous use of mourning jewellery during her reign, the Victorian era brought about refreshing visions of love and sentimentality . To this date, Victorian Jewellery is a symbol of true love and hope by whoever gifts it to you. 

At Carus Jewellery, we work to broaden our collection of Victorian jewellery, as Victorian designs that were popular from Queen Victoria’s ascension to the throne to her death are still as popular today - history, and sentiment-laden, and make very much sense to any jewellery bearer. 

We are looking to make detail-seekers happy; if you are looking for the perfect item to add to your collection or gift to a special person, consider a beautiful gem-clustered bracelet, or an exciting, antique brooch that will contribute beautifully to your collection.