The Victorian era is reminisced as a time of refined sensibilities, whimsical, and romantic styles, and most of all, a time of Queen Victoria's reign, the monarch who had found love, and in return, blanketed the whole era with themes that echoed her emotions. There is always interest in Victorian art, particularly in jewellery. Today, people can find online shops selling Victorian jewellery, from necklace to choker, from brooch down to bracelet.
Victorian rings that people can buy today come in different variety, but they are still inspired from the old Victorian rings. The variety in these rings came from the evolution of the era jewellery throughout history, catalysed by change in culture and resources available. Today, engagement rings with a Victorian style are becoming popular, and people who are partial to vintage jewellery and alternative motifs find them appealing. Those who are buying a Victorian ring, whether as an engagement ring or as an addition to their jewellery collection, should know all there is to know about the breathtaking era, as well as the ring itself, to make a better purchase decision.
How Victorian Rings Came to Be
The Victorian era, from 1837 to 1901, was grand in the standards of the world. The era was marked with peace, prosperity, and lavish style because of Queen Victoria, the monarch who influenced not only the politics but also the style in jewellery. Before that era, fine jewellery had been exclusive to rich men and women. During the reign of Queen Victoria, luxurious things became easily available even to the middle class people. Because Victoria had a penchant for fine jewellery, her taste influenced the preference of the people under her wings. What is more interesting is how the changes in the designs of jewellery were actually brought about by the changes in Queen Victoria's personal state. So the phases in Victorian jewellery are actually an aesthetic account of Queen Victoria's romantic life.
Romantic Jewellery: Early Victorian
From 1837 to 1855, the jewellery that sparkled in both streets and banquet halls of England was designed to reflect Queen Victoria's happy married life. She was very much in love with her husband, King Edward, and in effect, her taste in jewellery became bright, confident, and playful. Hearts, flowers, birds, and other nature-inspired motifs were typical in the romantic jewellery period. There are a number of Victorian ring designs that are available today on online shops.
Grand Jewellery: Mid-Victorian
From 1856 to 1880, the designs became regal but dark and solemn, owing to the fact that this was a period when Queen Victoria was lamenting the death of her dear husband. The pieces of jewellery of this period were also known as mourning jewellery. Nonetheless, aristocrats and middle-class men and women wholeheartedly accepted these designs. Black motifs were a fad in those day; fossilized coal, black onyx, and black enamel were very popular materials used in jewellery. A cultural change also affected the trend during the grand jewellery period; people began seeing jewellery inspired by ancient and renaissance art.
Aesthetic Jewellery: Late Victorian
When Queen Victoria finally recovered from the death of her husband, her taste in jewellery followed. From 1885 to 1900, the aesthetic jewellery emerged. It was reminiscent of the early Victorian designs, playful and buoyant, but edgier. Common motifs were dragons, griffins, and crescent moons. Also, Japanese designs also influenced the aesthetic jewellery period. The duration of the aesthetic jewellery has sparked debates amongst the scholars. Some scholars believe that the aesthetic jewellery started in 1875 and ended later in 1901.
Summary of the Three Victorian Jewellery Styles
Ideally, Victorian rings can be classified by looking at distinction in motifs. The following table shows the different characteristics of the early, mid-, and late Victorian jewellery.
Period or Style
Bright, confident, and playful; hearts, flowers, birds, and other nature-inspired motifs
Mourning jewellery; fossilized coal, black onyx, and black enamel
Reminiscent of the early Victorian designs, playful and buoyant, but edgier; dragons, griffins, and crescent moons
The table above helps buyers to distinguish one Victorian ring design from the other. Victorian motifs, especially the early Victorian jewellery, were influenced by Georgian jewellery.
Types of Victorian Rings
There are two major categories in which Victorian rings fall under. The first type is the estate jewellery and the second type is the Victorian-inspired jewellery.
One may be tempted to use the word second-hand, but estate jewellery has more history, as opposed to a second-hand ring or necklace. The more appropriate term is antique. Estate jewellery came from the different periods known to history, including the early, mid-, and late Victorian mentioned above. Other types of estate jewellery are Georgian, Arts and Crafts, Edwardian, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and Retro jewellery.
There are many jewellery makers that produce rings that have motifs found in early, mid-, and late Victorian jewellery. The rings may not be the original, but they bring a modern sparkle with an antique feel. One example is the simple and elegant Victorian halo ring with a round or cushion diamond set in white gold or silver metal band. Victorian-inspired engagement rings with diamonds are widely available, and couples wanting to veer away from the typical engagement ring or who are awed by the Victorian era would find these magnificent rings very appealing.
A Victorian ring can have a variety of gemstones. Typically, Victorian estate jewellery has a main gemstone, which can be a diamond, topaz, citrine, amethyst, peridot, and ruby.
Diamond is the hardest substance on Earth, and it is one of the most-coveted gemstones in any type of estate jewellery. The diamonds people enjoy today are billions of years old. When choosing a Victorian ring with diamonds, consider the diamond's colour, clarity, carat weight, and cut. Diamonds come in different colours, but the most popular is the colourless type, which vary from truly colourless to yellowish. A diamond with a less yellow tinge is more valuable. Also, diamonds with little or no blemishes and inclusions, whether on the surface or inside, are more expensive. It is important for a diamond to have the right cut so light that enters it reflects back through all the top facets to make the diamond sparkle.
Topaz is a fluorine aluminium silicate that is yellow, honey-yellow, yellow-brown, green, flax, brown, blue, light blue, pink, red, or colourless. Topaz is known to be a symbol of beauty and splendour, so it is befitting as a gemstone for a Victorian ring. The gemstone has been mined for 2,000 years, decorating the most grandiose crowns down to the simplest Victorian rings. Topaz is a common gemstone used in empires for a time, but the cheaper alternative, citrine, removed topaz from its prominence. The word "pure" is connected to topaz to distinguish it from quartz topaz.
Also known as gold topaz or Spanish topaz, citrine made its way to prominence by becoming a cheaper substitute for topaz. Citrine, which colour ranges from radiant yellow to brownish red, belongs to the family of quartz. It has a hardness of seven in the Mohs scale, and it is very resistant to scratches. The yellow colour of citrine comes from the traces of iron and sulphur dioxide. This type of gemstone is often found in Spain, Hungary, France, and the Scottish island of Arran.
The use of peridot in jewellery can be traced back in the early second millennium B.C. in Ancient Egypt. Mined in the small volcanic island in the Red Sea, it was used as an adornment of pharaohs and noblemen of Egypt. Even the Romans had taken a liking to this green gemstone, especially its property of unwavering shine even in artificial light. It was called the "emerald of the evening" in Europe, and it is used to decorate treasures, such as the shrines in Cologne Cathedral. In the Victorian era, peridot was one of many choices as a gemstone for a ring and a main gemstone for necklaces, brooches, and other jewellery.
Ruby is a gemstone that has been known to men for thousands of years. The gemstone captivates people from different social classes because of its red colour, radiating warmth and attracting attention. Rubies are popularly attributed to India, with Indian literature holding a vast amount of information about the gemstone. Even the term corundum, which is the generic term for mineral that ruby is made of, was derived from the Sanskrit word "kuruvinda".
Indians considered ruby the king of gemstones, and it was appropriate for Indian rulers to send high dignitaries to a location every time rubies were found in the past. The mineral corundum is essentially colourless, and what gives ruby its red colour is the traces of titanium, iron, or vanadium. Ruby is a term exclusive to red corundum. Ruby was also a popular gemstone used in rings during the Victorian era. Its red colour was just appropriate for the whimsical and romantic motifs of that time.
Buying a Victorian Ring on eBay
There are so many niche online shops for Victorian rings, but eBay is an online marketplace where you get a wide variety of products as well as related items. eBay is your one-stop shop for estate jewellery, and the site carries numerous lists for everything that is Victorian, including Victorian rings. The fastest and easiest way to search for a Victorian ring, whether as an engagement ring or a part of a collection, is to do a direct search, typing the keywords in the search bar.
Victorian jewellery are divided into three periods or phases, and adding the keywords "early Victorian", "mid-Victorian", and "late Victorian" can help refine a search. You can also add in the name of gemstone you fancy in a Victorian ring, such as "diamond Victorian ring". Always remember to read the product description carefully before making the purchase. It also helps to review the seller's page to check if he or she is credible enough to deal with as a credible seller has a high user rating.
A Victorian ring has a classic design that never goes out of fashion. It is revered in the jewellery industry, and sought out by couples looking for an alternative engagement ring. Victorian jewellery motifs are divided into three periods or phases, with each phase mirroring the state of Queen Victoria's romantic or personal life. The early Victorian motifs were characterised by playful and confident designs because Queen Victoria's love life was abloom that time. The mid-Victorian design reflected the gloomy life of Queen Victoria after her husband passed on, making her partial to solemn motifs and black gemstones. The late Victorian era brought back the whimsical nature of the pre-Victorian era, but with more edge befitting a widow queen.
Moreover, Victorian rings are classified as either estate Victorian rings or Victorian-inspired rings. There are numerous gemstones that adorn a Victorian ring, including diamond, topaz, citrine, peridot, and ruby. The range of designs for a Victorian ring is fascinating, and both avid collector and first-time owners may find that there is a certain nostalgic appeal in wearing one. Just as the Victorian era never left our consciousness, a Victorian ring is a piece of jewellery that can withstand changes in style and culture because of its classical value.