As you certainly already know, Queen Victoria sat on the throne from 1837-1901. It is a very long time and the jewelry made during her era, while all called Victorian, is far from homogenous.
There were lots of different styles and movements during the Victorian era. Let’s move through a few of them.
Victoria inherited the throne from her uncle, William IV, who was boring and stodgy and jewelry from that time reflected the dull and uninspired. However, Victoria was fortunate in marrying her Albert, who was a most enlightened individual and did a lot to further the cause of jewelry in England at the time. Not only that, but he designed and encouraged Victoria to design a lot of her own jewelry. Her engagement ring was in the form of a snake, symbol of eternal love – a form madly sought after and popular to this day.
During this early period of her reign, known as the Romantic era and lasting approximately until the 1850’s, flowers, nature and romance were primary subjects of jewelry. The middle classes began to emerge as a buying force and the buds of the Industrial Revolution spouted.
Electro-plated gold and stamped out jewelry, way more affordable, became available to the new middle class. The queen dictated jewelry fashions. If she loved cameos, everyone did the same. She collected simple Scottish agate jewelry – it became a phenomenon.
Unfortunately, beloved Albert died prematurely in 1861 and Victoria threw herself and the country into deep mourning. Black jewelry was all that was allowed for decades. Fortunately, jet was mined at Whitby and was carved into beautiful and elegant jewelry forms. The Whitby mines were depleted long ago and remaining jewelry made of this material is highly sought after. Other strange materials used were bog oak and hair – human hair fashioned into beautiful jewels!
From the 1860’s Victorians became obsessed with civilizations of the ancient world. They began a craze of Revivalist jewelry – jewelry made in the style of the Ancient Egyptians, the Ancient Assyrians, the Ancient Greeks, Romans and Etruscans and the Gothic and Renaissance periods. Trying to re-learn the techniques of the ancients, the Victorians (led by two Italians, Castellani and Giuliano), created magnificent jewelry that combined both the ancient and current sensibilities. Revivalist jewelry is in hot demand especially if it is signed.
During the later period of Victoria’s reign, philosophers preached the decline of humanity due to the advent of the machine age. There was a movement afoot to return to the dignity of the creative individual – an artist-craftsman who would be responsible for every aspect of the jewelry he made, from its design and through every aspect of its manufacture, which of course, was all to be done by hand. This jewelry was intended for the masses. Naturally, anything so labor-intensive was far from available to the masses, although cheaper versions that cheated a little with the use of machines in part of the process were made in Birmingham by firms such as Murrle-Bennett. Archibald Knox, designing for Liberty & Co was the most famous designer for the Arts & Crafts movement, but there were many other individuals such as Nelson and Edith Dawson and Sibyl Dunlop (who came onto the scene a little later).
The Art Nouveau period coincides with the late Victorian era and lasted in France between 1895 and 1905. Here, under the influence of Japanese art, the French produced incredibly elegant, elongated versions of women with flowing locks and sensuous, supple bodies. The most spectacular designer of this style was Rene Lalique in France.
Colonialism during the 19th century made Great Britain and Europe very rich. Africa, South America and the Far East provided them with unending sources of gems, gold and diamonds. In the latter part of the century, diamonds were found in South Africa, greatly influencing the jewelry industry of the time.
Both the Arts and Crafts and the Art Nouveau philosophies espoused the use of simpler materials. Moonstones, turquoise, amethysts and enameling were very popular. When diamonds were used, they were usually used as highlights or borders.
The long and heterogeneous period of Victoria’s reign meant that an enormous quantity of jewelry can be attributed to this period. Jewelry of many, varied forms and styles. We have specialized in bringing the best of this period home to you. We have a wide variety of beautiful Victorian jewels to suit every taste and we will help you find the perfect one to suit your needs. We offer 100% guarantee on all of our merchandise and we are happy to answer any and every question to ensure that you will be happy with your purchase. Read our feedback and see why so many of our customers come back again and again.