Victorian jewelry was produced during the reign of Britain’s Queen Victoria, from 1837-1901
and reached its peak in the latter part of the century. The styles of the Victorian era favored
floral adornments, fine filigree work, blue and black enamel accents and mesh chain with a
“woven” pattern. Dark-colored stones such as onyx and bloodstone were popular and platinum
became the predominate metal of choice for mounts and better pins. Gypsy mounts were used
for faceted stones and cabochons became more widely used. Stickpins, filigree bar pins, sport
motif jewelry, crescent shapes and insect pins were all popular in the late Victorian era. This
period can be divided into three different categories.
This period is sometimes referred to as “THE ROMANTIC PERIOD”. Jewelry continued to
reflect sentimental motifs, but unlike the Georgian Period, jewelry increased in size. Since gold
was scarce jewelry tended to be lightweight, constructed from very thin sheets of gold that were
die struck, chased and engraved to give the illusion of size and heft. You will see foil backed
stones and micro-mosaics in glass in this period. In the late 1800’s there is a resurgence of very
“romantic” jewelry that is delicate, sentimental, and is also referred to the ROMANTIC
PERIOD. We refer to this period (1837-1859) as EARLY VICTORIAN.
The other designation that refers to this era is THE GRAND PERIOD. This is an apt
description as jewelry from this period is grand in scale and quantity. It was large, massive,
over-done, and worn in quantities. Often you will see large corsage ornaments, tiaras, bib style
and dog collar style necklaces.
Sometimes these late years are referred to as THE AESTHETIC PERIOD because of the
revivals of styles (Egyptian, Gothic, Renaissance, Algerian, Classic, etc.—whatever could be
revived, was) were all at their peak.
Around 1895, there was a splurge of romantic jewelry that was sweet, small, constrained and
sentimental. Also around this time (1895-1915) ART NOUVEAU and Arts and Crafts came into
1822—George IV wears Scottish jewelry, but the true revival and interest in Scottish Jewelry
begins when Queen Victoria obtains Balmoral. Later she requires Scottish dress to be worn at the
opening ball of the 1851 World Exposition.
1827—Unearthing of tombs in Italy begins the Etruscan Revival.
1845-47—excavations of Nimrud and Nineveh begin the Assyrian Revival.
1859-69—Suez Canal and discovery of Queen Ah-Hotep’s jewels (1859) are impetus for Egyptian
1850’s—John Ruskin’s writings and lectures and the writings and actions of William Morris (who
helped establish a communal artistic group) fostered interest in all of the ‘decorative’ arts and began
the Arts and Crafts movement.
1922—Howard Carter, a famous archeologist, discovered the tomb of King Tutankhamen and sparks
an Egyptian design period.
**Note that labels designate styles and periods. Many styles over-lap during periods of time and
nothing precisely begins and ends as we might wish in our attempt to classify antique jewelry.
The above designations of Periods/Styles must be considered only a GUIDE to learn about
Compete Price Guide to Antique Jewelry-First Edition
Richard E. Gilbert and James H. Wolf
Antique Jewelry History Seminar N.A.J.A. Annual Conference
Thomas Elliott, G.J.G (GIA)
North American Gemological Laboratory, LLC
13400 NE 20th St
Bellevue, WA 98005
The Modern Era: Art Deco, Retro, Cocktail, Studio Jewelers, etc (1919 to Present)