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Victorian Era Jewellery Characteristics

The appeal of Victorian era jewellery remains strong, influenced by its distinctive period features that marked the years from 1837 to 1901 during Queen Victoria's reign. Characterised by unique designs...

The appeal of Victorian era jewellery remains strong, influenced by its distinctive period features that marked the years from 1837 to 1901 during Queen Victoria's reign. Characterised by unique designs and meticulous craftsmanship, Victorian jewellery still holds significant interest among collectors today.

Let's delve into the defining characteristics of Victorian era jewellery, this blog will highlight the importance of recognising genuine pieces, amidst common misidentifications in the market.

The Hallmarks of Victorian Era jewellery

Victorian era jewellery is celebrated for its expressive details and deep symbolic meanings. Throughout Queen Victoria’s reign, jewellery evolved in style and technique, reflecting both personal and societal shifts. Key features include:

  • Materials and Craftsmanship: Initially favouring gold, the later Victorian period expanded to include silver and increasingly diverse gemstones, thanks to technological advances and increased gem availability and of course the trends set by Queen Victoria herself. The era is noted for its exquisite handcrafted detail, which set a standard for fine jewellery.

  • Innovative Metalworking Techniques: This period saw the development of intricate metalworking techniques like filigree and granulation - seen commonly in Etruscan Revival pieces. Filigree used finely twisted metal wires to create delicate, lace-like patterns, while granulation added detailed bead-like textures to metal edges, enhancing each piece’s sophistication.

  • Motifs and Symbolism: jewellery designs often incorporated flowers, serpents, and hands, each carrying distinct meanings. Snakes, for example, symbolised eternity and were popular in engagement rings, reflecting enduring love. Almost every flower had an attached symbolism, and for the avid jewellery botanist there have been many books written on the subject.

Spotlight on Popular Victorian jewellery Items

Victorian jewellery featured several staple items, each with its own charm and history:

  • Lockets: These were essential for holding portraits or hair, serving as personal mementos. Victorian lockets were typically oval (diversifying to more geometric shapes in the late 1800s), richly engraved, and worn close to the heart.

  • Long guards and Watch Chains: Used to secure watches or other valuables, these chains were functional yet stylish, crafted from gold or silver with elaborate link designs.

  • Brooches: Extremely popular, brooches displayed intricate designs, often with floral motifs or classical elements like cameos. They were versatile, used both as fashion statements and functional pieces for securing garments.

  • Rings: The era was famous for its rings, including mourning rings and engagement rings, each chosen for its symbolic materials and designs, underscoring the Victorian fascination with meaning in jewellery.

The Misidentification Challenge

The Victorian era inspired several revival periods, notably the 1970s, which saw a resurgence of jewellery styles mimicking Victorian designs. However, many pieces from these periods are often mistakenly identified as authentic Victorian items. Distinguishing true Victorian pieces requires an understanding of the era’s styles, construction techniques, and materials—knowledge crucial for collectors seeking authenticity.

Remember: white gold jewellery didn't exist in the Victorian period, and techniques for forming jewellery from platinum were not yet refined, so if the piece has a white metal that isn't silver, it's not Victorian (or not fully original).

The rich history and intricate craftsmanship of Victorian era jewellery make it a perennial favourite among collectors. If you value the history and authenticity behind their adornments, understanding the characteristics of Victorian era jewellery is essential.

We invite you to explore our collection of antique jewellery, where each piece’s authenticity and quality are assured, allowing you to invest with confidence in timeless quality.


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