When most people search for jewelry, they choose something that looks nice to them. This method of selection is valid, but it ignores many of the things that make jewelry valuable. The design and composition of jewelry reflect the people who made and the times they lived in. Understanding these aspects can help you appreciate antique jewelry, like the items you can find at The Antique Parlour, more thoroughly. Looking at the historical significance of Victorian jewelry can make these pieces more appealing.
Queen Victoria of England reigned from 1837 to 1901, which was a time period that saw many cultural changes for the British people and the world at large. Many of these changes are reflected in the jewelry that was created during the time period. As the head of state and most prominent public figure, events in Queen Victoria’s life can be seen in the recurring themes seen in antique Victorian jewelry.
The reign of Queen Victoria is often divided into three sections. The naming conventions vary among historians, but they can be called the Romantic, Grand, and Late Victorian period. The Romantic period ran from 1837 to the death of her husband in 1861. Her engagement ring to Prince Albert had a snake eating its own tail to symbolize eternal love. Snake motifs grew in popularity during this period. According to the Gem Society, other themes included "eyes, hands, hearts, anchors, crosses, arrows, clovers, love knots, garters, buckles, vines, and leaves."
Queen Victoria ruled at the zenith of the British colonial empire, which maintained colonies around the world. With many people traveling on merchant's vessels or temporarily working in far off lands, you see jewelry that reflects such long-distance love. Lovers who were separated would give each other pieces of jewelry were with the Hebrew word "Mizpah,"(meaning "watchtower") inscribed on them.
The composition of jewelry changed as the world grew more extensive due to exploration and colonization. The Victorian Era also saw an increase in gold jewelry, as supplies were bolstered by international trade and events like the U.S. gold rush. Jewelers gained more access to more materials to use in their pieces. According to the Gem Society, the Romantic Period was known pieces that used "agate, amber, amethyst, chalcedony, chrysoberyl, diamond, emerald, garnet, malachite, seed pearls, quartz, topaz, and turquoise." Exotic materials were also used such as ivory, lava stone, coral, and tortoiseshell.
The Industrial Revolution occurred during the reign of Queen Victoria, and this had a tremendous effect on jewelry. Advanced production techniques made jewelry less expensive to make so you can find antique Victorian jewelry today with relative ease. And the Industrial Revolution also brought down the price of consumer goods, so more people could afford to buy jewelry for the ones they loved.
Following the death of Prince Albert in 1861, Queen Victoria went into a state of mourning. This cultural shift also affected jewelry, but that's a topic for another day. If you want to own a piece of history by buying some antique Victorian jewelry, The Antique Parlour can help. We have dozens of pieces of Victorian jewelry for sale. We also have a plethora of antique jewelry from different eras. Send us a message online if you have any questions about one of our pieces.