By Danielle Olivia Tefft, Jewelry Writer
I absolutely love the elaborate and distinctive style of Victorian jewelry. The Victorian period encompassed the reign of Queen Victoria beginning in 1837 and ending upon her death in 1901. Many Victorian pieces of jewelry were made of silver. Pieces could also be made out of pinchbeck (an alloy of copper and zinc) or yellow gold. Many were also gold filled (plated).
In addition to the metals above, stone, bog oak, jet, mother-of-pearl, shell (think cameos), coral, lava, tortoise shell and ivory were widely used in Victorian jewelry. These materials were often embellished with hair (both human and horse), enamel, iron pyrite, marcasite, cut steel, pearls, gemstones and paste stones.
If you are lucky enough to have inherited a jewelry box with Victorian jewelry in it, hold on to these pieces! Not only are they antiques, their value continues to rise as time ticks on. You can get an idea of what these pieces are selling for by doing a search at www.rubylane.com. Here are some examples of the more common forms of Victorian jewelry you may find:
Book chains were so named for their wide flat links, often elaborately decorated. Hardstone cameos were typical features of these chains.
Jet was a popular material for Victorian jewelry. See the explanation of mourning jewelry below.
Cut steel pieces are hard to distinguish from pieces with iron pyrite or marcasite until you inspect the backs. There, you will see the tiny rivets holding cut steel embellishments in place. Creation of cut steel jewelry was a very time consuming process.
Mourning jewelry commemorates a lost loved one, in this case a precious little boy. See the darling forget-me-not flowers adorning the frame?
The popularity of mourning jewelry in Victorian times was a cultural phenomenon that took hold after the death of Queen Elizabeth's husband, Prince Albert, in 1861. She wore black jewelry from then on, and Victorians followed suit to honor the Queen's grief and the loss of their own loved ones. This is why you will find lots of black jewelry and pieces containing hair from Victorian times.
Do you own a piece of Victorian jewelry? Did you find it in a treasured jewelry box handed down in your family? Please tell us about it in the comments section. Also, if you love antique and vintage jewelry as much as I do, subscribe to this blog so you don't miss an article!
Danielle Olivia Tefft is a professional writer with a lifelong passion for gems, jewelry and fashion. She is a GIA accredited jewelry professional and the owner of online antique and vintage jewelry shop, Treasure Box Antiques. Current projects include ghostwriting jewelry and fashion blogs for clients worldwide. When she is not writing, she spends time in the garden, spoiling her cats and traveling with her significant other. Would you like to hire her? Visit her website danielleoliviatefftwrites.com for clips, terms and more information.
About This Blog:
The Found in the Jewelry Box Blog is my attempt to teach others about the wonderful world of gems and jewelry, past and present. Please enjoy!
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