photo credit: InExtremiss
Jewelry has been worn by humans for thousands of years. No wonder: it’s is a beautiful way to adorn oneself and who doesn’t enjoy the sparkle of precious metals and stones? But they are not just pretty pieces – they also have a history of their own and many styles we wear today were designed for a certain reason during a particular era or period.
Victorian charms and jewelry are from the era of Queen Victoria’s reign of England (1837 – 1901). The Queen enjoyed fashion and jewelry, and she became a great influence on the styles of both. She especially loved charms, and is credited with bringing the charm bracelet back in style. She wore them herself and also gave them as gifts to her friends and family members throughout her life.
Precious stone cameos and intaglios were also very popular during this period. At the beginning of the 1800s, they were rare, expensive and coveted possessions, but when artisans started using shells to make them, they became both more readily available and affordable. Most were made by artisans in Italy, and they became the perfect souvenirs for visitors on their “Grand Tour”. Some of the most popular pieces were shell cameo pendants, rings, and earrings, and there were even lava stone cameos, carved out of lava from Mt. Vesuvius.
Other pieces of jewelry also became increasingly available. The use of semi-precious stones combined with gold becoming more affordable made jewelry more accessible to everyone. In addition, manufacturing techniques such as chain making machines, cast or stamped metal for settings, and pressed glass for glass intaglios streamlined production and made it possible for Victorian men and women from all walks of life to enjoy their own pieces of jewelry.
Queen Victoria once again influenced the design and production of jewelry when her beloved Prince Albert passed away in 1861. She made “mourning” charms popular when she went into a permanent mourning state, wearing only black jewelry (and clothing) for the remainder of her life. Jet (fossilized driftwood) was the most common mourning jewelry material, but almost all black materials were used – even hair that was plaited, braided, or twisted until it became thread-like and hard enough to be used for jewelry!
Victorian charms and jewelry continue to be popular and sought-after collector’s pieces to this day, and for those of us who can’t find or afford the real thing, there are many reproductions available. It’s interesting to think about how much Queen Victoria influenced fashion at the time, and I think she would be very pleased to know that people still appreciate her sense of style today.