All posts in Antique Jewelry

Unique Engagement Rings for the Vintage Bride

One of the most compelling reasons to choose an antique or vintage engagement ring is that they are often truly one-of-a-kind. Made between 50 and 100 years ago, many of these lovely rings are handcrafted, and even those that feature die stamped bands are often mounted with hand-cut stones. To add to their appeal, antique and vintage rings often come with a reasonable price tag and a host of unique gemstones to choose from. Here we present a selection of exclusive antique and vintage rings that would serve as beautiful alternatives to a diamond engagement ring:

Antique Natural Amethyst and Seed Pearl RingThis gorgeous antique ring is a bold choice for today’s vintage bride. This may be best chosen for a European bride who will wear her wedding band on her right hand, as its bolder profile may inhibit the addition of a second ring. Featuring a stunning 14-carat, oval-cut natural amethyst, this ring is crafted of solid 14k white, green, yellow, and rose gold. With intricate floral designs and filigree decorating the entirety of the band, and tiny cultured seed pearls framing the upper and lower rims of the stone’s surround, the overall effect is one-of-a-kind vintage romance.


Vintage Filigree Ametrine Ring 18k White GoldHere we have an incredible work of vintage art in solid 18k white gold with intricate filigree. Centering a magnificent 6.5-carat, emerald-cut ametrine, this showstopping ring pulses with dazzling color, tapering from brilliant purple to brownish-yellow. According to legend, ametrine is a gift fit for a queen. The first European specimen was reportedly brought to Spain by a conquistador who received it from a Bolivian princess as a bridal dowry. He wisely gave it to his Queen upon returning to his homeland.


Vintage Opal Cocktail Ring with Black Enamel AccentsHere we offer a spectacular opal ring set princess style with nine round cabochon opals in a tiered fashion. The ring is accented with black enamel on the head and shoulders, while the lower gallery features beautiful openwork in solid 14k yellow gold. Opals were also a royal favorite, worn frequently by Queen Victoria. Representing hope, faithfulness, loyalty, and happiness, opal offers a special treasure to today’s vintage bride. As opals are sensitive to heat and other elements, it is advisable to take extra care when cleaning them and also to remove them while gardening or doing housework.


A History of Transitional Diamonds

Look Right Here! at this Vintage 1-carat Transitional Diamond Engagement Ring. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

Look Right Here! at this Vintage 1-carat Transitional Diamond Engagement Ring. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

The story of diamond cuts is a fascinating look at the evolution of industry. In previous posts, we’ve explored a history of early cuts, as well as the primary characteristics of a number of these early cuts.

At this point in the timeline, it’s time to take a look at the history of transitional cut diamonds. These diamonds are unique in that they fall outside the parameters of the Old Mine and Old European cuts of the 1800s. Similarly, they do not quite measure up to today’s standard Modern Round Brilliant.

Transitional-cut diamonds typically bridge the gap between antique and vintage. Direct descendants of the Old European Cut, these progressive cuts saw an evolution toward a larger table, a lower crown, and a smaller culet than previous cuts. However, unlike later brilliants, the girdles of these stones remained unfaceted.

These cuts were the invention of those cutters under the watchful eye of Henry D. Morse. Mr. Morse owned the first American diamond cutting operation. His passion for diamonds led to the first cuts specifically designed to unlock the beauty of these stones. For this reason, many refer to Transition Cuts as Early American Cuts.

These cuts, also sometimes called Early Modern Cuts, are considered precursors to both the Modern Round Brilliant and the Ideal cuts. Using the newly-invented steam-powered diamond lathe, Mr. Morse and his team sought to standardize proportions for cutting diamonds. Mr. Morse was a true pioneer, and as such these transition diamonds feature a wide range of proportions, angles, and facet numbers. Since they were hand faceted without uniform parameters, these stones are truly one-of-a-kind.

One could call this transition the trial-and-error phase, for that is essentially what these diamonds represent. While symmetry and consistency were the goals, it would take some time for the cutters to work out all the angles. Ultimately, it would be another 30 or 40 years before the work represented by Mr. Morse and his men would be adopted into mainstream use, thanks in large part to the mathematical analysis of Marcel Tolkowsky.

As is often the case, these practice cuts are now a significant piece of diamond-cutting history. Transitional diamonds are special, and we celebrate whenever we find a fine specimen from such an important time in jewelry history. Currently, we have a number of gorgeous engagement rings featuring transitional diamonds. We invite you to browse our selection. Don’t forget to make an appointment to view these remarkable pieces in person.

A Brief Look at Early Diamond Cuts

Look Right Here! at this Heirloom Old Mine Cut Diamond Engagement Ring. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

Look Right Here! at this Heirloom Old Mine Cut Diamond Engagement Ring. Photo ©2014 EraGem Jewelry.

It was George Frederick Stras, a Parisian jeweler, who perhaps deserves a fair portion of the credit for launching the greatest period of innovation for diamond cutting in the world. In the late 1700s, a time during which candlelight prevailed, Mr. Stras discovered a method for applying metal backings to fake glass gems. The flash of light sparkling off these imitation gemstones sparked a craving among society’s ladies for more sparkle. For the first time in history, diamonds had a rival.

As the glittering light of thousands of tiny glass stones tantalized the eyes of beholding women, diamond merchants scrambled for a way to maintain their competitive edge. Cutters began to experiment beyond the Rose and Table cuts so prominent in that day. These cuts suddenly appeared dull and drab in comparison with the sparkling faceted glass being sold for a fraction of the price of diamond jewels.

The Table Cut was developed during the 14th century. This cut featured one facet, a slice right across the top. This octahedronal cut emphasized a diamond’s clarity and luster, but failed to release any of the stone’s brilliance.

The Rose Cut was developed in the 16th century. A Rose-cut diamond might have between 3 and 24 facets, with a flat bottom and a dome-shaped crown. Named for its resemblance to a budding rose, the Rose Cut was the first diamond cut which allowed light to pass into the stone and refract in a flash of brilliance.

Amid the flurry of activity following Mr. Stras’s invention, diamond cutters soon developed the Old Mine Cut. This cutting style features a high crown, a small table, and a fairly large culet. This style was developed in the early 1800s and maintained its popularity until the late 1870s, when the steam-powered diamond lathe was introduced by Henry D. Morse’s company.

The lathe made bruting possible, a precise method for creating a thin, round girdle on a diamond. The precision of this machine made symmetrical faceting possible. The resulting new cut, named the Old European Cut, maintained the small table, high crown, and larger culet characteristic of the Old Mine Cut, while at the same time presenting a symmetrically round outline.

These beautiful diamonds remained popular through the 1930s, tapering out in favor of the modern Transitional Cuts which soon gave way to the Modern Round Brilliant Cuts which remain the most popular cuts today.

These early diamond cuts represent the majority of diamonds found in antique engagement rings. If your gal loves romance by candlelight, any one of these dazzling antique cuts will thrill her to bits. We invite you to make an appointment with us soon to view our selection in person.

Christie’s London Sale Features Several Theodor Fahrner Pieces

Works by Theodor Fahrner. Photo Credit: Christie's.

Works by Theodor Fahrner. Photo Credit: Christie’s.

Collectors of Theodor Fahrner jewels will not want to miss Christie’s upcoming Kensington “Jewellery” sale, scheduled to begin September 4, 2013, at 10:30am. These three pieces were made by the renowned German manufacturer and represent the firm’s early 20th century signature designs.

Though the firm was actively involved in the production of jewelry in Pforzheim, Germany, between 1855 and 1979, it would be during the early 1900s that the name Theodor Fahrner would become established as a leader in jewelry innovation and design.

During these years, Fahrner designs were characterized by the use of gilded filigree and marcasite, a favored substitute for diamonds from the Georgian period through the end of World War I. Credited with establishing a national jewelry arts identity for Pforzheim, Fahrner collaborated with many different schools of design and effectively marketed their jewelry internationally through the distributors Murrle Bennett & Co., whose center was in London.

Fahrner strove to remain abreast of current fashions, so their design styles range from Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Retro, and on into the 1970s, changing with the times. This wide variety of styles, coupled with their faithful use of hallmarks (a circled TF and/or “Original Fahrner”), makes Theodor Fahrner a boon for collectors.

And right now, the place to be for such collectors is Christie’s London in just two days. For more information on placing bids or visiting the pre-sale exhibition, we invite you to visit Christie’s website.

History and Characteristics of Illusion Settings

EGL Mine Cut Diamond Engagement Ring in Platinum


This antique illusion-set platinum engagement ring features a 0.8-carat, EGL-certified, Old Mine cut diamond. The central stone is mounted in a discreet prong setting, which is embedded within a fluted ring of platinum. The slender shank of the ring is accented with three single-cut diamonds on either side.

Illusion settings incorporate a ring of fluted metal, usually platinum or rhodium, which surrounds the girdle of the diamond, thereby making the diamond appear larger. Also called monture illusion or mirage setting, the revival of the illusion setting in the 1860s is credited to a Parisian jeweler, Oscar Massin (b. 1829).

Mssr. Massin is actually quite famous in jewelry circles for his contributions to the burgeoning Art Nouveau movement in the late 1890s. During the 1870s and 1880s, he perfected the tremblant and pampille techniques, which are now most associated with Nouveau Cartier and Tiffany pieces.

In 1878, Oscar Massin, exhibiting as an independent at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, was awarded a Grand Prix for his diamond lace-work tiara. The previous year, he exhibited naturalistic botanical jewels, likely set en tremblant.

As his reputation grew, Tiffany & Co. extended to him an offer to join their firm as a designer. Though he declined, strains of his masterful techniques with diamonds appeared in Tiffany’s exhibits the following year, and Clare Phillips, author of Bejewelled, supposes that he may have sold individual designs to the firm.

Though Mssr. Massin has fallen a bit into obscurity, his contributions to the history of jewelry continue on, particularly in this lovely illusion set diamond ring.

Gypsy Settings: Popular Among Men Since the 1880s

Vintage Mens Gypsy Set Diamond Wedding Band


The brilliant diamond in this 1940s vintage mens wedding band is mounted in a classic gypsy setting, complete with the star-shaped engravings typical of 19th century “gypsy rings”.

To make a gypsy setting, a goldsmith first drills a precisely calibrated hole into the band of the ring. He then presses the gemstone into the hole up to its girdle. After taping the stone and mounting to protect them, he rims the stone with a ring of molten metal and gently taps around the stone at 12 o’clock, 6 o’clock, 9 o’clock, and 3 o’clock.

He continues tapping gently at these points until the metal firmly hugs the stone, which appears nearly flush with the mounting at this point. As the metal begins to harden, he may use a chisel to add the star-shaped design flourishes. This was common practice for gypsy rings at the turn of the 20th century.

The gypsy setting is one of the most secure settings for gemstones. As such, it has been favored by men since its inception in the late 1880s. According to an 1884 issue of the Jewelers’ Circular and Horological Review, while the gypsy ring had been in fashion among men for quite some time, ladies were beginning to wear them in the quintessential Victorian three-ring fashion:

“Gypsy rings, with the stones deeply imbedded in the gold, which were originally intended only for gentlemen, are now as often chosen by ladies. As a whole, these are not so massive as those worn by gentlemen. They are rounded bands of gold and may have a ruby, sapphire, cat’s-eye or any other stone in the center with a diamond on each side. The stones are so buried in the gold that only the surface shows.” {1}

At this same time a new trend was emerging, one so novel that it was called odd in the same issue of the Jewelers’ Circular. “Rings of hammered platina* with a brilliant diamond in gypsy setting are odd looking, as the metal resembles silver somewhat.” {2} Since yellow gold was still the fashion of the day, platina was most definitely out of place.

As time progressed, both white gold and platinum became widely used for crafting rings for both men and women. What once appeared odd became highly fashionable and remains so to this day. With the resurgence in popularity of antique and vintage engagement rings, the gypsy setting proves a wise and fashionable choice in wedding jewelry, especially for men.

The classic lines of the design, long associated with masculinity, offer a sophisticated way for men to include a little dazzle in their wedding bands. And the security afforded by the gypsy setting makes it an ideal choice for men who use their hands a lot, especially if their work requires the use of tools or heavy equipment.

How about it, men? Would you choose a gypsy set wedding band?

*Platina is a native alloy of platinum with paladium, iridium, osmium, etc.

1. “Cause and Effect.” The Jewelers’ Circular and Horological Review, Volume 15, No. 1 New York, February, 1884, p. 4.
2. Ibid., p.

Antique Celebrity Jewelry: Empress Josephine’s “Burning of Troy” Opal

Black Opal. Photo Credit: Queen of Gems.

Black Opal. Photo Credit: Queen of Gems.

This stunning black and red stone, with a hint of green at the very edges, is a stunning example of a high-quality black opal, and possibly affords a glimpse of what it must have been like to gaze upon the most glorious opal known to man at the turn of the 19th century.

Though currently lost to public record, this famous opal of which I speak once belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte I’s beloved Empress Josephine de Beauharnais. Called the Burning of Troy opal, there appears to be no photograph or drawing of the (alleged) 700-carat stone, but there is much discussion about it throughout the historical record.

The Burning of Troy draws its name from the fabled flashing blaze of fire which was said to have burned so brightly within its belly that it appeared to sizzle upon its surface. Though no one contests the existence of this illustrious gemstone, the journey of the Burning of Troy opal once it left Empress Josephine’s possession is shrouded in mystery. Considering how frequently it’s discussed*, very little seems to really be known about it. Unfortunately, as is the case with many historied gemstones, the sparse accounts inspire far more questions than answers.

Until the 20th century, historians believed the opal hailed from the Czerwenitz Mines of Hungary, where most of Europe’s opals were mined. However, experts now agree that the black-backed black opal had to have come from Honduras, which makes its journey into Napoleon’s French hands even more intriguing. While many of the jewels Napoleon gave to his wife came from Italy as gifts or spoils of war, so far this writer has been unable to confirm when or where Napoleon acquired the stunning black opal.

Historians also agree that after Empress Josephine’s death in 1814, the gemstone was “lost” for nearly 100 years. In all likelihood, it wasn’t lost, but instead kept safe among the other heaps of jewels she bequeathed to her children upon her death.

It makes sense that this opal would not have been worn publicly by subsequent heirs, as it was their general custom to keep these precious gems in display cases in the palace. Furthermore, the popularity of opal waxed and waned with the superstitions of the times. Her granddaughter-in-law, Empress Eugenie, the logical choice for who possessed it during its time of obscurity, was terrified to wear opals and would most certainly have kept it under lock and key.

Current historians relate that the fiery black opal reappeared in Vienna, Austria, sometime before World War I, where it was supposedly purchased from an anonymous seller by the city. These same historians relate that city officials were offered 24,000 lira* for the gem at the end of World War I. Despite their depleted financial state after the war, the Austrians held onto their prized opal. According to the accounts, they would hold onto it for at least another 20 years, after which, at the outbreak of World War II (1939), the opal once again appears to have vanished without a (public) trace. The glorious stone has remained hidden from public view since.

I am intrigued by the histories of the Burning of Troy written between 1878 and 1917. They call into question current historical “facts,” and leave in their wake many more unanswered questions, and an enticing trail to follow at some point in the future. Here are some excerpts from the time:

“The Empress Josephine’s opal, called the Burning of Troy, from the innumerable red flames blazing on its surface, was considered to be the finest stone of modern times, but its present owner is unknown.” ~Excerpt from The British Quarterly Review, 1878.

“In the Museum of Vienna is an opal of extraordinary size and beauty, for which Lira 50,000 has been refused.” ~The next sentence in The British Quarterly Review, 1878.

“The largest opal in the world reposes in the Imperial Cabinet in Vienna. It is uncut, of 3,000 carats, and was found in the Czerwenitza Mines of Hungary, where the finest opals come from.” ~Excerpt from The Mentor, 1917

“The Empress Eugenie was one of those who had a dread of the opals’ evil influence. Perhaps she connected with it the ill-fate of another Bonaparte Empress, Josephine, who owned the most wonderful opal of her time. So brilliant were its fires that it was called The Burning of Troy.” ~Excerpt from the same article in The Mentor, 1917, two paragraphs later.

Both accounts represent topical discussions of opals in general, and both reference the opal on display in Vienna and The Burning of Troy opal as if they are completely separate. Note that the one writer refers to the opal on display in Vienna as a 3,000-carat opal, whereas the Burning of Troy is (fairly) well documented as (at least believed to be) a 700-carat stone. Note also that the the dates line up sufficiently to draw a reasonable conclusion that the two stones might be the same stone, though there is a huge discrepancy in the size of the stones in question.

So far, this researcher has been unable to discern whether these stones truly are one and the same, or whether a writer (or more than one writer) made a huge leap and merged two opals into one; something which is so easy to do when piecing together fragments of history to make a whole.

*Some accounts claim 50,000 lira were offered. It is hard to know which is the correct amount.

Vintage Celebrity Jewelry: Marie Dressler Favors Pearls and a Black Velvet Adrian Dress for The Red Carpet in 1932

Marie Dressler Wins Best Supporting Actress in 1930 for her performance alongside Greta Garbo in "Anna Christie." Photo Credit: Mythical Monkey Blog.

Marie Dressler Wins Best Supporting Actress in 1930 for her performance alongside Greta Garbo in “Anna Christie.” Photo Credit: Mythical Monkey Blog.

Actress Marie Dressler (1868-1934), wearing what became her staid public affairs outfit–a black velvet Adrian dress paired with a string of pearls and a fur wrap–poses with an Oscar. The comedienne won the golden statue in the category of Best Actress in 1930 for her role as Min in Min and Bill. Adapted by Frances Marion and Marion Jackson from Lorna Moon’s novel, Dark Star, the movie portrays Min joins Bill and Nancy to form their “cobbled-together family” which kept audiences in stitches as Min attempted to protect her daughter’s innocence from the leches who frequented their dockside inn.

Ms. Dressler went on to achieve tremendous fame during her four short years in Hollywood. Nominated for Best Actress for her starring role as housekeeper Emma in Clarence Brown’s Emma, Ms. Dressler walked the red carpet one more time in 1932, likely wearing a similar Adrian dress and a string a pearls. Though the Oscar went that year to Helen Hayes for her performance in The Sin of Madelon Claudet, but true to style, I imagine Ms. Dressler shone with her usual ebullience during the proceedings.

Not your typical glamorous movie star, Ms. Dressler does not appear to be credited with starting any fashion trends. However, she was known in her early years to have a boisterous sense of style, which she appears to have toned down, at least for public appearances, in 1919 {1}. In her early days, spent on Broadway and Vaudeville, she favored bold colors, shimmering sequins, and fanciful feather boas.

This fits the larger-than-life image her onscreen personalities predicate. However, at a party in 1919, it seems she exchanged this flamboyant attire for classic elegance. When harangued by friend Hedda Hopper, Ms. Dressler responded, “Stinker. I’m bustin’ a gut to behave like a lady and nobody appreciates the effort it takes.”{1}

During this time, the aging actress was struggling to make a comeback in the biz. After a brief success with Tillie’s Nightmare (1910), the actress fell on hard times and wound up selling Liberty Bonds during the war. Devoid of acting offers, she lost everything. Everything, that is, except her good will among friends. One such friend gave her a discounted room at the Ritz, where she eventually went to work as a hostess.

However, her dream to entertain persisted. The good will of her friends paired with her faithful persistence in pursuit of an acting career, despite her age of 50 years, slowly led to her first “talkie,” Anna Christie. Her performance as washed-up tramp Marthy re-launched Ms. Dressler into a stardom that was unheard of for a woman of her age (60, by then).

Her onscreen characters typically wore frumpy dresses and scant jewelry, which no one would say flattered the actress. These costumes, however, were perfectly tailored to her Depression-era characters, and they aided the comedienne in her portrayal of down-on-their-luck Depression-era women.

Off screen, when not attending black tie events, Ms. Dressler favored the color green. She owned abundant hats, and perhaps she still maintained a vibrant love of furs and sequins, though the record is unclear. It sounds as though she wore minimal jewelry, pinkie rings and a string of beads typically. {2}

Although she wrote in 1924, as her tide began to turn, that she “could never see the sense in owning large quantities of jewelry and keeping it in a safe deposit box or leaving it around in hotels and in taxicabs” {3}, it seems she did not allow her own opinion stop her from investing in certain personal effects, including jewelry, which were valued at $11,505 at the disbursement of her will in 1934. (Her personal effects would now be worth nearly $200,000.)

Among these jewels were a large diamond bracelet the actress left to Hallie Phillips, her closest East Coast friend, and a pin of pearls and diamonds she bequeathed to long-time friend Frances Marion, who landed Ms. Dressler her award-winning roles in Anna Christie and Min and Bill.

Ms. Dressler was a star like no other. She had an open-door policy on the set, and friends frequently found her sewing or knitting in between takes. Her daily lunches at the commissary were grand events, with everyone in sight of her stopping to say hello.

According to Elaine St. Johns, daughter to Hollywood author, Adela Rogers St. Johns, “Everyone should have a Marie in their lives. The younger stars hung onto her like crazy. She was a very open person and a friend to everyone. She didn’t have any feuds. Nobody was out to get her.” {4}

Clearly, though no fashion maven as we’re used to seeing on the red carpet these days, Marie Dressler was a matchless actress and a beautiful woman in every way that counts.

1. Kennedy, Matthew. Marie Dressler: A Biography. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1999, p. 107.
2. Ibid., p. 184.
3. Dressler, Marie. The Life Story of an Ugly Duckling. University of California, 1924, p. 196.
4. Kennedy, p. 184.

Early Victorian Wedding Customs (1837-1860)

Victorian Wedding Dress. Photo Credit: Squidoo.

Victorian Wedding Dress. Photo Credit: Squidoo.

by Angela Magnotti Andrews

The year is 1837, and a new Queen sits on Great Britain’s throne. Victoria will soon become the primary influence on wedding customs in Europe and America and will remain so for the next 75 years.

The years of her long reign will eventually be categorized into three distinct fashion periods, the first of which is marked by the illustrious wedding of the Queen to her beloved Albert. Though many customs endured throughout the 1800s, details like wedding party attire, colors and decorations, venues, and jewelry changed with the passing of each decade.

The Ceremony & Breakfast
The Early Victorian Era is best known for ostentatious and romantic flourishes in everything from literature to fashion and jewelry design. Wedding customs were no exception. Drawing from some of the enduring traditions of the late Georgian Era, as well as from some of the new elements introduced by Queen Victoria during her wedding to Prince Albert in 1840.

During these first years of Victoria’s reign, weddings would slowly adopt the elements she included in her Royal Wedding. During the 1840s, six o’clock in the evening was the customary time for private royal weddings. Thinking always of her adoring subjects (or perhaps wisely taking her Prime Minister’s advice), Queen Victoria decided upon a very public ceremony to begin at noon.

English law dictated that non-royal weddings were to be held only in the morning, often commencing just before noon in the bride’s parish church. The wedding party would then retire directly afterwards to the home of the bride’s parents for the commencement of the customary wedding breakfast. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert did the same, albeit on a very grand scale. Their wedding breakfast took place at Buckingham Palace, where her mother did indeed reside.

The Wedding Dress
Of course, the most important Early Victorian wedding detail was the wedding dress, followed in importance by the groom’s attire and the attire of their attendants. The trend toward all-white weddings was in the making, though it would be some time before white wedding dresses would become fashionable.

It began with Queen Victoria’s decision to depart form the customary Royal silver for her gown. It was further established in the late 1850s, when Queen Victoria insisted that the next two Royal brides (Princess Alexandra and Princess Alice) follow her lead and wear a white silk gown from Spitalfields with white Honiton lace and white orange blossoms.

The Queen’s insistence on white wedding dresses for her royal progeny were rooted in her mourning and hopeless romanticism. Always trying to both avoid and recreate her happiest moments with Albert, she used her son and daughter’s wedding to relive her own wedding. Her second reason was rooted in her love of Charles Dickens and her over-identification with the poor and downtrodden. Since her wedding in 1840, she used every opportunity to revive two downtrodden areas of London, Spitalfields and Beer. Her insistence on white Spitalfields satin and Honiton lace from Beer would supply these communities with work and income for months.

Since white fabric was harder to come by and was fairly impractical for most Early Victorian ladies, who could not afford to wear a dress only once, it would take a couple of decades for white wedding gowns to become the norm. For this reason, many early 1800s brides wore blue, soft green, cream, or ivory dresses. Some colonial brides ever wore brown or black gowns. The blue wedding dress was a holdover from Georgian Era traditions, when blue stood as the symbol of purity. These gowns, simple and without much embellishment, were worn later for daily wear or for Court presentation.

Depending on the resources available to the bride and her family, the dress might have been made of organdy, linen, silk, or cashmere, and it may have included tulle, gauze, or lace to accentuate the hemlines, shoulders, collar, and/or sleeves. No matter which materials were chosen, the Early Victorian wedding dress consisted of a form-fitting bodice with its trim waistline tucked into a full flowing skirt worn over hoops and petticoats.

To complete the effect, the early-18th century bride wore embroidered white silk stockings and ballet-like slippers made of white satin, brocade, or white kid with ribbons at the instep for securing to the ankles. In her gloved hands, she carried a white handkerchief embroidered with her prenuptial initials and a beautiful bouquet of garden herbs and flowers, such as roses or peonies, giving way toward the end of the period to white orange blossoms.

The Veil
Over her coiffed hair, the bride, all dressed in white, would wear a white wreath of flowers, most likely orange blossoms by the end of the period. An attendant would attach her veil to the back of this garland of flowers. Her veil would have been long and white, made from a thin gauzy material such as gauze, sheer cotton, or Brussels lace (later Honiton lace).

Though in 1840 Queen Victoria broke with tradition and chose a waist-length veil, most brides in the early 1800s wore full-length veils which trailed behind them like an angelic cloud. In some Victorian portraits, the veil appears to create the appearance of a gauzy booth where the bride hides away until her maturity is made complete by the exchanging of the vows. At this time, the veil was worn as a coronet around the bride’s head and shoulders, cascading down her back, not covering her face. After the ceremony, many brides converted their veil to a shawl which they most likely wore during the wedding breakfast.

1. “77 Interesting Facts About…Weddings.” Random Facts, last updated December 23, 2009. Accessed January 13, 2013.
2. Bridal Whimsy. “The History of Wedding Traditions.” Bride & Groom, accessed January 13, 2013.
3. Dreamstress Blog, The. “Queen Victoria’s wedding dress: the one that started it all.” April 18, 2011.
4. “Elegance of a Victorian Wedding, Part I, The.” Hudson Valley Weddings, accessed January 13, 2013.
5. “Elegance of a Victorian Wedding, Part II, The.” Hudson Valley Weddings, accessed January 13, 2013.
6. Hoppe, M. “The Victorian Wedding.” Literary Liaisons, accessed January 13, 2013.
7. Micarelli, Allison. “Wedding Style: A Victorian Event.” The Knot, accessed January 13, 2013.
8. Stajda, Sharon. “Wedding Traditions & Customs—Historical Wedding Fashions – 1850- 1950.” Squidoo, last modified January 24, 2013.
9. “Victorian Days: I Thee Wed.”, accessed January 13, 2013.
10. “Victorian Wedding, The.” Victoria’s Past, accessed January 13, 2013.
11.  “Victorian Wedding Traditions.” World Wedding Traditions, accessed January 13, 2013.
12. Ziegenfuss, Jen. “Marriage in the Victorian Era.” University of Florida, accessed January 13, 2013.

Introducing Art Nouveau—Hope for a Nation

Art Nouveau Gold and Peridot Brooch

“The works of…Art Nouveau…[have] transformed the environment of our time.” ~Penelope Hunter-Stiebel


by Angela Magnotti Andrews

Imagine a time without the sensuous lines, rich colors, and bold femininity of Art Nouveau jewelry. Naïve to the “darkness” of jewelry without the delicate beauty of the aesthetic Art Nouveau influence, it’s hard for us to imagine the celebratory and scandalous scene the jewelers of the early 1900s painted for their patrons.

While Queen Victoria set a tone of somber moodiness in her strict adherence to her imposing mourning habits, the jewelry industry made a self-preserving decision to follow Princess Alexandra’s lead in a successful attempt to revive the romantic notions associated with jewelry.

Their attempt to influence a new generation toward a renewed sense of fun and interest in fashion paid off, and from this transition emerged two of the most monumental and unprecedented arts movements of all time: The Arts & Crafts and the Art Nouveau movements.

Anderson, Judith. “Victorian Jewelry–A Little Bit of Everything.” The Jewelry Experts. Accessed May 16, 2012.