The Victorian period spanned Queen Victoria’s rule of England from 1837 to 1901. Jewellery from this era is usually recognised as three distinct periods: the Romantic period from 1837 to 1861; the Grande period from 1861 to 1880; and the Aesthetic period from 1880 to 1901. Victorian jewellery design was very much influenced by historical and cultural events as well as from the technological developments arising from the industrial revolution.
Many styles came and went, often with several styles coexisting as tastes slowly changed – transitions were not usually defined or sudden. Although some motifs and gems can be said to be more typical of one period over another, all can be found throughout the ages. Often, suites of jewellery from a previous family generation were broken down or combined with newer pieces. Larger pieces such as brooches would be cut down or simplified for another use such as turning into a ring. The quality of jewellery varied depending on the customer’s budget, however, jewellery worn as a sign wealth did not always reflect good taste and design.
In Europe it was often the ruling families who set the tone and styles of jewellery, and this was certainly the case with Queen Victoria who came to the throne in 1837 at the age of 18. Her love of jewellery had a great influence on the many styles that developed throughout her reign.