By Danielle Olivia Tefft, Jewelry Writer
I picked the dangle brooch below as my first example of a Victorian Revival brooch for you on purpose. Doesn’t it look just like a real piece of Victorian jewelry? My heart skipped a beat when I first saw it in a pile of old jewelry from the flea market.
I thought I had found a true antique! Here was a piece of jewelry well over 100 years old! (The Victorian era was from 1837 to 1901. That means even the pieces made at the end of the era are over 115 years old! )
But then I turned the brooch over. The clasp mechanism gave a way the fact that this was a clever imposter of true Victorian jewelry. How did I know it wasn’t a true Victorian brooch?
Genuine Victorian brooches (made from 1837-1901) have trombone style or “c” clasps and pin stems that extend past the brooch bodies. Spinning safety catch pin & stem mechanisms like this brooch has were not invented until 1910 or so.
This is a vintage Victorian Revival brooch from the 1940s. It’s made of brass and finished in repousse (stamped) metalwork. It features an ornate Etruscan Revival motif with five graduated brass dangles attached. Though it isn’t Victorian, it’s still simply magnificent! Like other Victorian Revival brooches from the period following WW II, it is a noteworthy replica of true Victorian jewelry!
I have three theories on why Victorian jewelry experienced a revival after WW II (World War Two) ended in 1945:
First, rhinestones and glass stones were still unavailable, as the Eastern European countries they hailed from were in a state of devastation after the War. It took many years to rebuild the thriving German and Czech glass stone industry that costume jewelers so depended upon prior to WW II. Also, precious metals such as platinum and gold had been used for munitions during wartime and were still in short supply after the War.
With the ongoing shortages of precious metals and gemstones, costume jewelers compensated by manufacturing Victorian Revival jewelry, or replicas of Victorian jewelry, due to the simplicity and lack of multiple gemstones in the style. An example is the popular sweetheart bracelets that were manufactured by various jewelry manufacturers during WW II.
Sweetheart bracelets were modeled after similar Victorian bracelets. They were often made of brass or other non-precious base metals and gold filled (plated).Since these bracelets were such a hit, it was only a natural extension to look toward other Victorian styles for inspiration in this post-war era. They were offering something at once old and new again to the burgeoning post war jewelry market.
Second, the mourning jewelry styles of Queen Victoria’s era were also an appropriate fit for those mourning the loss of soldiers who never made it home from WW II. Many Victorian Revival brooches are made with black onyx or feature black enamel, as their Victorian counterparts did.
Third and perhaps most subtle of the reasons for the popularity of Victorian style jewelry during the 1940s, I believe, is this: Victorians were keenly interested in history. Topics like the rise and fall of classical societies like Greece and Rome; Darwin’s theory of evolution; and historically significant sites fascinated them. So, it isn’t surprising that Victorian jewelry incorporated styles of past civilizations, mainly Egyptian, Etruscan, Greek, and Roman.
Perhaps the popularity of Victorian Revival jewelry in the years after the end of WW II was an answer to a subconscious plea from the masses to learn the lessons of history, like the Victorians did, so as never to repeat the atrocities of the World War that had just ended.
The true reason for the resurgence of Victorian style jewelry in the 1940s, known as Victorian Revival jewelry, may be lost in time. But these wonderful vintage pieces are worthy of collecting in their own right. And I hope you can distinguish Victorian Revival brooches from genuine Victorian pieces, now that you’ve viewed all of the examples in this posts’ photos! Happy hunting!
Do you have any Victorian Revival brooches in your jewelry collection? If so, tell us about them in the comments section. Also, be sure to sign up for this blog below so you son't miss a single discussion on antique and vintage jewelry. You'll get a jewelry buyer's tip sheet just for signing up!
Danielle Olivia Tefft is a professional writer with a lifelong passion for gems and jewelry. She is a GIA accredited jewelry professional and is the owner of online antique and vintage jewelry shop, Treasure Box Antiques; for many years at Ruby Lane and now at Etsy. 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? Would you like to advertise on her website or this blog? Visit danielleoliviatefftwrites.com for clips, terms, her media kit and more information.
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