Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Little Jewelry History ~ Part One: Victorian Era/Industrial Revolution

“We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.”
~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

This is a first in my series of jewelry history posts. I thought it would be nice to take a little trip back through time and showcase a few of the eras that my re-purposed pieces have evolved from.

Here is a brief look into the Victorian Era/Industrial Revolution.

The Victorian Era was the period of Queen Victoria’s reign over the United Kingdom, from 1837 to 1901. This was also the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, a very exciting time when America’s spirit of creativity was boundless.

American women were looking to Paris for fashion, dresses were long and full and jewelry was limited to hair ornaments, brooches and bracelets.

Cameos were popular.

Cut steel was very much in fashion and England was known for it’s cut steel industry. Cut steel was produced by riveting rosettes of thin metal to a metal plate. Even though cut steel glittered it was not considered flashy, thus the Victorians considered it proper day wear. Cloak clasps, shoe buckles, brooches and chatelaines were some of the popular items made of cut steel.

One of my favorite materials used during this period is Whitby Jet. Made popular by Queen Victoria after the death of her husband. It was the custom to be in a period of morning for two years after the death of a spouse and Whitby Jet solved the problem of suitable jewelry. Jet is a hard black coal like material that is derived from fossilized wood found in the cliffs. The finest jet was mined in Whitby, England.

Although I am not fortunate enough to own an original antique piece of Whitby Jet, I did visit Whitby while on a trip to England and purchased a wonderful modern piece from one of the only two jet cutters working today. It is now illegal to mine jet, so the only new source comes from what is found washed up on the shore.

During the later part of this period came the Arts and Crafts Movement, and the popularity of Art Deco and Art Nouveau.
The French combined the best of the past with techniques from China, the sensuousness of the end of the century and Art Nouveau was born.

These are a few of my favorite styles, materials and looks from the
Victorian Era/Industrial Revolution. Hope you enjoyed the trip back!


  1. What an interesting and informative post! Beautiful pieces too! And I love the quote you used. I'm looking forward to my next fashion history lesson!

  2. Thank you for following me! I am following you back! LOL

    Wonderful and informative post. Very interesting to know that it is illegal to mine jet now.

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  3. Thank you for the feedback Amanda & Sheryl.
    Thanks for following Lambs & Ivy Design! I found that interesting also... The reason they can't mine the jet in Whitby is when they dig or mine into the cliffs they become unstable and it compromises the town.