For the most part, the beginning of the Victorian Period (during the time of Queen Victoria’s reign from 1837 to 1901) was a jovial one. It was a pretty good time to be alive. The Industrial Revolution was brewing right along and London was a hotbed of activity. Great Britain as a whole actually was. Overall, things were peaceful, prosperous and generally refined. The people of the time were in a mystical and romantic mood and the styles of the time reflected such. Colors were bright. Themes were lighthearted. And their jewelry? Well, it followed suit.
Animals were a recurring theme and held much meaning. For example, snakes were not frowned upon as they often are today. Instead, they symbolized eternal love and wisdom. In fact, Queen Victoria herself was given an emerald (which was her birthstone) and gold snake ring as an engagement ring from her beloved Albert. With women of the time tuned in to the Queen’s fashions as women today are to the Kardashians or modern Hollywood starlets, suddenly snake embellished jewels were everywhere.
Swallows were also very popular, since, as a rule, they mate for life. Providing your love with a brooch or locket depicting a swallow in flight would communicate your hope for their safe, faithful and speedy return to you always.
Mystical symbols were prevalent, as well. The sun, moon and stars were always fodder for jewelers whims. The moon was often cut into a crescent shape, glorifying the Feminine Moon Goddess while the stars by its side were there to guide and direct one spiritually. Symbols of luck were also included, like that of the horseshoe and four-leaf clover. Folks were very superstitious at this time, often calling on mediums and psychics to help guide them and communicate with “the other side”. It’s no surprise that these symbols also showed up in their adornments.
One of my very favorites is the hidden message, spelled out in plain sight for those that were smart enough to unlock the code. Gemstone rings of the day were not always exactly as simple as they appeared. Many carried hidden messages, if only you understood the pattern being depicted.
For more great reading about Victorian Jewelry and its hidden meanings and messages you may want to peruse this book: Jewelry in the Age of Queen Victoria: A Mirror to the World or Victorian Jewelry. Both thoroughly cover the pieces and styles of the time.