While Victorian jewellery may sometimes be referred to as antique or vintage, they only represent a specific design type that was popular during the era of Queen Victoria. The Victorian era spans from 1835 to the very early 1900s, and in those times everything was lavish and stylish. Additionally, that era saw the introduction of evolution theories and discoveries in various botanical elements; therefore, most of the jewellery created in those times featured small items from nature.
In essence, many of the Victorian chains, bracelets, and rings would have small carvings of flowers, butterflies, and other small animals or flora. These carvings were done with precise attention to detail, and they often feature a large gemstone to complete the look. When buyers opt for antique Victorian jewellery, they should learn more about the era, the types of jewellery made then, as well as the symbolism and meaning behind each piece to find a piece well-suited to their needs and taste.
Different Ages of Victorian Jewellery
Early Victorian Era: This era refers to the time period of 1837 to 1850 and was dubbed the romantic period. Therefore, the jewellery made during this period had a lot of romantic sentiments in their designs. Most of these romantic jewellery included flowers, hearts, and filigree designs.
Mid Victorian Era: This era refers to the period from 1860 to 1880, and it was dubbed the grand period. This "grand" period was approximately the same time that Queen Victoria lost her husband, so many of the jewellery made during that time were not as bright and fun as beforehand. In essence, the romantic period ended, and most jewellery pieces represented mourning with dark coloured stones embedded in the designs. These stones included onyx, red garnets, amethyst, and jet.
Late Victorian Era: This era refers to the period from 1885 to 1900, and it was dubbed the aesthetic period. Jewellery made during this period often features various gemstones, including diamonds and sapphires with soft colours.
Different Designs in Victorian Jewellery
Jewellery types often included gold lockets and pendants, brooches, necklaces, and rings, which were worn with various evening outfits. Hat pins, charms, and clasps also became popular commodities. Below are various jewellery designs and a description of what buyers can expect from antique Victorian versions.
Book Chain Jewellery
Book chain jewellery refers to chains and bracelets that are made with rectangular links that resemble miniature books. They often feature large photo lockets on the chains and charms on the bracelets.
Bakelite jewellery is also referred to as Caitlin jewellery, and they are made from dense synthetic resin, which is moulded and carved into rings, chains, brooches, and so on. There are even some collector's items that feature colour integration in one jewellery item.
Celluloid refers to one of the earliest types of plastics, which was initially made in the latter part of the 1800s. This material was used to make various types of body and hair jewellery, which were often adorned with rhinestones. Buyers need to be careful in purchasing antique celluloid jewellery because if they were properly cared for, they may have already started to deteriorate.
Cameo jewellery refers to ones that have a special type of carving designs. These designs usually feature stone or shell carvings, which often are portraits of women.
Filigree jewellery refers to jewellery with patterns that resemble lacework. They are often made with gold or silver wires that are twisted into a lace pattern and then bonded.
Micro-mosaic jewellery refers to different types of jewellery that are fabricated with miniature, stones, or glass of many colours. These mosaic designs can often be found on brooches, pins, and charms. There are some antique Victorian micro-mosaic jewellery that comprise more than 1000 tiles per square centimetre.
Doublets refer to the gemstones mostly used in costume jewellery. The doublets are not real gemstones; rather, they are joined coloured glass designed to resemble rubies, emeralds, sapphire, and other gemstones.
After the mourning period, widows often wore dark stoned mourning jewellery as traditional pieces when their husbands died. After a while, everyone would adorn themselves in mourning jewellery whenever they lost a loved one. The jewellery or the stones within them are generally black and made with jet or pieces of black glass. They do not often have much carvings or decoration, and they usually feature an oriental design.
Jet jewellery is also referred to as gagate jewellery, which is a type of fossilized coal that was mined during the Victorian period. The coal is generally hard but surprisingly lightweight, and the black stone was commonly used in jewellery made during the mourning period of the Victorian era.
Victorian Stick Pins
Stick pins or lace pins were used in the Victorian era to firmly secure ladies hats and scarves. They were also popular during the Edwardian era, and the pin heads are usually designed with a small gem or various carvings.
Stamped or signed jewellery is pretty self-explanatory. They simply refer to jewellery that has been punched, die cut, or embossed to create various designs. This is a process of making jewellery in abundance with very little time.
Victorian Jewellery Charm and Pendant Symbolism
During the Victorian era, jewellery often conveyed various meanings aside from enhancing the wearer's sense of style. The carvings and ornaments on the jewellery often represent a certain statement. Meanings were given to various animals, flowers, objects and gemstones, so a piece of jewellery could represent one statement or a combination of them. Below is a chart with some of the most popular symbolism used during the Victorian era.
Anchor and Chain
Faith in salvation
Love or devotion
Cupid or Arrows Only
Evergreen love or marriage
Many times Victorian jewellery incorporates more than one of the above symbols into one piece. For instance, if a piece of jewellery incorporates a clasp hand pendant or charm with pearl gems, this may represent the loss of a friend. In the same sense, a ring with ivy floral carvings and an amethyst stone can make a good engagement ring when the symbolism is considered.
How to Buy Antique Victorian Jewellery on eBay
The first thing to do when purchasing antique Victorian jewellery on eBay is to perform a general search from the eBay home page. When the results are generated, you can browse through the different jewellery types. At this point in time, you can opt to enable specific filters in order to narrow down the types of jewellery in your browsing list. These filters can include jewellery subtypes, gemstone, and metal. After all the necessary filters have been incorporated, you can also input a price range to ensure that you stay within a specific budget.
If you are already certain about the type of Victorian jewellery that you need, you can simply type in a specific search term to minimize and personalize the search results from the onset. For instance, you can type "antique Victorian rings" or "antique Victorian chains", to receive a list with only those specific types of jewellery. Once you have gotten past the searching and filtering, browse through the results and select two or three options and then contact the sellers to finalise details. Also, be sure to consider the sellers' feedback so that you know you are dealing with reliable people. The additional two selections are contingency plans in the event that your first or second choice becomes unavailable.
It can be exciting to shop for antique Victorian jewellery, but buyers should ensure that they educate themselves on the various consideration factors before they attempt to shop. Lack of knowledge and being ill-prepared can lead to buyer frustration. The first thing that buyers should do is to learn more about the era in which the antique jewellery was made. This can enlighten them on the background and reason behind the jewellery’s designs and production. After the history lesson, buyers need to familiarise themselves with the different types of jewellery made in that era and the construction details that they incorporated.
Another thing that buyers should be aware of is the various symbols used in Victorian jewellery and what each symbol means. Symbol meanings can refer to the gems or the actual carvings on the item, so buyers who are concerned about this factor should be able to derive singular and combination meanings from the jewellery craftsmanship. With so many factors to consider, buyers need to ensure that they have a wide assortment of Victorian jewellery to choose from, and this can be accomplished by shopping on eBay. The built-in search engine and the group of filter options allows buyers to easily incorporate each consideration factor in order to find their preferred antique Victorian jewellery piece.