Victorian jewelry is jewelry which was either produced in the Victorian Era, or modeled after jewelry made during this period in British history. This era has had an immense cultural impact on Britain and cultures closely related to Britain, including nations which were British protectorates or colonies during this period. Many people associate the Victorian Era with romanticism, elegance, and a bygone era which reflects the innocence of a time before the immense cultural upheaval of the 20th century.
The Victorian Era lasted from 1837 to 1901. Queen Victoria set a number of style and fashion trends in Britain during this period, and this era is notably associated with very rigid rules of etiquette, formal modes of dress, and somewhat ornate and fussy home décor. With the expansion of British influence under Victoria, jewelry started to change radically, in no small part because the British gained access to diamond mines and other sources of minerals and metals which were incorporated into jewelry of the period.
Some Victorian jewelry is hand made, reflecting a very high level of artisan skill. Victorians commonly commissioned jewelry for each other as gifts, contracting the services of artisans to make brooches, rings, and necklaces. Other jewelry was fabricated in factories, using rudimentary techniques which often involved supervision by an experienced jeweler, unlike modern manufactured jewelry, which can be produced with minimal human influence. As a result, even machine-made jewelry from this era has a note of individuality.
Certain types of jewelry were especially common in the Victoria Era, and these items are regarded as quintessential examples of Victorian jewelry. Hair work, which is made from human or animal hair, was very common during this period, as were cameos. Mourning jewelry came into fashion during the Victorian era, and Victorian mourning jewelry is heavily collected. Victorian jewelry tended to be ornate and often heavily set with jewels, with less wealthy Victorians using glass in their jewelry.
The look of Victorian jewelry is quite distinctive. It tends to be heavy and elegant, with a lot of jet, diamond, and coral. To the modern eye, it has an old fashioned feel. Victorian style has such enduring popularity that several firms make reproduction jewelry which is modeled after or inspired by real Victorian jewelry. Reproduction jewelry tends to be less costly, because it is not an antique like real Victorian jewelry. Many of the fabrication techniques for hand made pieces are the same, reflecting the fact that metalsmithing has changed little over the centuries.