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Many of us have heard about Victorian style which highlighted "The Era of Queen Victoria". The Victorian era is lengthy, covering the entire reign of its namesake Queen from 1837 to 1901. Women overtook men as the primary jewelry wearers and they wore it in great volume. Decorative and necessary items such as buckles, buttons and fasteners were now designed with the masses in mind. Production of memento, religious and talismanic jewelry was unsurpassed and these items were suddenly a necessity for everyone. In order to understand this wide ranging era of jewelry history it is subdivided into three periods; the Early or Romantic, the Middle or Grand, and the Late Victorian or Aesthetic periods.
Early Victorian, romantic jewelry (1837-1850). Themes inspired by the Renaissance and the Middle Ages were everywhere in jewelry design and motifs from nature dominated the period. Bouquets of flowers, branches, leaves, grapes and berries were conspicuously featured in jewelry. Symbolism associated with flowers was prominently in evidence. Serpent motifs were at their apex. Popular since antiquity, snake jewelry served as a bold symbol of wisdom and eternity. Frequently, these designs were delicately and intricately etched into gold. Lockets, cameos and brooches were popular everyday jewelry during the early Victorian era whereas colored gemstones and diamonds were worn during the evening.
Mid-Victorian, grand jewelry (1860-1880). The Renaissance and Egyptian revivals were joined by a classical revival of Greek and Etruscan styles along with Scandinavian jewelry. The jewelry enhancement techniques of engraving and chasing were replaced by the revival of ancient techniques to create matte and shiny surfaces, depth and relief were provided by corded wire, filigree and granulation. Because the Grand or Mid-Victorian era corresponded with the Victoria's husband, many jewelry pieces have solemn, grave designs. Known as mourning jewelry, the pieces feature heavy, dark stones. Jet, onyx, amethyst, and garnet are frequently found in jewelry from this period. The jewelry also became especially creative during this period. More colorful designs were born featuring shells, mosaics and colorful gemstones.
Late Victorian, aesthetic jewelry (1885-1900). The Aesthetic Period of Victorian jewelry can be defined as one of reaction against previous jewelry periods. Victorians became disillusioned with fashions and furnishings and sought a way out of the conventions of the past, moving toward a time of more refined artistic taste. Fashionable women wanted to achieve the impression that they were a bit naughty or frivolous thus showing the world they were modern. The Gibson girl hairstyle depicted in 1890 in drawings by Charles Dan Gibson portrayed women in this new light. During the Aesthetic period, jewelers used diamonds and feminine, bright gemstones such as sapphire, peridot, and spinel. Star and crescent designs as well as elaborate hat pins were very popular.
Information used in this article is courtesy of The Antique Jewelry University