By Anthony Shapiro
The era of Victorian Jewelry officially starts in 1837 with the coronation of a very young Queen Victoria. It ends with her death at the age of 82, in 1901. This lady adored jewelry. Not only did she wear it, but she designed it and gifted many pieces through the rise of British Global Empire, the inception of the industrial revolution. Her passion and preferences fueled the talents of the jewelry trade of London her whole life, most markedly upon the death of her beloved husband, Albert. During this time, a middle class began to emerge, sparking a demand for jewelry in the mass market. The era is usually divided into several subsections: the Romantic Period from 1837 to 1861, the Grand Period from 1861 to 1880, and the Aesthetic Period from 1880 to 1901.
Jewelry of the Romantic Period (when the queen’s husband, Prince Albert, was still alive) seemed to mirror the affection between the country’s rulers. Enameled serpents and snakes—with diamonds or garnets for their eyes, yellow gold for their bodies, and small turquoise cabochons to imitate the scales on their heads—were fashioned into necklaces, brooches, pendants, and bracelets. Indeed, Albert’s ring to Victoria was a snake with its tail in its mouth, which was considered a symbol of love eternal.
Flower motifs were popular in Romantic Period jewelry. Leaves were rendered realistically in gold, while flower buds were studded with jewels. Many flower heads shivered with the movements of their wearers, thanks to a technique called en tremblant. Hands were another recurring motif, symbolizing either friendship or whatever the hands were holding.
Bracelets and bangles were very big—literally. Bracelets were composed of hand-worked gold links as well as gold chains punctuated by lozenges with enameled floral decorations at their centers. Large bangles with hinged clasps were often made out of rolled gold to produce scroll-like reliefs, some of which were accented with figures or animals in silver and other materials.
The Grand Period of the Victorian Era began in 1861 with the death of Prince Albert, which caused Queen Victoria to wear mourning attire for decades to come.Black jewelry thus became quite fashionable.
Another key trend that impacted jewelry was Revivalism, a hugely popular movement during the Grand Period. In necklaces, Revivalism meant gold leaves alternating with bunches of purple glass grapes, the sort of thing a lascivious Bacchus might bestow upon a young maiden as a gift. Trends from the Renaissance were also copied to create necklaces using enamel, colored gemstones, and pearls—fleur-de-lis links were quite common.
Precious gemstone jewelry continued to be much sought-after. Diamonds and turquoise were sometimes combined with pearls in necklaces. In other pieces, diamonds either stood alone or were used as the sparkling backdrop for colored stones such as garnets, emeralds, sapphires, and topaz.
During the final phase of the Victorian Era, the Aesthetic Period, jewelry got simpler in design and smaller in scale. And because ear piercing was considered a barbaric practice, screw-back findings for earrings were invented in 1894.
Umzuzu proudly presents for sale two gorgeous unique and handmade pieces.
The 21 K yellow gold necklace is an exquisite example of Victorian artistry. The beautiful design is comprised of 3 luscious natural garnet cabochons, each set with an old Rose Cut diamond in the center. The contrast between the deep red hue of the garnet stones and the sparkling Rose Cut diamonds is simply magnificent! Each cabochon is encased in 21k yellow gold in a multi-chain draping tassel design. .
The 18k bracelet is also a wonderful piece of Victorian artistry. The beautiful design is comprised of a row of 6 luscious garnet cabochons, each set with an old Rose Cut diamond. The 8″ adjustable bracelet is adorned with exquisite hand chased detailing.
Please visit our product page to view these pieces as well as some of our gorgeous pre-owned Jewelry and luxury timepieces.