Victorian jewelry : The Romantic period (1837-1860)

Regard ring, coral cameo, serpent brooch, heart locket, bow brooch, coral necklace, bird brooch, hand brooch and a photo of the Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (1859).
The Romantic period (early Victorian reign, 1837-1860) celebrated and represented the love of a nation for its young queen and the love between the Queen Victoria and her husband. Jewels were used to symbolize and express sentiments such as love, friendship and faith (symbolic and acrostic jewelry). The Victorians were dedicated to religion and love. Jewelry from this time tended to be feminine, sentimental and romantic.
In 1838, a rosette necklace was given to the Queen Victoria by the Sultan Mahmud of Turkey.
When Prince Albert became engaged to Queen Victoria, he gave her a serpent ring with emerald eyes (her birthstone). Snake jewelery was a popular representation of eternal love and wisdom.
Prince Albert offered exquisite jewels to the Queen Victoria, namely tiaras made by the renowned jeweler Joseph Kitching.
Heart jewels, heart padlocks and love lockets flourished. Hearts signified love, joy, compassion and charity. Two entwined hearts meant “forever in my heart”. A heart with a crown signified “ruler of my heart”.
The jewelry was used to express love and friendship namely through gemstones (acrostic jewelry). “Gemstones were set out in such a way that the first letter of each gemstone name spelled out a message of love.” Victorians could express their feelings in a secret way.

The REGARD and DEAREST rings were particularly popular. REGARD corresponded to Ruby, Emerald, Garnet, Amethyst, Ruby, Diamond. And DEAREST corresponded to Diamond, Emerald, Amethyst, Ruby, Emerald, Sapphire and Topaz. The Regard ring could be in the shape of a flower whose each stone was set in a petal.

The popular motifs with hearts were eyes, hands, anchors (hope and steadfastness), crosses, arrows, clovers, bows and buckles. The buckle in Victorian times symbolized loyalty, protection, and strength and was a romantic symbol. Besides, hands symbolized in the Georgian and Victorian eras, loyalty and fidelity or a sign of affection (romance, friendship).

Queen Victoria had received in 1858 a diamond bow brooch from Garrard (the crown jeweler). Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary worn it at their Coronations

This period was also an ode to nature (bird, flower, leaves, vine, lotus flower, clover…). Victorian jewelry was symbolic (birds meant faithfulness and safety for your love). Besides, flowers expressed love and friendship.

Romanticism (1770-1920) was an artistic movement created in reaction against the Neoclassicism. The emotions and imagination were exalted. The greatest British Romantic artist of the early Victorian period was J.M.W.Turner (1775-1851).

During the Victorian period, brooches were very popular.

Early Victorian brooches had their pins extended past the body of the brooch.The fasteners had simple “C” design (catches were bends of metal shaped like the letter C). The pin was kept within the C with tension created by the pin against the fabric to which it was attached”.

The trombone clasp, patented in Europe in 1850, was named after the musical instrument as it had a tube with a round top. You would pull the top out to release the pin. These were used in the latter half of the 19th century into the 1950s, mostly by European jewelers.”

Brooches with a tube hinge had been common since 1850.

Convertible jewels (bracelet to brooch to pendant, brooch to pendant…). Jewels could be wear in different ways.

The industrial revolution (1760-1840), the growing middle class (creating higher demand), the discovery of gold in California and Australia in the 1840s and technological improvements (electroplating) allowed to produce more jewels with less costs. Jewelry was not longer handmade and was available for more people.

Due to the Industrial Revolution during this period, jewelry was no longer made by hand. Industrialization resulted in an increase of population and in the phenomenon of urbanization

During the 1840s, the process of electroplating gold onto base metals was invented. Electroplating was used in jewelry making to coat base metals with precious metals.

With the discovery of gold in California and Australia, 18k gold jewels became frequent. Until 1854, the gold types were regulated : 18k and 22k were only authorized.

But, after 1854, less expensive karat gold became allowed : 9, 12 and 15K. Jewels could be also gold plating.

Pinchbeck (83% copper and 17% zinc) was also a metal used in the Victorian era.

Aluminum was used as well in the early Victorian jewelry.

Repoussé was used to design and create jewelry. It consisted of the hammering of metals in different designs and patterns.

The gemstones which were often used were agate, chalcedony, chrysoberyl, diamond, emerald, garnet, malachite, quartz, topaz and turquoise.

Ivory, lava stone, amber and tortoiseshell were also used. Queen Victoria liked particularly coral.

Jewelers favoured cutting styles such as rose cut (round shape with a domed top and flat bottom), old mine cut (rounded square shape with many facets) and cabochon (rounded top and flat bottom).

Cluster diamond jewelry was frequent. “A cluster corresponds to jewels featuring a central gemstone or diamond and surrounded by a halo of smaller gemstones.”

Cut steel jewelry was a form of jewelry composed of steel which was popular between the 18th century and the end of 1930s. “The jewels were set with tiny faceted and polished steel studs.”

Seed pearls were popular. “A seed pearl is generally defined as a small natural pearl, Usual my measuring less than 2mm in diameter. Although their early definition stated that they must weigh less than quarter of a grain.”

Cannetille was a technique used during the Georgian era and the beginning of the Victorian area. It was closed to the filigree technique. It consisted of fine gold wires or thinly hammered sheets. The designs could be scrolls, tendrils, coils, beehives…

With the France’s presence in Algeria (since 1830), Moorish motifs, such as knots and tassels, were revived in the early Victorian jewelry.

Scottish inspired jewels flourished when Queen Victoria visited Scotland in 1842. Prince Albert bought the Balmoral castle for Queen Victoria in 1852. Sterling silver and agates were typical.

Archeological revival jewelry became popular. Roman (753 BC to 27 BC), Greek (8th century BC to 146 BC), Etruscan (8th century BC to the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC) andAncient Egyptian(3100 BC to 30 BC) civilizations were made fashionable.

Micromosaics (Etruscan and Roman revival), cameos (Greek and Roman), intaglio jewels and pietra dura (artistic sculpture of stones or gemstones like jade, crystal, agate, jaspe or serpentine) were revived.

Micromosaics were mosaics created from tiny fragments of glass, called tesserae.

Queen Victoria was fond of cameos (“pieces of jewelry, typically oval in shape, consisting of a portrait in profile carved in relief on a background of a different color”). Cameos were often made with lava stone, coral or ivory.

Intaglios (engraving or incised figure in stone or other hard material depressed below the surface) were popular.

Pietra dura (Stone sculpture developed from the Ancient Roman period ; “technique of using cut and fitted, highly polished colored stones to create designs”).

Pre-Raphaelitism (1848-1900) was a British artistic movement, born in the middle of the 19th century, in London, during the Victorian era. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was a group of three young students of the Royal Academy : William Holman Hunt (1827-1910), John Everett Millais (1829-1896) and Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882).

They were joined later by other artists such as Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris, the critic Frederic George Stephens, Arthur Hughes, George Frederic Watts, Charles Allston Collins, Walter Deverell, John Roddam Spencer Stanhope, John William Waterhouse, Frederick Sandys and the sculptor T.Woolner.

They rejected any form of academism ; they wanted to come back to a form of art existing before Raphael. Their models were the Italian painters of the 15th century. Their painting had shimmering, gleaming colors and a very realistic reproduction of the nature. Their work necessitated a precise and accurate observation of the nature (botanical elements and the human body). Besides,they had a fascination for the red hair women. Pre-Raphaelite painters found their subjects in the mythology (Pandora…) and literature (Shakespeare, Keats, Tennyson…).

In their first exhibitions at the Royal academy, the paintings were well received by the critics. Their creations were signed with the acronym PRB (Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood). However, in 1851, at their exhibitions, Pre-Raphaelite painters were vively critized for their lack of idealization, their vision of religious scenes, the perspective, the colors and the lack of contrast between the lights and shadows.

Nevertheless, they received support from the famous British writer, poet, painter and art critic John Ruskin. He was a fervent defender of the Pre-Raphaelitism. He wrote his opinion in the Times and supported the Pre-Raphaelites at the London salon in 1852. The painting Ophelia of John Everett Millais and The light of the world of William Holman Hunt were a great success. Pre-Raphaelites get an excellent feedback at the Universal Exhibit in Paris, in 1855.

Elizabeth Siddal, Jane Morris, Fanny Cornforth and Alexia Wilding were models and muses of the Pre-Raphaelite painter of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Rossetti wed Elizabeth Siddal.

Elizabeth Siddal posed for John Everett Millais in his famous painting “Ophelia”.

Annie Miller posed as a model for the painter William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Everett Millais. Effie Gray was John Everett Millais’ wife and posed for him.
According to Pre-Raphaelitism, Medieval art was the symbol of purity and freedom. They wanted to modernise this art by reviving the techniques and characteristics of the Middle Ages.

The Middle Ages began in 476 after J.-C with the disappearance of the last Occidental Roman Emperor. It ended in 1453 with the Constantinople fall for the Orient. For the Occident, historians determined the end of the Medieval era with the death of the last Medieval king (Louis XI of France) in 1483. However, the discovery of America by Christophe Colomb in 1492 can be also the end of the Middle Ages.

Main design phases in jewelry included Barbarian (409-910 ; jewelry worn both by the women and men), Byzantine (330 after J.C – 1453 ; opulent jewelry with precious stones, glass and gold), Merovingian (5th century – 8th century), Carolingian (751 after J.-C – 10th century) and Ottonian (919 after J.-C – 1024), Viking (end of 8th century – 11th centur ; filigree and repoussé techniques used) and the Late Middle Ages (gothic style). Neck chains carried a variety of pendants (crosses, lockers…). Goldsmiths used the techniques of soldering, plating and gilding, inlay, repoussé, granulation and filigree.

Medieval (476 after J.-C. – 1453) revival jewels were popular.

Renaissance (1300-1600) revival jewelry was also fashionable. Renaissance was both a historical period and an artistic movement. It began in Italy in the 14th and 15th centuries, then in all Europe. It marked the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the modern times. It was characterized by the Humanism movement and the return to Antiquity.

Renaissance jewelry was characterized by “colorful set of gemstones inlaid on an intricate gold setting”. Hair ornaments, earrings, the sea theme and religious motifs were fashionable during the Renaissance. Goldsmiths of the Renaissance used technics for gold and vermeil jewels such as casting, chasing, hammering, cold–joining and soldering. They also used techniques like embossing, enameling, engraving and filigree.

Renaissance (1300-1600) revival jewelry was also fashionable. Robert Philipps was a famous jeweler who revived ancient jewelry namely Renaissance jewels (Holbeinesque).

In 1857 was the year of the triumph of the Pre-Raphaelitism but marked also the end of the Brotherhood. Despite the success of the Pre-Raphaelites, the brotherhood broke appart, members pursuited personal projects. The sculptor Thomas Woolner left to Australia in 1852, Millais was elected to the Royal Academy in 1853 and William Hunt went to Holy Ground in 1854. Only Dante Gabriel Rossetti continues to paint in the line of the first Pre-Raphaelite creations.

Despite the end of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, their ideal continued to inspire artists in the Great Britain and exceeded painting (decorative arts, sculpture…).

Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) and William Morris (1834-1896) formed the second generation of Pre-Raphaelites. They had both an vivid interest for the Medieval art. They met at the Exeter College of Oxford in the early 1850s. William Morris was presented to Dante Gabriel Rossetti few years later ; Burne-Jones had Rosssetti as his painting teacher. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones worked together on artistic projects (Red House of Bexley, Oxford Union…). They gave a new revival of the Pre-Raphaelite spirit.

Enamel jewels (“silicone-like substance that is baked on metal, glass or ceramic beads to apply decorative color, glossy finishes, or protective coating”) were popularized during the Victorian area.

Women carried their accessories thanks to Chatelaines. It served as purse and was attached to their belt.

Slide Chains drapped over bodices and could be very long.

Girandoles jewels (namely girandole earrings) were appreciated. It was drop, cluster style jewels with three dangling gemstones.

Hair Jewelry, lockets and brooches containing a loved one’s hair strands (locks) were quite popular.

Set in an armlet, the famous Indian diamond “The Koh-i-Noor” was delivered to Queen Victoria in 1850 by the President of the Board of Control at the East India Company.

Queen Victoria and the Prince Albert found the Indian diamond dull. That’s why, the crown jeweler, Garrard recutted, polished it and reduced its size by half. Queen Victoria wore it as a brooch. The diamond became part of the Crown jewels. In 1876, Queen Victoria became Empress of India.
Queen Victoria received a diamond necklace and earrings made by Garrard in 1858.

Since 1856, divorced or legally separated women had the same property rights than single women.

The death of Prince Albert (1861) ended the Romantic period and came a new period of the Victorian era : Grand period/grand mourning.

Vintage costume jewelry brands like Goldette of NY, Hattie Carnegie, Kenneth Jay Lane and Trifari created jewels inspired by the Victorian area.