Transformations of Victorian Jewellery
Queen Victoria ruled for an impressive sixty three years and was the longest reigning British monarch before the current Queen Elizabeth II surpassed her. During this long period (1837-1901), fashion, and subsequently the accompanying jewellery, frequently morphed to keep up with social changes. During the early years of Victoria’s reign delicate repoussé metal-work framing a locket containing a treasured lock of hair was typical of the Romantic sentiment of the Queen and the nation in the early years of her marriage to Prince Albert. In contrast the jewellery after Albert’s death became austere, with large stones of sombre colours or cameos were placed in heavy settings. Then in the last years of Victoria’s rule jewellery transformed again, becoming lighter and smaller as practicality and affordability superseded ornate aristocratic tastes with the increased leisure activities enjoyed by women in the growing middle classes. The design of brooch clasps is a particularly clear example of this change: from a single pin on a simple ‘c’ clasp to more elaborate safety mechanisms.