Styles and movements of the Romantic era fit into the long years of the Queen Victoria reign. Finally, it was famous and great “Victorian era.” Since artistic styles and historical epochs did not have sharp boundaries, they were flowing from one to another. So it is sometimes not so easy to differentiate jewelry items from the same style.
Victorian jewelry are full of greatness and pomposity, sensuality and romanticism. Formation of that period jewelry fashion is in the personality of the queen. Click To Tweet Her tastes and ideas are all about the beauty. And even the events of Victoria’s life reflected the jewelry art. Sensuality and virtue, piety and sentimentality, queens interest in Scotland and love for nature reflected jewelry fashion of the Victorian period.
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Iron jewelry were typical for that times. Click To Tweet After the war, German patriots, who gave all their jewels to fight against Napoleon, adorned themselves with steel. Semi-precious and precious stones such as agate, malachite, carnelian, onyx jewelers used to create daytime jewelry. Since the 1860s, garnets and turquoise became the most popular stones. With fine turquoise Victorian jewelry masters “showered” branches and leaves of jewelry designs. And large, clean stones in toothed frames were placed in more ceremonial items.
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During the reign of Victoria, jewelry material was also the subject of experiments. Click To Tweet Along with the traditional precious metals – gold and silver – jewelers created jewelry from aluminum. So that aluminium, faceted in a special way (so that the round details of the Victorian jewelry could shine like diamonds) was valued more than gold.
Ball evening Victorian jewelry have got the most beautiful and bright precious stones – emeralds, rubies, sapphires and, of course, diamonds. Soon ball gems got the addition of Australian opals, sapphires from Southeast Asia and notorious diamonds from South Africa. But the craving for pearls remained unchanged. Large pearls were collected in necklaces and earrings. Therefore, more fine framed colored gems – for cameos and miniatures.
The tradition of creating mourning jewelry was born back in the seventeenth century. But the real popularization was during the reign of Victoria. She brought them into fashion after the death of her beloved husband Prince Albert. And thus she resumed the practice, within the framework of which was created a whole collection of unique products. At that times they have become the real jewelry masterpieces. It is noteworthy that Victoria wore a mourning ring in memory of her beloved until her death.
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Therefore, Romanticism included mourning bracelets with miniatures. As a result, there were memorable bracelets with a miniature in the center (with the hair of the lovers). Hence, also mourning rings with insets of onyx. There were medallions, brooches and bracelets “with a secret”. Seems like with locks of lovers or children. Probably, those locks were under the lid with emblems of friendship, love or mourning.
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Memorable Victorian jewelry included also different types of black materials. Such as jet, black glass, onyx, black enamel or painted horn. Thus, fashion for the very black color, which has survived to this day, has come.
Traditionally, the mourning jewelry of the Victorian era carried a great semantic load and served three main purposes:
- Memory of the dear and beloved person;
- Memento mori – a reminder of the death and frailty of all living things;
- Symbol of a social status.
All the materials used for the manufacture of funeral Victorian jewelry had a certain significance. So, the white enamel as cover of the medallion meant that the deceased was an unmarried girl or virgin. Pearls could symbolize the loss of the child. Different colors spoke about different stages of mourning and the of loss through which jewelry owner has passed. According to strict Victorian jewelry rules, a period of particularly deep sorrow lasting two to three years required all formalities. Mourning medallions, rings and bracelets were the only adornments that people could wear.
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The love of Victorians for such things is also due to the fact that in the 19th century mortality at an early age was high enough. Men died in the war. Children died in infancy from malnutrition and disease. Women died during the childbirth. Epidemics of cholera and typhus carried off tens of thousands victims. Death was very common. And the average life expectancy was only 50 years. So the funeral processions on the streets were part of everyday life for the Victorians.
Jewelers made brooches and medallions in the form of hearts, horseshoes and anchors. They were symbols of love, luck, loyalty. Sports and marine subjects, animalistics and plant motifs were reflected in the Victorian jewelry art of that times as well. Butterflies, pigeons and flower symbols became popular elements of jewelry and hair accessories such as pins, combs. While creating fauna style of Victorian jewelry (with images of swans, eagles, lizards and all kinds of insects), jewelers followed the very nature, skilfully choosing colors of stones. Also jewelry in the form of a snake (bracelets and rings) returned into fashion. And the “eye jewelry” (pendant with the image of an eye of an important person) also became popular during the reign of Victoria. By the way, the “snake jewelry” are very popular right now. You can live more about this in my post about main 2017 trends.
Hair locks regarded as a symbol of communication with the dead person. Click To TweetThey provided the invisible and constant presence in the world of the living. They also were the reminder of the inevitability of death and of a soon meeting with your loved ones in another, unearthly world. For example, a medallion or a brooch with a lock of hair was a conduit between the living world and the other world for its owner. It created an intimate relationship through the body.
Fashion world, besides the traditional European culture, included adornments made of teeth, claws, and other parts of animal bodies. A sort of Victorian jewelry trophies. Most often, heads of birds jewelers used to create earrings. And the teeth of monkeys for necklaces. The queen herself wore a necklace executed from the teeth of a deer that was killed by her husband on the hunt. Each tooth had an engraving with a date of that hunt. That’s so strange love for nature of the Queen Victoria. Although here we can also see a perverse worship of the nature gifts.
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The parade of neo-styles of the XIX century opened the Neo-Gothic jewelry style. Click To Tweet Neo-Gothic came to the Europe from England, where, at that time, romance of the Middle Ages was a true love of writers, artists and architects … Fashion of Middle Ages and jewelry made of cast iron were the real trend.
The Neo-Rococo expressed itself in the fascination of the bourgeoisie with brooches, bouquets and other jewelry of the Rococo era. Rich fashionistas appealed to the neo-rococo (and baroque), wishing especially ceremonial, evening jewelry, magnificent brooches-flowers and brooches-bows. By the way, it reminds me of the last Gucci collections.
Neo-Renaissance style fulfilled with voluminous details in the form of sphinxes on the ends of the bracelets, miniature figurines, statues on tie pins and other products with embossed details. At this period, jewelers widely used enamels.
The Neo-Greek style (late 1860s) introduced motifs and ornamentation of Greek and Etruscan jewelry items. Cameos, mosaics, meander, acanthus and palmettes appeared in rings, necklaces, bracelets and brooches once again. Gold necklace and earrings had a pendant in the form of ancient amphorae.
Despite the fact that the majority of Victorian jewelry are associated with England, the most beautiful adornments of this period are from France.
These products were higher than English products in general quality: they were lighter, more refined, with a more cunning engraving, and also had an enamel coating. Among the leading masters of the Victorian jewelry style I can mention such names as Castellani, Carlo Giuliano, Fontenay, Hancock, Falis, Faberge, and closer to the end of this period – Busheron and Tiffany.