History of Victorian Era Jewelry

The history of Victorian era jewelry spans a period of time from 1837 to 1901, during the reign of Queen Victoria in England. This era was marked by significant social, cultural, and industrial changes that greatly influenced the styles and trends of jewelry. The intricate and ornate designs of Victorian era jewelry continue to captivate and inspire modern-day fashion trends, making it a pivotal period in the evolution of jewelry artistry.

During the Victorian era, jewelry became increasingly popular and accessible to a wider range of people due to advancements in manufacturing techniques and materials. The styles and characteristics of Victorian era jewelry reflected the changing attitudes towards love, sentimentality, mourning, and status. A deeper look into the various aspects of Victorian era jewelry sheds light on its rich history and enduring influence on contemporary fashion.

In this article, we will explore the distinct characteristics of Victorian era jewelry, including the popular gemstones and materials used, the evolution of jewelry styles and techniques throughout this influential period, as well as the significant role played by Queen Victoria in shaping these timeless trends.

We will also delve into the social and cultural influences that impacted Victorian era jewelry, highlight notable designers who made a lasting impact on the industry, and examine how its legacy continues to be relevant in modern fashion trends.

Characteristics of Victorian Era Jewelry

Victorian era jewelry is known for its distinctive characteristics that set it apart from other periods in jewelry history. During the Victorian era, which spanned from 1837 to 1901, jewelry design was heavily influenced by the social, cultural, and political climate of the time. Jewelry from this era is recognized for its intricate designs, sentimental symbolism, and use of a wide variety of materials.

Intricate Designs and Symbolism

Victorian era jewelry is often characterized by its intricate and detailed designs, reflecting the craftsmanship and attention to detail that was valued during this time. Pieces from this era often featured elaborate engravings, filigree work, and delicate settings. Additionally, Victorian jewelry frequently incorporated symbolism and hidden meanings within its designs. Common motifs included hearts (representing love), snakes (a symbol of eternity), forget-me-not flowers (signifying remembrance), and acorns (symbolizing strength).

Use of Materials

A wide range of materials were used in Victorian era jewelry, including gold, silver, pearls, diamonds, garnets, amethysts, emeralds, and opals. Due to advancements in metalworking techniques during this period, jewelers were able to create pieces with intricate metalwork such as repousse and chasing. Hairwork jewelry also became popular during the Victorian era as a way to commemorate loved ones.


Another defining characteristic of Victorian era jewelry is its sentimentality. Jewelry served as a means for expressing emotions and commemorating significant life events such as births, marriages, deaths, or milestones. This sentimental aspect is evident in mourning jewelry which gained popularity during Queen Victoria’s reign after the death of her beloved Prince Albert. Black enamel and jet were commonly used in mourning jewelry to symbolize loss and grief.

The history of Victorian era jewelry reveals a rich tapestry of styles, techniques, materials used and social influences that have shaped this period of artistic creation. From intricate designs to symbolic motifs to sentimental expressions through materials such as hairwork or black enamel in mourning pieces; these are just some examples reflecting how personal expression intersected with broader movements shaping society at large during this historic time period.

Popular Gemstones and Materials Used in Victorian Jewelry

Victorian era jewelry is known for its opulent and intricate designs, often incorporating a wide array of gemstones and materials. During this period, the use of certain gemstones and materials was especially popular, reflecting the influences of fashion, culture, and advancements in mining and technology.

One of the most iconic gemstones used in Victorian jewelry is the deep red ruby. Rubies were highly prized during this time for their rich color and symbolism of passion and love. Additionally, emeralds, sapphires, diamonds, and pearls were also commonly used in Victorian era jewelry. These gemstones were often set in ornate gold or silver mounts, sometimes accented with enamel or other colorful stones.

In terms of materials, yellow gold was the metal of choice for Victorian jewelry. The discovery of gold deposits in California and Australia in the mid-19th century led to an abundance of this precious metal, making it more accessible for jewelry production. This resulted in an abundance of gold jewelry during the Victorian era, often featuring intricate filigree work and elaborate detailing.

Another notable material used in Victorian era jewelry was jet, a type of fossilized coal that was popularized after Queen Victoria entered into a period of mourning following the death of her husband, Prince Albert. Jet jewelry became fashionable as a result, with many pieces featuring carved cameos or beaded designs.

Overall, the materials and gemstones used in Victorian era jewelry reflect not only the fashion trends of the time but also the social and cultural influences that shaped this remarkable period in history.

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Evolution of Jewelry Styles and Techniques Throughout the Victorian Era

During the Victorian Era, jewelry styles evolved significantly, reflecting the changing trends and tastes of the time. This period saw a shift from the elaborate and ornate designs of the early Victorian era to the more delicate and intricate styles of the late Victorian era. The evolution of jewelry styles throughout this era can be divided into three distinct phases: Early, Mid, and Late Victorian.

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Early Victorian Era (1837-1860)

The early Victorian era, also known as the Romantic period, was characterized by sentimental and symbolic jewelry designs. Inspired by nature and sentimental themes, jewelry during this period often featured motifs such as hearts, flowers, birds, and insects. Designs were intricate and detailed, often incorporating hairwork and enamel. Furthermore, with technological advancements in metalworking techniques, such as embossing and chasing, jewelers were able to create more intricate designs than ever before.

Mid-Victorian Era (1860-1880)

The mid-Victorian era marked a significant shift in jewelry styles with the discovery of new gemstone deposits and advances in metalworking techniques. Jewelry designs became bolder and more dramatic during this time, as evidenced by the popularity of elaborate gemstone clusters and large statement pieces. Additionally, popular motifs included serpent symbols inspired by Queen Victoria’s engagement ring-a snake with an emerald-given to her by Prince Albert.

Late Victorian Era (1880-1901)

By the late Victorian era, jewelry styles had evolved yet again towards more delicate and feminine designs. The Aesthetic movement influenced jewelry designs during this time period, emphasizing simplicity and naturalistic motifs such as botanical themes. Jewelry makers utilized new techniques such as millegraining-the use of small beads or granules to enhance a piece-to create intricate details in their designs. Furthermore, advances in diamond cutting techniques led to an increased emphasis on diamonds in late Victorian jewelry.

Overall, the evolution of jewelry styles throughout the Victorian era reflects not only changes in fashion but also societal attitudes towards love, death, nature, science, religion, and innovation-all of which played a role in shaping both design aesthetics and craftsmanship in Victorian era jewelry.

The Role of Queen Victoria in Shaping Victorian Jewelry Trends

During the Victorian era, Queen Victoria played a significant role in shaping the trends and styles of jewelry. Her personal preferences and experiences greatly influenced the jewelry of the time, leaving a lasting impact on the industry.

Queen Victoria’s love for jewelry set trends for the entire era. She popularized mourning jewelry after her beloved Prince Albert passed away, leading to an increase in the demand for black jewelry made from jet, onyx, and other dark gemstones. This style of jewelry became a symbol of remembrance and mourning during this period.

Additionally, Queen Victoria’s influence extended to sentimental and romantic themes in jewelry. Her marriage to Prince Albert popularized the use of gemstones such as turquoise, pearls, and diamonds in pieces that reflected love and affection. These sentimental pieces often featured intricate designs such as hearts, bows, and flowers, reflecting the romantic ideals of the time.

Furthermore, Queen Victoria’s extensive collection of colored gemstones sparked a trend for vibrant and colorful jewelry designs. Pieces adorned with richly hued gemstones like rubies, emeralds, and sapphires became highly coveted during her reign. The popularity of these colorful gemstone pieces further solidified her influence on Victorian era jewelry trends.

Overall, Queen Victoria’s personal tastes and experiences had a profound impact on the styles and themes seen in Victorian era jewelry. Her influence can still be observed in modern fashion trends, as her legacy continues to inspire contemporary designers.

Social and Cultural Influences on Victorian Era Jewelry

During the Victorian era, jewelry styles were greatly influenced by the social and cultural norms of the time. The strict etiquette and mourning rituals in society had a direct impact on the design and wearing of jewelry.

For example, after the death of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria herself set the standard for mourning jewelry by wearing black jewelry made from jet, onyx, or garnet. This led to a widespread trend of mourning jewelry being worn by both men and women during this period.

In addition to mourning jewelry, other societal influences also played a role in shaping Victorian era jewelry. The rise of industrialization allowed for mass production of jewelry, making it more accessible to people from various social classes. This democratization of jewelry led to a wider range of styles and designs catering to different tastes and budgets.

Furthermore, the exploration and colonization during this era also influenced the use of gemstones in Victorian jewelry. Popular gemstones such as opals, pearls, turquoise, and amethysts were sourced from different parts of the world and incorporated into intricate designs that reflected the fascination with exotic cultures and their aesthetics.

Overall, the social and cultural influences on Victorian era jewelry were complex and varied, mirroring the values and developments of society at that time. From mourning rituals to industrialization and global exploration, these influences contributed to the rich diversity of styles and materials found in Victorian era jewelry.

Social InfluencesCultural Influences
Mourning rituals impacted black jet jewelryExploration led to incorporation of exotic gemstones
Rise of industrialization made jewelry more accessibleDemocratization led to wider range of styles

Notable Victorian Era Jewelry Designers and Their Impact on the Industry

During the Victorian era, a number of notable jewelry designers emerged, leaving a lasting impact on the industry and influencing the styles that followed. These designers were instrumental in shaping the aesthetic of Victorian era jewelry and their work continues to be admired and sought after by collectors and enthusiasts today. Here are some of the most influential Victorian era jewelry designers:

  • Castellani: Founded by Fortunato Pio Castellani in the early 19th century, this Italian jewelry house became famous for its revival of ancient Etruscan and Greek goldsmithing techniques. Castellani’s exquisite enameled gold pieces set with granulated decoration captured the imagination of high society during the Victorian era.
  • Carlo Giuliano: An Italian jeweler based in London, Carlo Giuliano was renowned for his intricate Renaissance-inspired designs. His use of vibrant enamel work and colorful gemstones set him apart from his contemporaries, making his pieces highly prized among collectors today.
  • George Frederick Kunz: While not a jewelry designer himself, George Frederick Kunz played a significant role in shaping Victorian era jewelry through his work as a gemologist and mineralogist. He was instrumental in popularizing colored gemstones such as amethyst, tourmaline, and opal, which became staple materials in Victorian jewelry.
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These designers and others like them contributed to the diverse range of styles and techniques seen in Victorian era jewelry. Their innovative approaches to design, use of precious materials, and cultural influences have left an indelible mark on the history of Victorian era jewelry.

  1. Marcus & Co.: Founded by Herman Marcus in 1892, Marcus & Co. was known for its Art Nouveau and Art Deco designs that bridged the late Victorian era into the early 20th century. The firm’s creations featured an array of colored gemstones, enameling techniques, and innovative metalwork that reflected the changing tastes of this transitional period.
  2. John Brogden: A master goldsmith based in London, John Brogden gained recognition for his depictions of nature in his jewelry designs. His use of natural motifs such as flowers, leaves, and animals appealed to the Romantic sensibility prevalent during the mid-19th century Victorian era.

The legacy of these designers lives on through their enduring contributions to Victorian era jewelry design. Their innovative use of materials and techniques continue to inspire contemporary jewelers and influence modern fashion trends rooted in historical elegance.

The Legacy of Victorian Era Jewelry in Modern Fashion Trends

The history of Victorian era jewelry continues to have a lasting impact on the world of fashion today. The intricate designs, sentimental motifs, and use of specific gemstones and materials characteristic of Victorian jewelry have all found their way into contemporary jewelry trends.

One major influence of Victorian era jewelry on modern fashion is the revival of vintage-inspired pieces. Designers and consumers alike are drawn to the romantic and ornate style of Victorian era jewelry, often incorporating elements such as filigree work, cameos, and acrostic designs into their creations.

Additionally, the use of specific gemstones and materials in Victorian era jewelry has also left a mark on modern fashion trends. The popularity of certain gemstones during the Victorian era, such as pearls, opals, and turquoise, continues to be reflected in modern jewelry design. Similarly, the use of yellow gold and rose gold in Victorian era jewelry has made a resurgence in contemporary pieces, adding a touch of warmth and traditional elegance to modern designs.

Furthermore, the enduring beauty and significance of Victorian era jewelry has inspired a renewed interest in antique and vintage jewelry among collectors and enthusiasts. Many individuals seek out authentic Victorian pieces or reproductions that capture the essence of this historical period. The legacy of Victorian era jewelry in modern fashion trends speaks to its timeless appeal and enduring influence on the world of jewelry design.


In conclusion, the history of Victorian era jewelry is a rich tapestry of artistry, culture, and elegance that continues to captivate and inspire us today. The enduring beauty and significance of Victorian era jewelry can be seen in its intricate designs, meaningful symbolism, and use of luxurious materials. The craftsmanship and attention to detail in Victorian jewelry have left an indelible mark on the world of fashion and continue to influence modern trends.

The Victorian era was a time of great change and innovation in the realm of jewelry design. From the romantic motifs of the Early Victorian period to the bold and dramatic styles of the Late Victorian era, jewelry reflected the evolving tastes and sensibilities of society. The diverse influences on Victorian era jewelry, from Queen Victoria’s personal preferences to cultural shifts and technological advancements, have contributed to its timeless appeal.

Not only does Victorian era jewelry showcase exquisite craftsmanship and timeless beauty, but it also serves as a lens into the social, cultural, and historical context in which it was created. By understanding the history of Victorian era jewelry, we gain insight into the values, aspirations, and aesthetics of its time. As we continue to appreciate and adorn ourselves with Victorian era jewelry today, we honor its legacy as an enduring symbol of elegance and sophistication.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Jewelry Was Popular in the Victorian Era?

In the Victorian era, jewelry with sentimental and symbolic meaning was popular. This included lockets, mourning jewelry, and pieces adorned with gemstones like pearls, opals, and turquoise.

What Is Victorian Style Jewellery?

Victorian style jewelry is characterized by intricate designs, often featuring nature-inspired motifs such as flowers, leaves, and animals. It also includes pieces that reflect the sentimentality of the era, such as mourning jewelry and love tokens.

How Can You Tell if Jewelry Is Victorian?

You can tell if jewelry is Victorian by examining its design elements. Look for intricate metalwork, nature-inspired motifs, and the use of certain gemstones popular during that time period. Hallmarks and maker’s marks can also provide clues to its age.