History of Victorian Jewelry
A power which has dotted over the surface of the whole globe with her possessions and military posts, whose morning drumbeat, following the sun and keeping company with the hours, circles the earth with one continuous and unbroken strain of the martial airs of England”
said American politician Daniel Webster, a few years before the start of Queen Victoria's reign from 1837 until 1901 and what we famously refer to as the Victorian period. It was under Queen Victoria’s reign that the British embarked on a global expansion of their territories and at the peak controlled 24% of world’s territory and 22% of its population making it the largest ever empire in the history of mankind. But Victorian Era symbolized much more than conquest. It also led to transformation in the British society and its captured territories. It was an era of fast advancements in science, technology, art and culture.
It was an era that witnessed Industrial Revolution reaching its peak and the emergence of a huge middle class in the British society and also amongst its subjects. It was the first time that ordinary people from the working class who had a stable income could try their hands on intricate jewelry made from precious metals and also those that had precious and semi-precious stones. The demand for art, craft and jewelry grew exponentially in the entire empire.
Historians, especially those who have gone in-depth into jewelry making, regard Victorian Era as one of the most important phases in the history of the trade. It was during this time that diamond jewelry became popular and resulted in huge demand in the mining for this precious stone. The business started flourishing in the entire empire. So if it was polki diamond jewelry from India, there was also enough influences drawn from the conquered territories in Africa.
And jewelry wasn’t restricted to diamonds alone as we see extensive use of other precious stones such as opals (which was regarded as Queen Victoria’s favorite), pearl, turquoise, amethyst and coral to name a few. The use of gunmetal in jewelry also became popular during this period and once the Queen patronized this cheap alternative of gold and silver, the rich and the famous along with the ordinary masses soon started seeing jewelry made from gunmetal classy!
Styles of Victorian Jewelry
The Victorian Era is often divided into three different periods - Romantic Period from 1837 to 1861, followed by the Grand Period from 1861 to 1880 and the last years of her reign, from 1880 to 1901, is often termed as the Late or Aesthetic Period. Jewelry from each of these periods is known for their distinctive styles and patters. With Britain’s conquest of new territories came new influences in each period.
Romantic Period Jewelry
As the name suggests, jewelry in this period reflected the mood of the Queen and her courtship and marriage to Prince Albert. British were still nostalgic about the mediaeval times and the social order especially with respect to the status of women was non-negotiable. For instance since most women were expected to part their hair in the middle often covering their ears. So long earrings that would be visible below the hair became popular. The Queen wore half circled tiaras and ones studded with precious stones and these were most sought after.
It was the time when most British women loved imitating their queen. Snake inspired rings became the most sought after rings after Prince Albert gave one to Victoria during their betrothal ceremony. These rings would have high relief and figural motifs. Bracelets were another thing that was extremely popular among the Victorians especially ones with woven pearls and beads. When she started wearing cameos, they instantly became a big hit among the masses. But what was perhaps one of the most interesting trends in Romantic period jewelry was the rising popularity of mourning and sentimental jewelry. Most of these were made completely out of hair.
Jewelry from the Romantic period was also inspired by faraway lands. Victorians of this era travelled far and wide often on conquest or to trade with other empires. And jewelry soon became an important souvenir among the rich and the mighty. Hence we see the influence of Italian micro-mosaics or inlaid gemstone inspired by Romans become very popular. Influence of Indian design can also been seen a lot in this period’s jewelry. Brooches and necklaces were the most popular jewelry items among women in this period and their size was often seen as a sign of wealth and prosperity. Jewelry was exclusively handmade during this period and hence it was very exclusive.
Grand Period Jewelry
This era started with the death of Prince Albert when the queen went through a mourning period in her life. The grandeur and elegance that symbolized jewelry in the Romantic period suddenly went missing. It wasn’t only because of Queen’s personal loss but the fact that this was also the phase when women finally came out of their homes and started competing with men for jobs in the field of teaching and clerical jobs played a major role in the shift in jewelry designs.
Like the Romantic period the Grand period also saw the revival of renaissance styles and design. Lozenge-shapes and cruciform that were popular among Europeans during the awakening age made a comeback after remaining in oblivion for centuries. With improving relationship between the Anglo-Saxons and their once rivals across the channel in France we see a lot of French influence in Victorian jewelry during this period. One of the best examples is the Victorian necklaces that had distinctive scrollwork with emerald and diamond drops. Jade came in from China and was extensively used in jewelry so was silver which was almost as popular during this time as gold.
In terms of necklaces, mid-Victorians preferred shorter necklaces compared to those in the Grand Periods. Ones that came with flexible tubular links having suspended pendant or even a number of them were especially popular. Jewelers during this time were increasingly using motifs inspired from ancient Greece and also Egyptian and classical archeology. Brooches studded with diamonds and sapphires were another item that was popular among the rich and affluent women in the British society during this period.
Aesthetic Period Jewelry
The last phase of Victorian jewelry is perhaps the closest link we have with modern jewelry styles and designs. The end of the nineteenth century marked a new beginning in the British society and its empire around the world. In fact if we closely look at designs and styles from the Aesthetic Period we find little resemblance with ones of the previous two phases in Victorian era. As jewelry historians rightly say most Victorians became disenchanted with the fashion and classiness of the previous two eras and this period is more about breaking the conventions. It was the time electricity lighted homes and it was actresses who often set the fashion trends.
Machine made jewellery became popular and many women started developing distaste for diamond which also meant increasing popularity of other stones such as amethysts, opals and emeralds. The tradition of imitative jewellery or what the Queen wore was over as most preferred jewellery that was lighter and easy to carry for women who were socially more active and would move around without having men to accompany them. In fact this period was less to do with the Queen and more about women under her reign. Designers resorted to delicate coloring, softer curves and use of natural shapes to impress their customers.
During this period most affluent women would sport hair combs, heart shaped lockets, small brooches and dog collar style necklaces something that was unimaginable a few decades back. Egyptian motif jewelry also became popular along with a bejeweled safety design which became popular as the Lace Pin. Apart from these subtle pendant, necklaces decorated by stars and hearts became a part of the street fashion during this phase.
Shop Victorian Jewelry Online
It’s well past a hundred years since the Victorian era ended but the demand for Victorian jewelry continues to grow each day. Perhaps the elegance and stylishness of that era pulls people towards it even more. The fact that Queen Victoria’s reign was long and saw the emergence of new styles is perhaps what attracts people more towards it. There is something for everyone – from flamboyant pieces to ones that are a little unflashy. And today these pieces are just a few clicks away and you can find the choicest designs and styles to suit your lifestyle and fashion quotient. If you want to shop for the best of diamond and gemstone jewelry in Victorian style you can do it sitting in the comfort of your homes.
Find The Best Victorian Jewelry At Jewelexi.com
As one of the largest online jewelry stores in the world, we at Jewelexi.com are proud to offer you the widest collection of Victorian jewelry. From engagement rings to bracelets and pendants we have the right kind of jewelry to meet every taste and demand. Our collection includes mix and match of jewelry pieces that embody the best of Victorian era craftsmanship to those chic modern pieces that draw inspiration from that era. We are a one-stop online jewelry store catering to individual customers and jewelry retailers from around the world. Our collection includes everything from snake inspired rings to necklaces studded with precious gemstones. If you are looking for variety in gemstones, we use more than 250 earth mined precious and semi-precious stones that includes everything from Diamonds to Rubies and Azurites.
India being one of the biggest hubs of stone polishing and jewelry making, we source our pieces from some the best emporiums in the country. We are exclusive partners to some of the finest artisans of handmade jewelry in India who have created a name for their exquisite craftsmanship around the world. From replicating the finest styles and designs from the Victoria era to creating fusion between traditional and modern designs, our jewelry craftsmen produce extraordinary pieces which has made us one of the fastest growing online jewelry stores in the world dealing with thousands of orders every day from different corners of the planet.
We are proud partners of hundreds of jewelry retailers around the world and in a short span of time have created footprint in every corner of the planet. While bulk of our retail partners are based in the United States and Canada, we are fast expanding in the European markets and well as reaching out to the Chinese jewelers. Our attractive discounts of up to 25% on finest jewelry items have made us popular among jewelers as this allows them to aggressively price these pieces and also earn sizable profit selling them. As a fast growing online wholesaler we have ready stock of over 200,000 pieces ready to be shipped anytime. Whether you wish to place bulk orders for your jewelry emporium or want an intricately crafted piece of Victorian jewelry for your loved one, we are the one place you can easily find what you are looking for.
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