Jewelry has been in use since the ancient days to perform several duties such as magical protection and aesthetics. Since time immemorial, they have been curved from animal shells, precious stones as well as animal bones. They also symbolized status in society. The most sophisticated were a preserve of the rich and those who had higher social status like the ruling class. Discovery of metal work added a lot into the development of jewelry. In addition to the other items that were used to model jewelry, metals were also curved into these arts of sophistication and status. Gold, a precious stone was a major component of the art work. Men and women were adorned with jewelry up to their graves both as a symbol of status and to provide consolation to the spirit of the dead. In fact most of the archival jewelry was retrieved from tombs (Arnold, 2011).
The higher class in the societal rankings was associated with more sophisticated and highly valued items like gold, silver and also precious gems. While the humbler middle and part of the upper lower class was used base metals like copper for their ornaments. It was only until after the fourteenth century that these stones of value were cut, prior to this period they were just polished because their color meant a lot to do with the status. The nineteenth century witnessed the advent of the usage of the naturalistic jewels like fruits and flowers. The simple motifs were popularly in use in the early parts of the century. The trend changed immensely around 1850 when the delicate early designs became extinct to pave way for the more extravagant versions which included more complex makes of flowers. It was also the period that brought into active play the use of flowers to express romance. This period also witnessed the change of events to the exclusive use of the jewels by women.
Victorian jewelry is a term that was used in reference to all jewels that were designed in the United Kingdom during the reign of Queen Victoria which stretched for a period of more than six decades. It therefore implies that many jewels were crafted and went into extinction. There was witnessed mass production of jewelry and this meant that the Victorian jewelry was popular at the time because of its great value in terms of fashion, symbolism and design. Worn as a love token, an ornament, or a remembrance, both the fine jewelry and costume of the era not only concluded a lady's well-dressed attire, nevertheless also signified her place in society, her matrimonial prestige and her sense of self. Since this era stretched over six decades, many types of jewelry came and went in vogue. Mass making made jewelry available to the broadest number of buyers in the widest range of designs ever seen before in history (Arnold, 2011). When it came to occasions that were formal, the "more is better" theme of the Victorian era conceded over into how the aristocrats and royalty wore jewelry. Paintings of Queen Victoria and other royals at state occasions show multiple brooches, necklaces, bracelets, swags, earrings, bracelets and hair ornaments. But the jewelry of the everyday woman is collectible, fascinating and a lesson in history that enchants us even today (Victorian and Edwardian Jewelry, 2014).
The emphasis on Victorian’s jewelry was because of the way Queen Victoria loved jewelry during her reign as queen of the United Kingdom. Her love for jewelry was seen by the fact that she used to design them herself gave always as gift to others and most of all wore them. Her reign was during the period of industrial revolution which was a period characterized by mass production of goods and it was during this time that her jewelry gained a lot of popularity in united kingdom as well as beyond her boarders. The fact that she made them affiliated her jewelry with royalty and made them more and more prestigious. Her passion for her jewelry developed an age in Europe, one of art as well as craft that were inspired by the queen. She influenced most jewelers and even enhanced the jewelry trade in during her reign. The arts and craft movement was a movement developed in the United Kingdom which was a movement against the mass production of jewelry attributed to the industrial revolution involved advancement in technology and increased production (History of Jewelry from 1700 - Y2K, 2014).
This mass production resulted to the development of low quality jewelry with reduced value. The queen’s influence was coupled with the increased demand for jewelry by an emerging middle class that had more purchasing power. This aspect was very important for the spread of influence about the queens jewelry since people could get access to them and coupled with the mass production, much of the jewelry was available in the market and most people had them but had less value than ones of royalty because of the elements of the jewelry that were rare and expensive.
Victoria’s jewelry is characterized by aspects of Victoria’s live, and most notably between the time her husband Albert was alive and when he died. These two periods saw different inspirations for the jewelry. The first aspect which includes the time that her husband was alive saw inspirations for jewelry depicting love and affection. This has been described s a period of romantic jewelry (Victorian Jewelry, 2014). Metal and precious stones were combined to present their love for each other. A very god example was the ring she wore from her husband. This ring was in form of a snake mad in such a way that its tail closed into its mouth. It mainly symbolized the way their love was eternal. Use of precious metals such as platinum and gold was very much used because of the fact that they are precious and rare. These precious metals were combined with pearls and precious stones to develop jewelry that was symbolic of affection and love to those given as gift (History of Jewelry from 1700 - Y2K, 2014).
Another important example of inspiration of the period of romantic period was the use of the inscriptions of the word “mizpah”. These types of jewelry were worn by couples living away from each other as a result of separation by distance. This aspect was very important and very symbolic. Couples had these jewelry made of precious metals with inscriptions of the word put boldly on them especially of rings. Another characteristic of this period was the use of flowers as inspirational arts on jewelry (The Romantic age, 2014). This was seen by inscriptions of flowers, birds and fruits on necklace pendants, rings as well as bracelets. The other important period was after the death of her husband that saw a whole new form of inspiration for her jewelry, mainly characterized by sadness and loss (Victorian Jewelry, 2014).
It was also a period whereby the middle class was rising and so there was great increase demand for jewelry. This led to increase in availability for jewelry; however, most of its quality was reduced because of use of less precious material such as copper and bronze. The fact that Queen Victorian’s jewelry was associated with royalty influenced the development of the arts and crafts movement that protested against the mass production of jewelry because of the fact that this mass production was reducing the prestigiousness of jewelry during the time.Jewelry was very important for the queen and was mainly influenced by her love for her husband. Her jewelry was characterized by inscriptions of objects such as flowers and animals that were developed symbolize love and affection. This led to the influence of development of jewelry characterized by brightly colored jewelry with flowers and beautiful colors. However, the death of her husband led to the rise of another period referred to as the grand period. This era was characterized by the queens association with jewelry depicting mourning and loss. It was during this time that use of jewelry with dark colors especially black became very fashionable.
Arnold, J. (2011). Victorian jewelry, identity, and the novel prisms of culture. Farnham, England: Ashgate.
Hinks, P. (1991). Victorian jewelery. New York: Portland House.
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Victorian Jewelry. (n.d.). Retrieved November 17, 2014, from http://www.victorianjewelry.org/History.html
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Victorian and Edwardian Jewelry. (n.d.). Retrieved November 17, 2014, from http://www.collectorsweekly.com/fine-jewelry/victorian-edwardian