Named after Queen Victoria, the Victorian Era (1837 to 1901) is remembered for many things, including its fashion and jewelry, which changed in many ways over the course of the period. The result: an eclectic array of pieces ranging from necklaces to earrings, and brooches to stick pins.
Today, Victorian jewelry is still one of the most popular in the world of vintage and antique jewelry. How has it stood the test of time? Many people are drawn to the sparkling diamonds and colorful gemstones that adorn the pieces, or the high-quality gold that makes the jewelry even more valuable. Others love the romantic themes, or the influence of elements from the natural world, and the symbolism behind it all. And still others are simply drawn to the eye-catching craftsmanship.
With distinctive styles and unique little features, there really is something to please anyone who wants a beautiful piece of jewelry with a bit of history attached to it.
The Victorian Era Divided into Three Parts
Although you can look at jewelry from the entire era, you can also divide this time in history into three parts: the Romantic Period, the Grand Period (a.k.a. Middle Victorian), and the Aesthetic Period (a.k.a. Late Victorian).
Here are a few of the defining characteristics of the jewelry from each of those periods:
The Romantic Period
- A metalworking technique known as repoussébecame common, and enameling and cannetille were also popular.
- Sought-after pieces included large bracelets and large brooches. Some pieces of jewelry even had photos added to them.
- Metals include aluminum, cut steel, pinchbeck, rolled gold, gold electroplate, and 18-22k gold.
- Common design elements included hearts, eyes, and hands, as well as leaves, serpents, birds, vines, knots, arrows, and crosses.
- Common gems included garnets, emeralds, diamonds, amethyst, seed pearls, turquoise, and amber.
- Popular gem cuts included cabochon cut, old mine cut, and rose cut.
- Other materials that were often used included lava stone, coral, tortoiseshell, and ivory.
The Grand Period
- Settings that were popular included hammer (a.k.a. gypsy style) and pavé.
- Large necklaces featuring big pendants were highly sought-after, as were long bar pins and earrings of every size, including the new post earrings of the time.
- Commonly used metals included silver, lower karat gold (from 9k to 15k), steel, and rolled gold.
- Designs that were often seen included crescents, bees, daisies, stars, hearts, bells, monograms, crosses, and birds. Geometric patterns also became popular.
- Stones that were often used included rubies, sapphires, pearls, opals, and diamonds, along with amethyst, turquoise, onyx, and jet.
- The same cutting styles as the Romantic Period remained the preferred choices.
- Bog oak, along with ivory, tortoiseshell, and coral, were some of the other materials often used.
The Aesthetic Period
- Manufacturing of jewelry became more common during this time period, and you’ll find pieces of jewelry with the marks of manufacturers stamped on them.
- Highly sought-after pieces of jewelry included stick pins, small brooches, and stud earrings, as well as heart-shaped lockets that were worn on bracelets.
- Metals that were typically used included platinum, silver, oxidized silver, gold, and rolled gold.
- Popular designs included clovers, knots, stars, wishbones, animal heads, Oriental themes, owls, oak leaves, and horseshoes.
- Commonly used gemstones included diamonds, pearls, rubies, opals, sapphires, quartz, moonstone, chrysoprase, aquamarine, amethyst, and chrysoberyl.
- The same gemstone cuts of previous periods still remained popular; however, this period also saw a rise in popularity of the old European cut.
How to Identify Victorian Jewelry
By keeping the information above in mind, you might be able to more easily recognize a piece of Victorian jewelry when you see one, and you might even be able to pinpoint the time period that it came from.
Looking at a piece of old jewelry but still in doubt about whether or not it’s Victorian? Consider the following:
- Brooches featured a C clasp, so this might help prove that your jewelry dates back to the Victorian period. Also, you should be able to see the pin from the front of the brooch, as it was longer than the brooch itself.
- If you have a pair of earrings, short fish hooks might help prove that they’re Victorian.
- Alexandrite stones, along with Ceylon sapphires, were first used during the Victorian era.
Have Your Jewelry Evaluated by a Pro!
If you have some jewelry that looks vintage and you’d like to have it dated, a professional jeweler who works with antiques can help. He or she will have the tools and know-how to properly evaluate your jewelry and determine the era that it comes from.
And if you’re interested in adding some incredible Victorian jewelry to your personal collection, you can browse jewelry consignment stores like DazzleMe to find the authentic pieces that you’ll want to show off.