A look at Victorian jewelry style

Victorian style was mainly seen in decorative arts during the Victorian era, the period Queen Victoria reigned (1837-1901). The Victorian era is known for its eclectic revival and interpretation of historic styles but also for the cross-cultural influences from the Middle East and Asia.

Queen Victoria - Victorian Jewelry

Such design is also recognizable in antique furniture, fittings, and interior decoration. It was sometimes called ‘Oriental Style’ or ‘Chinoiserie’. In the Netherlands and Germany this nineteenth century style period is called ‘Biedermeier’ or ‘Historism’, in the UK also the term ‘Revival style’ was used a lot concerning jewelry. In France it is referred to as ‘Louis-Phillippe’ or ‘Second Empire’, while in the USA it was often named ‘Romanticism’.

Victorian fashion and jewelry

But let's just call it Victorian for now!

The fashion in that expansive period followed mostly the style and life of Queen Victoria. In 1840 Queen Victoria received an exquisite snake & emerald ring from Prince Albert for their engagement. Women followed Queen Victoria's fashion closely and began wearing similar pieces. 

Jewelry from this period can be recognized by working in yellow or pink gold, the use of seed pearls, colored precious stones or paste, the use of braided hair work, but above all: the sentimental and symbolic meaning of the jewelry piece. 

Victorian symbolism

The Victorians took symbolism in jewelry making to a whole other level. Their hidden language is so beautifully conveyed in their timeless pieces, that we gratefully admire and humbly respect. 

  • Opals signified protection, loyalty & faithfulness.
  • Snakes symbolized eternity.
  • Seed pearls epitomized innocence, purity, humility & harmony. 
  • Gemstones were placed in Victorian jewelry with much care and thought. Jewelry pieces sometimes contained color coded messages with each color standing for a letter, which spelled out a kind word for loved ones.
  • Horseshoes & clovers were thought to bring on good fortune, success, prosperity, karma and well wishes to its wearer
    Victorian mourning ring with woven hair
Mourning jewelry

One of the more heartbreaking and sentimental jewelry fashion statements in the Victorian age was mourning jewelry. Mourning jewelry was entirely about remembering individuals who were lost, and was incorporated into the strict mourning dress code imposed upon women in Victorian times. 

Photography was scarce, but people wanted to remember their loved ones. Thus it was popular to use a deceased loved ones hair to eternalize their soul in a piece of personal jewelry. The human hair was, often braided, added into a piece of jewelry worn in remembrance. Jet, onyx, white pearls for tears, and different shades of hair embodied the departed in Victorian mourning jewelry. You'll see a lot of clouds, weeping willows, tombs, urns and angels. 



On to more jolly things!

The Arts and Crafts movement and Art Nouveau style started in the late Victorian era. And so there are endless floral motif symbols in Victorian jewelry. Flowers made out of rose diamonds and dainty little buttercups, one of the sweetest Victorian symbols. It truly embodies all things jovial and pleasant. Buttercups represent happiness and pure bliss. 

See beautiful examples of Victorian jewelry in The Antique Ring Shop's Victorian collection. 

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