Throughout history, royalty set the tone for jewelry fashion. While this still holds true for the Victorian era, jewelry is no longer worn just by the wealthy, but also by the middle class to demonstrate their awareness of what is fashionable clothing. Women's jewelry ranges from bracelets and necklaces to rings, earrings, brooches and bodice pins, while jewelry for the gentleman includes stickpins, rings, cuff and cravat studs as well as pocket watches.
The period which will span two thirds of the 19th century has been a time of epic romance, great tragedies and unprecedented prosperity. The jewels of the Victorian era reflect these ever changing times with themes:
Sentimental Jewelry - lockets with family pictures, pieces featuring hearts, bows and romantic sayings
Nature - featured animal and floral motifs, including trees, birds, insects and serpents (symbolizing eternity, wisdom and good luck)
Ancient - Designs featured around archeological finds in Greece, Rome and Egypt
Mourning Jewelry - jewelry created from black enamel, jet and onyx
Semi-precious - stones affordable and popular such as garnets, amethysts, coral, pearls and opals
Intricate Gold Designs - pieces designed in scrollwork, intricate engravings and filigrees
There would be three periods during the era defining jewelry design: Romantic: 1837 to 1860; Grand: 1861 to 1888 and Late: 1889 to 1901.
Romantic: Gold pieces were bold and enhanced with delicate engraving, subtle seed pearls, and carved pink coral. Floral motifs were prevalent. Jewelry for the hair which was the most common adornment consisted of combs barrettes and tiaras.
Grand: After Albert's death, jewelry took on a more neutral, darker and more somber tone. Deeper colored gemstones were the order of fashion (dark garnets, onyx, jet and dark shells). Demure lockets, pendants, small as well as large gaudy brooches and pins and mourning rings (featuring carved skulls and often locks of the deceased's hair).
Late: This period will bring "fun" back to jewelry including the use of diamonds which will be easier to get. New motifs will appear featuring luminaries (sun, moon and stars), land and sea creatures, human faces and forms and floral motifs. Eye-catching precious gems will make their comeback.
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