Victorian Symbolism

Victorian Jewellery and its Symbolism

Victorian jewellery holds a rich history and a plethora of symbolism that is often overlooked. In order to truly understand the significance of these intricate pieces, it is essential to delve into the Victorian era itself. Let's explore the historical context and the influence of Queen Victoria on fashion during that time.

Understanding the Victorian Era

In order to grasp the meaning behind Victorian jewellery, it is crucial to understand the time period in which it originated. The Victorian era, spanning from 1837 to 1901, was characterised by Queen Victoria's reign and the many changes that occurred during her time on the throne.

The Historical Context of the Victorian Era

The Victorian era was marked by significant political, social, and technological changes. It was a time of great expansion and innovation, with the Industrial Revolution transforming society rapidly. Factories sprung up, cities grew, and the population surged. The advancements in technology brought about new opportunities for trade and commerce, leading to the rise of the middle class.

With the rise of the middle class, there was a shift in societal values. The Victorian era was known for its strict moral code and emphasis on family values. The idea of the "ideal Victorian family" was deeply rooted in the society, with the husband as the breadwinner and the wife as the homemaker. This societal structure influenced not only the way people lived but also how they dressed and adorned themselves.

The Influence of Queen Victoria on Fashion

Source - Lowe & Sons.

Queen Victoria's personal style and preferences had a significant impact on Victorian fashion. She was known for her love of sentimental jewellery, often wearing pieces that depicted her beloved family members. Her influence on fashion extended beyond her personal choices, as she also popularised mourning jewellery during her long period of mourning after the death of her husband, Prince Albert.

During the Victorian era, mourning was taken very seriously, and it was expected for individuals to wear black clothing and accessories as a sign of respect for the deceased. Mourning jewellery became a way for people to express their grief and commemorate their loved ones. These pieces often featured black gemstones, such as jet or onyx, and were intricately designed to symbolise the loss and remembrance of the departed.

Aside from mourning jewellery, Victorian fashion was characterised by its opulence and intricacy. The upper class adorned themselves with elaborate pieces, such as tiaras, brooches, and necklaces, often adorned with precious gemstones like diamonds, rubies, and emeralds. The designs were influenced by various historical periods, including Gothic, Renaissance, and Rococo, resulting in a fusion of styles that showcased the wealth and status of the wearer.

However, not everyone could afford such luxurious pieces. The middle class, inspired by the upper class, sought to emulate their fashion choices within their means. They turned to less expensive materials, such as glass or paste, to imitate the look of precious gemstones. These "costume" pieces allowed individuals from all social classes to participate in the fashion trends of the time.

Overall, the Victorian era was a time of immense change and innovation, both in society and fashion. The influence of Queen Victoria, along with the societal values and advancements in technology, shaped the way people dressed and adorned themselves. Victorian jewellery, with its sentimental and ornate designs, continues to captivate us today, serving as a reminder of a bygone era.

The Role of Jewellery in Victorian Society

Jewellery in the Victorian era was more than just decorative adornment; it held deep social and cultural significance. Let's explore the different roles that jewellery played in Victorian society.

Jewellery as a Status Symbol

In Victorian society, jewellery was a potent symbol of wealth and social status. Elaborate and ornate pieces were often worn by the upper class to showcase their affluence. The quality of the materials used and the intricacy of the designs were indicators of a person's social standing.

Sentimental and Mourning Jewellery

Victorians placed great value on sentimentality, and this was often reflected in their jewellery. Sentimental pieces were created to evoke emotions and memories. Lockets containing miniature portraits or hair of loved ones were particularly popular. Additionally, mourning jewellery became prevalent as a way to commemorate and mourn the loss of a loved one. Pieces were often made from jet, black enamel, or adorned with black onyx, and were delicately crafted to convey mourning.

Decoding the Symbolism in Victorian Jewellery

Beyond their role in society, Victorian jewellery is also rich in symbolism. By examining the common themes and motifs found in these pieces, we can gain insight into the hidden meanings they hold.

Common Themes and Motifs

Victorian jewellery often featured symbolic motifs such as flowers, hearts, snakes, and serpents. Each motif held its own meaning, which allowed wearers to convey specific messages or sentiments through their jewellery.

The Language of Stones

Gemstones and their symbolic associations played a significant role in Victorian jewellery.  

Diamonds were associated with love and eternity.

Amethyst represented nobility and spirituality.

Understanding the symbolic language of stones enhances our appreciation of these exquisite pieces.

Collecting and Preserving Victorian Jewellery

Collecting Victorian jewellery has become a passion for many enthusiasts. These pieces hold both historical and sentimental value, making them highly sought after. Proper preservation and care are essential to ensure that these treasures are enjoyed for generations to come.

In conclusion, Victorian jewellery is not merely decorative; it holds a deep symbolic meaning that reflects the values and sentiments of the era. By understanding the historical context, social significance, and symbolism inherent in these pieces, we can truly appreciate and uncover the hidden stories behind Victorian jewellery.

Here at Lancastrian Jewellers, we stock a great range of jewellery from antique pieces to modern classics, we have something for everyone.
Please get in touch if you need any further help finding the perfect piece of jewellery.

Further Reading:

If you'd like to expand your knowledge on Victorian Jewellery even further, we recommend taking look at the links below. 
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