The Victorian Era, known to many as the Golden Era of jewelry, marked an unprecedented shift in the jewelry industry—fostering numerous innovations in metalwork technique and jewelry design. Innovations in jewelry craftsmanship and technology during the Victorian Era made fine jewelry more affordable and accessible for the masses, which allowed the emerging middle class to indulge in a luxury previously known only to the wealthy elite. Read on to learn about the timeless trademarks of the Victorian Era’s refined beauty:
Nature-Inspired Motifs: Natural Motifs were quite popular during the Victorian Era, particularly serpents, lizards and flowers, along with a number of whimsical elements such as moons and stars. During the Victorian Era, snakes and serpents were considered symbols of eternal love and wisdom. Serpents and lizards like this stunning Demantoid Garnet & Diamond Lizard Brooch were a particularly popular find on brooches and pendants during the Victorian Era, with yellow gold or gemstone-encrusted bodies and diamonds or garnets for eyes. Flower motifs were also common trademark of the Victorian Era, especially during the era’s Romantic Period. Flower-inspired jewelry were often covered in gold and encrusted with vibrant gemstones.
Glistening Golden Designs: After the discovery of a number of large gold deposits in California in 1849 and Australia in 1851 there was a significant boom in gold jewelry production due to the metal’s increased supply and attractive new-found affordability. This unprecedented abundance of gold led to a variety of innovative metalwork techniques such as filigree embellishments and engraving, resulting in the distinct, intricate designs found in many pieces of Victorian jewelry, like this Flexible Gold Mesh Cuff.
Gorgeous Gemstones: Colorful gemstones became an increasingly popular trend during the Victorian Era as well, largely due to their relative affordability and increased availability due to the recent expansion of global trade during the Victorian Era. This lead many jewelry designers to incorporate a spectrum of vivid gemstones into the stunning jewelry designs of the period. Rings like this Cushion Shaped Natural No Heat Sapphire & Gold Ring by Tiffany & Co are a perfect example of the dramatic effect vibrant gemstones had on the vivid jewelry from this unprecedented era!
Dazzling Diamond Designs: Likewise, diamonds became an increasingly popular find in Victorian jewelry due to increased global trade, and the discovery of vast diamond reserves in Brazil and South Africa during the late 19th century. Despite this dramatic increase in the supply of diamonds during the Victorian Era, unlike other gemstone types, diamonds remained rather expensive. For this reason, diamonds continued to be worn primarily for formal occasions. Rose-cut diamonds are often found in jewelry from the Early Victorian Era, whereas the Late Victorian Era largely favored old mine-cut and old european-cut diamonds, like this remarkable Victorian Old Mine-Cut Diamond Ring.
Mourning Jewelry: The passing of Queen Victoria’s beloved Albert in 1861 spurred an 18-month period of mourning across the country, which inspired the iconic golden lockets and dark gemstone pieces of the Late Victorian Era, like this Victorian Enameled Locket & Earring Set or this Onyx, Diamond & Gold Choker by Van Cleef & Arpels.
To learn more about the Victorian Era, check out the Jewelry Education section of the Charles Schwartz website, and be sure to browse our beautiful collection of Victorian Jewelry on 1st Dibs!
Sources: collectorsweekly.com, gemsociety.org, allaboutgemstones.com, historicnewengland.org