The Victorian Era was a very unique era for jewelry. Jewelry from this era is highly prized by collectors and enthusiasts. Features of this era's jewelry include colored gemstones, seed pearls, diamonds, animals and nature.
The Victorian era began in the 1830s, with the beginning of Queen Victoria's reign in England. It ended in 1901, with her death. The seven decades of this era see an evolution of jewelry in modern Western society, from the simple designs of the early period to the elaborate Art Nouveau designs of the 1890s.
This era is full of nature and animal motifs. Everything from a flower to a type of animal could convey a message. Prince Albert's engagement ring for Queen Victoria featured a snake, a symbol for eternal love. This entire era is known as the Romantic period, and romantic love was cherished and held to a high esteem. Jewelry of this era, especially in Europe, were most often used as gifts for a loved one or spouse.
The engagement ring gained popularity during this era. Snakes, like Queen Victoria's ring, were prominently featured in engagement rings, as well as many other different animals. Solitaire rings were common, as not many had the means to buy a diamond-studded engagement ring. Often, engagement rings had secret compartments or hidden messages meant only for the wearer.
Animal and nature motifs were popular. Many pieces from this era were adorned with foliage designs, flying birds, and blooming flowers. This is a contrast from the booming Industrial Revolution that Great Britain and other European countries were experiencing. However, this Revolution also meant that jewelry became more accessible to more people. The jewelry industry gained much traction during this era, and the popularity of jewelry only went up.
With the discovery of new archaeological sites and historical monuments of ancient Greece and Rome, cameos began to rise in popularity. Romantic depictions of beautiful ladies with flowing hair were the features of these cameos, taking after the distinctive Ancient Greek and Roman art and pottery designs. These cameos were often carved out of shell or coral and worn as pendants or brooches. The cameo design was later revived in the early 1900s.
The latter half of the Victorian era was marked with the death of Prince Albert in 1861. Victoria dressed in a wardrobe of black garments, and accessorized with mementos of the life of her beloved husband. Mourning jewelry came into popularity following this event, and continued until her death. A core characteristic of mourning jewelry were elements of the loved on that has passed on, such as a detail from a photograph, a lock of hair, or a symbol representing them.
The sentimental charm and uniqueness of Victorian era jewelry has enthralled collectors for years. Its romantic charm is representative of a tumultuous but overall progressive era of history.