A Guide To Victorian Jewellery
Each era in jewellery has its own signature hallmarks and the Victorian era is no different.
Characterised by ornate designs and vibrant gemstones, the Victorian era was a time of change and innovation within the world of fashion and jewellery.
The techniques used in the craftmanship of bracelets, earrings, necklaces, brooches and rings were advancing more than ever and jewellery makers were using them to their fullest potential, creating incredible pieces that have truly stood the test of time.
For those in the market to purchase a piece of antique jewellery, the jewellery of the Victorian era is a wonderful place to start.
Read on for our guide to the timeless charm of antique Victorian jewellery.
Rich in symbolism
Jewellery has always held deep meaning and sentiment, both to those who gift jewellery and to those who wear it. In the Victorian era, the symbolism of jewellery was richer than ever before.
With the innovations in the manufacturing process, jewellery makers were able to craft pieces with increasingly intricate motifs. Birds, flowers, stars, snakes and other designs were very popular, and each had its own unique meaning.
Amongst the most fashionable of Victorian unique jewellery motifs were those symbolising love and romance, with roses, doves and, of course, hearts amongst the most popular symbols of everlasting love. Serpent rings became synonymous with eternity after Prince Albert proposed to Queen Victoria with a gold ring in the shape of a snake.
Jewellery was also a favourable way to wish a loved one good fortune. Clovers were a popular motif in these pieces, as can be seen in this stunning Victorian emerald, sapphire, ruby & diamond brooch.
Of course, jewellery symbolised a wide range of different emotions and sentiments. Why not explore these further in our dedicated guide to symbolism and meaning in Victorian jewellery?
While the diamonds and pearls that were popular amongst the rich in earlier periods remained just as popular throughout the Victorian era, this was a time in which brightly coloured gemstones became incredibly fashionable.
Rubies, emeralds and sapphires of pink, purple and, of course, deep blue became a favourite amongst the upper classes. They even found popularity within Victorian engagement rings, which were once exclusively crafted using diamonds.
Victorian jewellery was created to be noticed by everyone and bright gemstones were the perfect way to draw attention to the latest addition to your jewellery collection.
Examples of this increased appreciation for bright gemstones can be found throughout the Victorian era jewellery in the Gatsby collection, which features a range of stunning brightly coloured gemstones such as the ones found in this beautiful Colombian emerald solitaire ring, found in our collection of 1900s jewellery. Increased global trading at the time meant that Colombia was just one of many countries where stunning gemstones were sourced from throughout this period.
When it comes to Victorian costume jewellery, the pieces favoured by the upper classes were rarely subtle.
Rings seldom featured just one stone, as demonstrated by this incredible Columbian emerald & old cut diamond cluster ring, in which the central cushion cut emerald is surrounded by a halo of forty stunning diamonds.
Necklaces and earrings were just as extravagant. One piece in the Gatsby collection that demonstrates this beautifully is this Victorian rose cut diamond & natural pearl necklace, featuring twelve stunning rose cut diamonds and sixteen cascading saltwater peals.
Chandelier shapes were also popular at the time, such as the shape featured in these Victorian 2.7 carat diamond & silver earrings. Given that this shape allowed for more gemstones to be featured within the design, it’s no surprise – this particular pair features thirteen in each earring.
One of the three most popular precious metals, gold has enjoyed perhaps the most enduring popularity throughout the decades – the Victorian era was no different.
Gold remained the most common and favourable metal used in jewellery throughout this period, used as the foundation for everything from necklaces to pins and brooches.
The timeless simplicity and beauty of this metal means that there was often no need for any additional stones within the piece. This 42 inch yellow gold longaurd chain, circa. 1850, is a brilliant example of how – whilst less rarely meant more during this period – gold was always enough to stand on its own and still draw admiration in any jewellery shop.
Much like the England of today, Victorian England was often rather cold.
Both men and women were often dressed in heavy clothing and completed their outfits with coats and capes, sometimes hiding their favourite jewellery underneath. Of course, this just meant that selecting the right brooch or pin to finish an outfit was all the more important.
Brooches during this period were just as sparkling and grandiose as the rest of a Victorian jewellery collection, often featuring an abundance of gemstones and diamonds.
These pieces, worn on the lapel or breast of coats, dresses, and suits, carried as much symbolism as necklaces, rings and bracelets. The star shape of this mesmerising opal, old cut diamond and rose cut diamond brooch represents direction and guidance of spirit – a wonderful accessory to be worn on the outside of any fine Victorian outfit.
The same bright gemstones were popular within brooches, too. Many, like this natural Ceylon sapphire brooch, had a beautifully coloured stone as their centrepiece.
Victorian engagement rings were as ornate as they had ever been.
No Victorian engagement ring was complete without a beautiful diamond at its centre, with solitaire rings and old cut diamonds amongst the most popular styles of the time.
This is exemplified beautifully within this 0.40 carat old cut diamond solitaire ring, dated 1880. Simple, yet undoubtedly elegant, it’s a design that appears just as beautiful to modern eyes as it did at the height of the Victorian period.
Once again, symbolism was at the centre of many Victorian engagement rings. Crossover rings truly came into their own during this period, with the timelessness of marriage and everlasting love represented beautifully by two stones crossing at the centre in a way that resembles the famous infinity symbol.
This 0.96 carat old cut diamond crossover ring is just one stunning example of a style that has truly never gone out of fashion.
Beautiful then, timeless now
While every period in jewellery history has no shortage of beauty to offer to any modern collection, the Victorian era marked the beginning of many incredible styles that are used in jewellery-making even today.
At Gatsby Jewellery, we have a stunning collection of Victorian pieces selected with beauty and sentiment in mind. With something to suit everyone, why not discover the many incredible antique Victorian jewellery pieces on offer with a look through our collection today?
Contact Gatsby Jewellery
For more information on any piece within the Gatsby Jewellery collection or to arrange an appointment for a viewing, contact us today.