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Collecting Victorian Jewelry

Updated on February 27, 2013

A Different Time with a Look all Its Own

Before the Victorian Era, jewelry was worn only by the nobility or the very wealthy. For the first time, jewelry was made affordable for the "middle-class" to wear.

But we can not really talk about Victorian jewelry until we look to Queen Victoria and see the effect she had on the world at large. I have read on several accounts that the young Queen Victoria loved Albert, sentiment, and jewelry in that order. With her betrothal to Prince Albert, the whole of England fell in love, and the atmosphere for Victorians was romance. The Queen's love for nature, religion, and continued interest and passion towards archeology gave rise to the look and style of jewelry. Because this era was long, approximately sixty years, many different styles and materials were used to make Victorian jewelry. This is just a glimpse at the most collectable Victorian jewelry today.

Hearts are the Most Celebrated Victorian Motif

I for one, believe that the older the jewelry the more valuable it becomes, assuming it has been well cared for. Jewelry is a universal language; an international "currency"; an investment in its timeless beauty. Jewelry is the most portable wealth on earth. And nothing could be more true about the Victorian heart jewelry. The endless love of the heart motif continues to be repeated by well known jewelry designers today, and yet Victorian jewelry is the oldest and rarest but still easy to find.

The most desired piece of jewelry was and still is the single heart on a bracelet or the padlock heart locking the bracelet to ones wrist. The padlock heart bracelet was considered betrothal jewelry; given as a love token from a suitor who wished to posses the key to another's heart.

Mizpah heart jewelry continues to be searched for. The powerful word "MIZPAH" had strong meaning for those who wore the jewelry that barred the talisman. Sworn in love, the word MIZPAH was the lovers covenant, taken from the roots in the Bible. The place Mizpah, Palestine, is said to be where Jacob and Laban erected a monument in stones as a sign of loyalty and bond between them and God. They would be protected always while they were apart.

Authentic Victorian Heart Jewelry

My favorite place to sit back and relax is at home on the internet. EBAY sellers are always listing something new each day in authentic Victorian jewelry. It is so much fun to run through the thousands of pages of fine Victorian jewelry. Here is just a glimpse of what is selling now.

The Aesthetic Art Movement in Jewelry

There is hardly a collector today who does not desire a Victorian sterling silver piece of jewelry. It is hard for me to believe that in the early 1850's the upper classes disdained sterling silver jewelry. Initially, sterling silver was worn primarily by those on the lower economic scale. It was Queen Victoria's penchant for adornment that had any and all women wearing a piece of jewelry of some type. The dislike for sterling silver was largely due to the fact that silver oxidized so quickly in the heavily polluted air of London.

By 1860, the silver discovery in Nevada, assured the world of an ample supply of silver. Along with the opened trade with Japan, the western world became enamoured with Japanese customs and culture. A new movement was born. This style and movement termed as the Aesthetic Era, used motifs of fans, cherry blossoms, single bird, butterfly or stork, and bulrushes. The style was geometric, coupled with motifs from nature, creating a focal point off center and on a diagonal.

In 1878, Queen Victoria presented a wide silver collar to famed singer Jenny Lind. As if overnight, sterling silver jewelry gained great popularity by the masses while the jewelry industry gainfully benefited from the silver discovery and began making silver jewelry; a style fashioned in heavy silver collars, lockets with large bold links and wide bracelets.

Authentic Victorian Sterling Silver

This is the place where I have purchased several of my Victorian sterling silver. I have been really happy with all the pieces I now own.

One of My Favorite Victorian Bracelets

One of My Favorite Victorian Bracelets
One of My Favorite Victorian Bracelets

BEST Book Resource on Victorian Jewelry

Victorian Jewelry: Unexplored Treasures
Victorian Jewelry: Unexplored Treasures
This absolutely beautiful book, filled with incredible images of Victorian Jewelry, is what influenced me to go on the "hunt" for rare pieces of jewelry. The jewelry is still out there and it is well worth collecting. This book was written by two women who candidly thought at one time that Victorian jewelry was just "endless proliferations of cameos" with little to no relevance to us today. Instead, with a little eye-opening research they discovered a past in what they call "secondary jewelry", that teaches us all that the Victorians were inventive, sentimental, playful, gadget-lovers, and sometimes bizarre. This is a book worth owning and truly enjoying for all time to come!

Victorian Taille D'Eparnge - Victorian Gold

When I first discovered taille d'epargne jewelry, (pronounced "Tie-duh-parn"), I instantly fell in love with this very old medieval French technique; a process of sparingly cutting delicate groves in the metal to be filled with opaque black, red or blue enamel. This process was not new to the Victorians, but the French brought it back with great popularity.

Many pieces of this jewelry can be found in 14k gold or a low 9k while most pieces can be found made with a heavy gold filled or rolled gold process. Some of the prettiest pieces are the bracelets. When two identical bracelets can be found together these are known as wedding bracelets. These are harder to find because the second bracelet has often been lost or separated from the other. The legend of the wedding bracelets holds that a bride was given a pair of bracelets by her betrothed and then later her husband. The first bracelet was given as an "engagement" bracelet while the other was given to her on the wedding night. Often only one would be worn all the time leaving the other untouched. As you might expect the one worn most often did not survive the years of wear.

Wedding Bracelets Without the Mate

Created By Malzeke
Created By Malzeke


So much of my reading is done on my Nook these days, but I still have a library of great reference books. There is NOTHING better than a book with pictures to hold and turn pages from one and back again. Check these out! If you love Victorian jewelry you will surely enjoy these!


When mentioning Scottish jewelry we immediately think of the Victorian "Scottish agate jewelry" or also know as "Scottish pebble jewelry". Queen Victoria had a tremendous affection for Scotland. She purchase the Balmoral Castle, and even had her children wear tartan dress at the Great Exhibition Ball of 1851.

In the 1850's enormous curiosity about Scotland saw tourist interest growing and people clamouring for souvenirs. The Scottish hard stone, agate or "pebble" jewelry was inspired by designs from centuries back in Celtic and Scottish folklore. Much of this jewelry was later made in England with stones being shipped from Germany rather than the British Isles!

With the heightened interest in naturalism and the fascination with medieval romanticism, Scotland became the embodiment of both.

Bizarre Victorian jewelry has talismanic aspects; hair jewelry to beautiful but chilling eye jewelry

Mourning Jewelry was Sentimental in all Aspects

created by malzeke
created by malzeke

The Victorian Era of jewelry can be summed up by saying it was jewelry with sentiment. Jewelry made from all sorts of materials. It was unified by love and remembrance. The heart motif was the most powerful but other motifs became just as powerful, to name just a few: the outstretched hands, angels, Cupid, serpents, endless knots, and anchors. Jewelry was worn for betrothal, love, friendship and to honor the beloved deceased.

When Queen Victoria's beloved Prince Albert died a very untimely death, Queen Victoria went into mourning for forty years. Memorial jewels were made in a variety of materials, that will never be recreated. Jet from Whitby, England was the only permitted jewelry the Queen's court could wear. Whitby manufactured jet jewelry from 1830 until 1880 when at this time the industry began to decline. It was then being replaced by "French Jet", which is black glass backed with lead while "Whitby Jet" is an ancient driftwood that is carbonized black by heat and pressure. French jet jewelry gain so much more popularity over the Whitby jet because the workmanship was more delicate and intricate. Only large heavy pieces could be created from Whitby jet due to the nature of the material.

Victorian Mourning Jewelry

I really enjoyed this first video. It tells the story of Victorian mourning jewelry, so clear and insightful. This is definitely worth the time to watch.


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