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Making Sense of Victorian Era Jewellery

Nov 2nd 2015 at 10:48 PM

 

Few people can resist the allure of the classically beautiful and elaborately designed Victorian era jewellery, which come in a bewildering range of styles from sombre mourning bead necklaces to exquisite rings made with the finest gemstones. But herein lies the rub – with so many reproductions and replicas, you will likely have a challenging time differentiating the genuine from the fake.

Fortunately, you can quickly make sense, so to speak, of Victorian jewellery by acquiring basic knowledge about it – what it is, where it was made, and who made it including the distinctions in periods and styles. Your knowledge in this matter will be appreciated especially as Victorian jewellery pieces are great as personalised gifts.

From Queen Victoria’s Reign

Obviously, the pieces of authentic Victorian jewellery are ideally from the reign of Queen Victoria of England who ruled the kingdom from 1837 to 1901. The pieces should evoke the romanticism of the era as well as be indicative of its designs, styles and materials. Emphasis must be made that jewellery made in the style of Victorian jewellery but with contemporary materials (e.g., fastenings) are considered as reproductions with various names used, such as Victorian revival or Victorian inspired.

Classification of the Jewellery

Due to the eclectic mix of styles during the Victorian period, jewellery experts classify Victorian jewellery according to periods and techniques. Each classification has distinctive characteristics although there are also overlapping aspects.

When classified according to period, Victorian jewellery falls under the following:

 

  • The Romantic Period jewellery (1837-1860) is characterized by nature-inspired styles with romantic, sentimental and fragile designs. Ivory, coral and Scottish agate stones were as popular as diamonds in the pieces.

  • The Grand Period jewellery (1860-1885) is defined by the use of dark-coloured gemstones, such as onyx, bog oak, and vulcanite as part of the mourning jewellery craze. Later on, however, more coloured gemstones like emeralds, rubies, and cabochon garnets took center stage.

  • The Aesthetic Period jewellery (1885-1901) is distinguished by its nature-inspired designs albeit in more robust presentations. Animal figures, celestial objects, and travel-related symbols were popular themes while garnets, diamonds, sapphires, and peridots were the preferred gemstones.

In terms of techniques, Victorian jewellery was made in one of two techniques:

  • Cannetille was inspired by the fine embroidery techniques used on peasant garments, which were expressed in gold and silver wire (e.g., silver earrings made from twisted strands).

 

  • Repoussé was made by using hammers and punches on raised metal, thus, creating jewellery with fluted and raised edges.

The best way to ensure that you are getting genuine Victorian jewellery – buy only from reliable dealers.

 

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