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Victorian jewelry is as complex in it's symbolism, sentiment and design as the fashion, architecture and decor of the time. Worn as an ornament, a love token or a remembrance, jewelry not only completed the well-dressed lady's costume but also denoted her position in society, her marital status and her sense of self.

Since the Victorian era stretched over six decades, many types of jewelry came and went in style. Mass production made jewelry available to the widest number of buyers in the broadest range of designs ever seen before in history. When it came to formal occasions, the "more is better" theme of the Victorian era carried over into how jewelry was worn by royalty and the aristocracy. Paintings of Queen Victoria and other royals at state occasions show multiple brooches, swags, earrings, bracelets and hair ornaments. But the jewelry of the everyday folk is collectible, fascinating and a lesson in history that enchants us even today.



VICTORIAN garnet cabochons brooch and earrings set in 14k yellow gold flowers and leaves, gilt backs, all in original box marked "John Young, late Turnbull & Young, goldsmith & watch maker, 1 & 3 Buchannan St., Glasgow", brooch 1-5/8" by 1-1/3", earrings body only 7/8" by 3/4", total drop 1-1/4".   View   View   View   View   View   View   #V34218

VICTORIAN scenic mosaic links bracelet set in rolled gold, 6-1/4" by 1". Each link has a different Italian scene created with tiny multi-colored tessera and each is a work of art. In all probability this would have been a souvenir of a grand Victorian era European tour.   View   View   View  #V33684

VICTORIAN 14k yellow gold pendant ivory oval cameo locket carved with roses, flowers and leaves bouquet, frame decorated with pearls and rubies and a bird at the top, photo of a lady wearing a brooch and engraved initials "I.R." on the back, original box, 2-1/2" total by 1-1/3".   View   View   View   View   #V34319 



Whether fashioned in the home as a lady's craft or professionally by a hair weaver or a jewelry maker, hair jewelry was the height of the romanticism and sentiment that characterized the Victorian era. Some pieces were done as mourning pieces or "momento mori" ("remember you must die"). While some may find this morbid, for the Victorians death was a common and accepted part of everyday life especially due to the higher infant mortality rate and the devastation of the Civil War.

Hair jewelry was not always mourning jewelry, however, as it was also crafted as love tokens from sweethearts, family members and cherished friends.  Rings might be engraved with loving messages and memorials either on the face or inside the band, and might also have hidden compartments for the hair. Brooches came in all sizes from the daintiest lace pin to a larger 3" oval meant to be worn at the neck. Watch chains and bracelets often show the most ingenious hair weaving techniques with more than one color of hair often used, as perhaps a chain given by three daughters to their father.

Black was the color of mourning, and jet, gutta percha and molded horn were fashioned into socially accepted mourning jewelry. Black enameling was a frequent element, as well as seed pearls accents denoting tears, and flowers which carried a message, the most obvious of which is the forget-me-not.

Valued among collectors are engraved pieces, especially if dated; well-crafted intricate pieces with unusual motifs; and pieces that might include photographs or hand-painted portraits along with the encased lock of hair. As with all jewelry, condition is important with these delicate treasures. Hair jewelry is difficult to effectively repair, so pieces in excellent condition command a premium.


   VICTORIAN 1840s 14 karat yellow gold and enameled brooch with plaited thick blonde hair under glass with extended pin stem, "In Memory Of" encircling frame, and engraved on back, 1-1/2" by 2": 
Ms Buchannan, died 12th Nov 1843
John Wilson died 4th June 1843
Seen in Christie Romero's "Warman's Jewelry, 3rd Ed, page 35 and in Becker's "Antique & Twentieth Century Jewelry" on page 106.   It also was featured in Southeastern Antiquing & Collecting Magazine, August 2003.  View   View   View   View  #V9521

VICTORIAN hair jewelry, a 14k yellow gold bracelet of fifteen tubular hollow links, each a beautifully woven memento with varying tones of hair, and each link inscribed with the source monogram of a different name or initials of the person whose hair it is, probably a friendship piece. An extremely rare and unusual piece, it is 6 3/4" wearable length x 1 1/2" wide. This is probably the loveliest token of friendship I have ever seen, and one of the most unusual. I wonder what occasion prompted the making of this wonderful memorial bracelet. It is similar to one shown in the reprint of "The Art of Hair Work, 1875" by Mark Campbell, page 285 and on page 30 of A. Bernard & Co. Catalogue, 1870.   View   View    View   View   View   #V32065 

   VICTORIAN 14k yellow gold palette work hair flower bouquet brooch set in a gold with black Taille d' Epergne enamel lover's knot fashioned like bent twigs, circa 1880, 2". This is one of the loveliest frames I have ever seen on a piece of hair jewelry and it has a compartment on the back as well. A hair brooch similar to this can be seen in "Sentimental Jewelry" by Ann Louise Luthi page 15.   View   View   View   #V29441


   VICTORIAN HAIR bracelet with a purple stone in the clasp. Four colors of hair made up this bracelet, and was probably made by four daughters for their mother. It is 7" long and 1-1/4" wide.  #V1957

  MEMORIAL hair ring with pearl surround and blonde hair. Size 7-1/4 and engraved, " Joseph Dixon died 16th Jan.y 1815 aged 50".  Engraving   #V15165

VICTORIAN gold and enameled 1-7/8" hair brooch with "In Memory Of" encircling frame, engraved on back: 
Ms Buchannan
died 12th Nov 1843
John Wilson died 4th June 1843

Size 1-7/8" by 1-1/2".

  VICTORIAN chalcedony, enamel and turquoise brooch with forget-me-not motif, 2".  View   View   #V14952 



What is more classic and timeless than a cameo? Though they long pre-date the Victorian era, for Victorians who loved travel, a cameo might represent a meaningful souvenir of a Grand European Tour. Both men and women worn cameos set as necklaces, brooch, rings and earrings for women, and watch fobs, rings  and stick pins for men. The Victorian fascination with all things historic is demonstrated in the classical Greek profiles and mythological motifs. Reflecting the Victorians love of gardening and nature, floral cameos were also popular. Carved in seashell, ivory, lava or stone, cameos could be set in precious or non-precious metals. Although thought of as primarily an Italian art, there were also cameo carvers in America and other countries.

Quality and beauty of carving is the prime factor determining value, but cameos set in precious metal ornamented with diamonds, seed pearls or enameling are most desirable. Check condition by holding the cameo up to the light to detect possible cracks.



  CAMEOS are such classic beauties. This one has tiny pink enameled butterflies on the corners of the filigree frame.  View   #U14728         CAMEO This three-quarter profile cameo is very deeply carved and the lady's hair is fashioned of rose blossoms!   View   #U20324 CAMEO of a lovely lady wearing a necklace and flowers.    #Uagnes1 CAMEO 14k cameo brooch in enameled butterfly filigree setting, 1-7/8".   View   View  #U23999   


   CAMEO with lovely seed pearls surrounding the 14 karat setting.   #U4001

   CAMEO in 14 karat twist setting... she has an anchor motif at her shoulder and a star in her hair.   #Uagnes2

FLORAL bouquet cameo in a 14 karat setting.   View   #U20323



Colorful souvenir jewelry was purchased on Victorian travels. Italian mosaics and pietra dura pieces were popular for decades, and can still be purchased today. Older mosaic pieces tend to be more intricate and well-made, and done in softer colors with greater detail. Travel souvenir pieces were also made of Scottish "pebbles", seashells, bog oak, and other materials typical of their area of manufacture.

Historically inspired jewelry was prompted by the study of ancient Pompeii, Egypt, Greece and Rome, and the motifs included designs from wall paintings and excavated jewelry.  Heavier Renaissance and Medieval style jewelry combined well with the heavier Victorian fashions as well, and later in the century, Oriental motifs provided further inspiration.

Plant collecting was a passionate Victorian hobby, and natural motifs were also reflected in jewelry. Amazing novelty jewelry was made of everything from small real birds to beetles and other insects. Novel also was the way in which Victorians viewed this type of adornment. What we today might think grotesque they saw as innovative, and reflective of their interest in nature, science and leisure activities.

Jewelry could also be mechanically innovative, with moving parts and trembling portions to attract the eye. Advertising jewelry is rare, and one of the most unusual pieces of Victorian jewelry is this advertising bracelet, evidentially promoting a Victorian era London clothier.



  VICTORIAN 7"  by 1" agate bracelet with an engraved plaque that says, "AR Clothier. 111 London. Rd. Chippenham. WRCD 47/2".   View   View   View   View   #23382

Very unusual advertising bracelet.

   PIETRA DURA floral brooch.

    ITALIAN MOSAIC floral 1" round pin in soft pastel colors.   View   #Y18684


  VICTORIAN gold tone pen, pencil and lead holder with lovely hand engraved design, a presentation piece dated 1892, in original box from "H. Pidduck & Sons Goldsmiths, Hanley", with a bloodstone tip, 4"– from Royal Doulton family. This is engraved as presented to "William Millward by the Throwers, turners, handlers and friends of Messrs Doulton & Co Burslam. The throwers, turners, handlers were a trade union type organization for factory workers in those days.  Doulton were a massive company and Royal Doulton pottery and ceramics is very popular still today.   View   View   View   View   View   View   View   View      #V35925  



In the days before photography, a hand-painted portrait miniature was a desirable keepsake or love token. While some of these miniature art works were done of actual people including both royalty and everyday folks, others were painted of mythological characters and fictional lovely ladies. Mother-of-pearl, ivory and vellum were often used as paint surfaces. Settings range from the simplest rolled gold twist frame brooch to gem encrusted wonders. Artists who did portrait miniatures were called "limners", and they did not only pieces for jewelry, but also work meant to be framed for display, often in lacquered wood or ivory embellished frames.  Some traveled from city to city taking commissions as they went. Portraits could be worn on velvet ribbons around the neck, as brooches, rings and bracelets, and in lockets. Even men occasionally worn portraits suspended around the neck under their shirts.

Collectors prefer artist-signed pieces, lovely ladies and children, and identifiable individuals. Portraits that combine enclosures for hair or include an engraved notation are also sought after.



  VICTORIAN lady wearing a portrait brooch, cut steel buttons and diamond earrings. Cabinet card size 4-1/4" by 6-1/2", marked "J. O. Herbert, Grand Rapids, Wis."

   VICTORIAN lady wearing a portrait brooch.

   VICTORIAN lady wearing a portrait brooch and a watch chain with a ring as an ornament. Cabinet card size 4-1/4" by 6-1/2" marked on the front "Younge, Over Glenn's, Franklin Square, Utica, NY".   View

  VICTORIAN lady wearing a portrait brooch and watch chain. Cabinet Card size 4-1/4" by 6-1/2" marked "Jacoby, Minneapolis" on the front.


      PORTRAIT PIECES This 2-3/4" hand painted portrait circa 1840 also has a lock of hair on the back.    View   #V3810

    PORTRAIT 2-1/8" brooch hand painted on porcelain in a twisted gold tone setting.    View   #V23717

   PORTRAIT BROOCH set in mother-of-pearl 1-5/8 inch brooch.   View     #V16362

  VICTORIAN portrait brooch, 2-1/2". This lady dressed in plum is delicately hand painted on a porcelain disk set into a twisted gold filled setting. Notice the detail of the feather in her hat.   View   #V22943 



Photography was an invention of the Victorian era, and photographic jewelry represented a permanent way to document beloved friends and family. Since the opportunity to be photographed was not as prevalent as it is now, a photo was a precious thing. Worn as brooches, cufflinks and pendants, these faces from the past were most often mounted in non-precious metals under crystal or celluloid covers for protection.

Collectors especially appreciate pictures of lovely women and children, Civil War soldiers and subjects wearing interesting clothing or jewelry. Here again, the addition of engraving, especially dates and love messages, makes the piece more interesting.



Great Aunt Mary and my Grandmother Agnes as young girls, circa 1890's.   View

  My very bearded great great grandfather, circa 1870.   View 

  My favorite Aunt Sissie, circa 1900.   View

  Photo brooch of three of my Victorian-era uncles.   View


     CUFFLINKS  The photos of these two unidentified gentlemen were made into cuff links.  View      VICTORIAN 1-3/4 inch hair and photo memorial swivel brooch. Now this is the original odd couple, and  I love these unusual ones! The back compartment contains very blond hair.   View    #V18650   PHOTO graduate photo pin.  #V16426



Well-dressed ladies wore "long chains", sometimes looped and caught on the bodice with a brooch, sometimes worn full length, and often holding a lorgnette or watch. Chains were made in both precious and non-precious metals, and could be extremely simple or ornamented with stones and seed pearls. Some had slides, which have become collectible in their own right. Today's collectors create bracelets from them, as well as from fobs, button covers and cuff link tops.

The lorgnettes in sterling and karat gold, those with lovely enameling or gem stones, and those with a strong design sense (for example Art Nouveau or Arts & Crafts) are most desirable. Some collectors have their own prescription mounted into an old lorgnette so that they are actually useable.



Could she wear more jewelry? Multiple bracelets and rings are shown to their best advantage by her pose, including a bracelet of polished agate stones.   View

  Corset stays made this wasp-waisted dress possible, and the draping watch chain highlights her small waist.

   In addition to her decorative belt buckle, this lady wears a long chain and hair earrings made in the shape of acorns.

    Her long chain probably held a lorgnette at the end. 


  Lorgnette of gold washed silver with enameling, semi-precious stones and pearls, 5-1/2" by 1-1/4". Tiny mark "800" on the glasses hinge. Circa 1900.   View    View    View    View    #L13478

UNGER sterling lady face lorgnette, 4-3/4" by 1-1/2".   View    View    #L14745

  LORGNETTE sterling Art Nouveau Iris motif, 5" by 1-1/4".  View   View  #L20909

    LORGNETTE sterling with flower motif, 5-1/3" by 1-1/4".   View   View    #L4619


  VICTORIAN gold tone bracelet with watch fobs as charms.  View   #V17891

BRACELET made of turn-of-the-century cuff link covers. View    View    View   #V18690

 VICTORIAN gold tone bracelet with crystal fobs as charms.   #V10721

    VICTORIAN gold tone bracelet with watch fobs as charms.  View   #V22040


  BLACK JEWELRY During the Victorian period, from about 1860 to 1880, mourning jewelry was the height of fashion and black was a stylish color. Made of jet, vulcanite, bog oak or pressed horn, each carried special meaning as a memento of a loved one. A brooch in the shape of a hand carrying a bouquet conveyed a message symbolized by the flowers. Photos might be housed inside lockets and watch fobs, and portraits hand painted on pendants and earrings. While some black jewelry was meant to be worn during mourning, black jewelry was fashionable as well, and worn for its beauty and sentiment.



VICTORIAN lady wearing jet mourning beads with her fancy hat laying on the table top before her. Carte de visite size 2-1/2" by 4", marked on the back, "J. Raine, Portrait & Landscape Photographer, Richmond, Yorkshire" with a roses and trellis design.

    VICTORIAN lady wearing a portrait pendant set in jet on a black neck ribbon and a bog oak oval brooch at her neckline. Carte de visite size 2-1/2" by 4-1/4", marked "R.P. Skeolan, Harrogate" on the front and "miniature painter" on the back.  View

   VICTORIAN lady wearing a vulcanite hand brooch on her lacy necklace and faceted jet bracelet on her arm. Carte de visite size 2-1/2" by 4-1/8", marked W.J. Wellsted & Son, 19 & 20 Paragon St, Hull on both front and back, and "Photographers of the Prince & Princess of Wales" along with "Copies can be had at any time or an enlargement finished in oil or watercolors" on the back. Back also has a birds and bamboo design.  View


    VICTORIAN vulcanite hand holding rose for love brooch, 1-7/8".   View   #V25194

      VICTORIAN jet pendant with painted lady portrait, 2".   View   #V25926

  VICTORIAN vulcanite hand holding single flower pin, 1-3/4".  View   #V25276  



  VICTORIAN vulcanite hand brooch, 2-7/8", holding roses and forget-me-nots wreath laurel sheaf symbolizing love victorious. Hallmarked on the back.   View   View   #V8502

     VICTORIAN vulcanite hand holding fan pin, 2-1/3". Fans often referred to a flirtation.  View   View   #V25190

   VICTORIAN 2" vulcanite  hand brooch holding sheaf and wreath of roses, symbolic of hope and love.   View   #V13204 


   VICTORIAN vulcanite hand with lacy cuff holding basket pin, 2-1/3".  View   #V25280

      VICTORIAN hand holding basket of fruit brooch, 3".   View   #V25880

   VICTORIAN vulcanite hand with fluted cuff holding basket pin, 2-1/4".  View   #V25279


VICTORIAN  vulcanite butterfly pin, 2".  View   #V25282

        VICTORIAN Whitby jet carved oval fern leaf brooch w/pendant loop, 1-3/4".  View   #V25875

VICTORIAN vulcanite fan pin, 2".  View   #V25283


VICTORIAN lady wearing strands of jet beads. Carte de visite size 2-1/2" by 4", marked on the front "Chancellor, Dublin" and on the back, "Patronized by TRH The Prince & Princess of Wales; HRH Prince Arthur; HRH The Duke of Cambridge; HSH Prince Teck" and more famous people, as well as the address, :55 Lower Sackville Street, Dublin" and instructions for obtaining other images.  View

   VICTORIAN lady wearing jet portrait locket on a black velvet ribbon and matching earrings. Carte de visite size 4-1/8" by 2-1/2", marked "Inskip Photo, The Cliff, Scarboro" with a Masonic emblem on the back.  View

   VICTORIAN lady wearing elaborate jet necklace and brooch. Carte de visite marked "March 1874" in pencil and "F. G. Earl, Photographic Artist, Worcester & Malvern".   View




    VICTORIAN vulcanite locket with fuchsia flowers, 4 photo compartments, 2-1/8".  View   #V25284

VICTORIAN vulcanite 2" locket on 4-1/2" of chain.    View   View  #V25357

   VICTORIAN vulcanite locket in ornate shield motif, 3-1/4".  View   #V25285


      VICTORIAN vulcanite oval brooch covered in fuchsia flowers, symbol of humble love, 1-3/4".  View    #V25884

   VICTORIAN pressed horn bracelet each piece patterned in diamond shapes, exp by 1" & 1-5/8".   View   View  #V25877

   VICTORIAN bog oak brooch, carved Gothic castle scene, 2"  View   #V25881


jewelry and ornaments were popular throughout the 1800's, and the sparkle of these lovely pieces in candlelight must have been something to behold. Motifs varied from the simple to the sublime, with multiple layers and densely packed studs. Designs could be enhanced by the use of varying sized studs as well. Each stud could have up to 15 facets, and in general the finer and older the piece the more facets the studs will have. Made in both England and Europe, this style of jewelry fell out of favor by the turn of the 19th century.



   View   View   View   View   #V25842

   VICTORIAN cut steel set circa 1860, the necklace is 18" by 1-1/3", the bracelet 7" by 1-1/3", circa 1850.   View   View   View   View   #V25841

   VICTORIAN cut steel horseshoe pin, 1-1/8".  View   #V25994



Photographs from the Victorian age demonstrate how jewelry was worn, and how it related to the fashions of the time. Some pieces, like bars pins, were common accessories and can be found fairly easily today. Others, like full parures (sets of necklace, bracelet, brooch, earrings and sometimes ring) are much more difficult to obtain. Old catalogues and jewelry flyers are a source for dating and identifying jewelry, and can be a collectible category in their own right.

Whether a family heirloom or a recent find, Victorian jewelry continues to fascinate collectors and jewelry lovers alike. The sentiment, history, craftsmanship and whimsy lures new collectors and historians to this day. Everyday people treasured these wonderful echoes of the past, and we are fortunate that so many of them have been handed down to our generation to wear, protect and enjoy.



  Reclining ladies pose at an outdoor picnic wear simple jewelry, including the often seen bar pins.

    A beautifully hand appliquéd jacket with a ruffle peeking above the neck, a bar pin and a butterfly ornamenting her hair.

   Bar pins came in many styles and sizes, and were a staple of the jewelry wardrobe.

     Lockets and lace pins were and are a sentimental favorite that never go out of style.


  VICTORIAN 14k bar pin, 2". It looks like a "nanny" pin, but does not open that I can see.   View   #V22953

   VICTORIAN 9k seed pearl and purple unidentified stone bar pin with safety, 2".   View   #V23373

   VICTORIAN BAR PIN with red and blue stones and pearl, 2 1/4" wide. An etched scene adorns the front of this marvelous piece. View.    #V5154


   VICTORIAN sterling 2" ornate bows and ivy leaves bar pin hallmarked Chester, England, 1900-1.    #V13432   View   View   #V13432

VICTORIAN sterling hallmarked 1-5/8" round brooch marked "D&LS" as the maker.  View   View   #V18647 

VICTORIAN  ornate bows and ivy leaves     View   #V13421


  DECORATED links 14k 7-inch long bracelet with aqua enameling, a diamond center, and a chain slide-style safety, circa 1895.   #V20328

   VICTORIAN ring, rectangular shape with seed pearl,  circa 1860-1880.  View   #V3495

  VICTORIAN PARURE coral was believed to ward off bad health. This bracelet is four strands and 7" long. the watch hooked brooch is 1-1/2" and smaller one is 3/4". The earrings are 7/8" screw backs, and the ring is size 7.   View    View   #V3800

  VICTORIAN carved ivory name brooch, "Jane".   View   #V23463


 Many pieces similar to those I photographed for the cover and the Victorian article of the July, 2003 can be purchased here: CLICK HERE

"Sentimental Jewelry" by Ann Louise Luthi
"Jet Jewellery" by Helen & Katy Muller
"Warman's Jewelry, 3rd Ed" by Christie Romero
 "The Art of Hair Work, 1875" by Mark Campbell



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