Victorian Jewelry – Victorian Brooches

Brooches Top

It’s time for Victorian to come back into style! Keeping with that, we hope to do a short series on Victorian Jewelry and are going to begin with brooches…..

The Victorian Era ran during the reign of Queen Victoria of England and is generally acknowledged as covering the years 1835 to 1900 (though Victoria’s coronation was in 1837 and she passed in 1901). A number of styles and cultural trends influenced the jewelry produced during this lengthy period and it does not fit neatly into any single box.  Among the many influences are the following:

  • Romanticism – a carryover sentiment from the reign of the Georgian Kings. People were reaching back to the “good old days” when romantic knights errant traveled the English countryside doing good deeds for chivalric purposes.
  • Ancients – Archaeology was becoming an obsession. Etruscan, Classic Roman and Egyptian treasures influenced the design of jewelry. Think Scarabs, Roman Dangle Earrings, Intaglios.
  • Mourning – with the Death of Victoria’s husband (Albert) in 1861, the Queen went into permanent mourning and was fittingly dubbed the “Widow of Windsor”. Mourning jewelry became more popular. Think hair pins, carved black jet, black enamel, mini-portraits of passed loved ones.
  • Industrialization – we learned to make things with machines….including jewelry. Pieces that once took a skilled craftsman hours upon hours to craft could now be cranked out in a series of parts that needed only to be soldered together. Jewelry came to the masses.

Enough history… let’s look at some brooches:

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Early Victorian Solid Gold Brooch with Pearls and Diamonds. Quite “Romantic” with some carryover Georgian elements. We sold this piece in September.

This is a classic early Victorian Mourning Brooch. The brooch is crafted from solid yellow gold (somewhere around 12K). The gold is quite thin and the piece was maintained and repaired for many years by the original owner. It was plainly very dear to someone. The beveled glass front protects….wait for it…a woven mat of human hair that was gathered from the dearly departed before burial. By wearing the Brooch, the surviving relative, lover, friend etc., was able to literally “keep a piece” of the deceased next to her heart. While it has a certain morose quality to it, one can’t help but appreciate it as a memento of lost love. Still for sale.

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This in an early Victorian Solid Gold and Amber Etruscan influenced brooch. It is really quite spectacular. We sold it to a lovely woman from Toronto last year. The amber is slightly crazed but it has a magnificent yellow glow.

This next piece is a mid-Victorian silver filigree circle brooch with a dangle ball in the center. We’ve never seen one quite like this before and certain exactly what to make of it. Initially, I suspected it may have been Scandinavian, but a knowledgeable collector of Scandinavian jewelry disabused me of that notion, rather abruptly (sorry!). Still for sale.

  

We love these later Victorian punched brooches. They incorporate early machine stamped pieces with gentle hand engraved details. They were affordable at the time they were produced and remain affordable as collectibles today. They’re easy to date because they are usually fully hallmarked as are both of the pieces pictured above. All for sale.

Visit our eBay Store for more Antique Jewelry

ANZIE Jewelry Review

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We took a look at several pieces of ANZIE jewelry today and were impressed by the use of natural gemstones, intriguing designs and whimsical, care-free glamour that that this line exhibits. The ANZIE line is named for its founder – artist Anzie Stein, who together with her family continues to release new collections on a regular basis.

One of the things we like about this company is that, since its founding, the owners have supported important medical causes through their jewelry sales. Being a good global citizen is something important to us here at Hunter Ridge and we always pay kudos to those who do the same. Before we go any further – I have to warn you that I took the pictures in this blog myself. We usually use the photos taken by our photographer, but he wasn’t around today – so forgive me.

Now – onto the jewelry… all the items we explored today were shipped in a lovely signature gold and blue silk gift pouch. It’s a nice touch that adds something special to the gift-giPouchving and gift-receiving experience. We pay a lot attention to packaging when reviewing a jewelry line because we know that a lot of jewelry is purchased for the purpose of gift giving. There is nothing more disappointing than spending hard earned money on a jewelry gift and not receiving a pouch or box to present it in —- So – kudos to ANZIE for the splendid little pouch.

The first piece we’re going to look at is an ANZIE classic – one of the “LIFESAVER” gemstone disc bracelets that ANZIE sells to support cancer research. This bracelet is crafted from solid sterling silver and set with faceted disc shaped pink topaz,  purple amethyst and rose quartz.

Purple

All of the gemstones are 100% natural. The links are large and the stones are high gem quality exhibiting excellent color, saturation and cut. Attached near the clasp is a solid sterling silver disc that is stamped with ANZIE name and the fineness mark 925.  The bracelet is a little light weight, but it works because the design elements themselves are “light weight” –  the combination of open rings and translucent gems gives the bracelet a care-free, but sophisticated air.

Next up is a nearly identical bracelet that substitutes sea-green amethyst in place of pinks and purples of the last one.

Green

The other pieces we looked at were mostly earrings – green aventurine dangle drops, fancy cut white topaz and chrysoprase. The earrings match the quality and design of the bracelets.

Overall, we continue to be impressed with the ANZIE products that encounter. Check our eBay store in coming weeks for the bracelets posted here as well as some other ANZIE items including earrings, a few necklaces in 14K Yellow Gold and  a couple of Zodiac pieces. Following the great example set by ANZIE, we will be donating a portion of each sale to a medical research charity through the eBay Giving Works program. Look for the blue ribbon in our listings to identify the charitable listings.

New Jersey Amber Jewelry

Tiny oblong pebble of reddish Amber

Tiny Oblong Reddish New Jersey Amber Pebble Currently for Sale in our eBay Store

      As you might expect, we come across a lot of amber jewelry in our travels. Frequent trips to the Dominican Republic and the Mexican Yucatan over the last several years have allowed us to accumulate an impressive collection of raw amber specimens and amber jewelry.   Interestingly, last year we learned that some of the most paleontolgically valuable amber specimens in the world come from a New Jersey town called Sayreville. (It is still possible to collect specimens in this semi-coastal town with appropriate permission from local landowners.)

The New Jersey Amber is true Amber, not Copal, and dates from the late middle Cretaceous Period (roughly 90 million years old). [1] We were fortunate enough to visit last year with a local collector who goes by the name “Hopper”.  Hopper explained that the most of the amber he collects comes from the surface of a large clay pit in the center of the town. A combination of frequent excavations, prior mining activity, and natural forces have resulted in a scattering of mostly pea sized amber pebbles across a flat surface.

Hopper provided us with several samples of the Amber he’s collected along with a string of beads that he polished and drilled from the tiny amber pebbles. The amber comes in a variety of colors from clear a yellowish honey amber to a dark brown nearly opaque amber with heavy inclusions. Some of the prettiest pieces are a gentle reddish yellow. All of the amber pebbles have an oxidation crust on the outside that prevents their real beauty from coming through. It can be easily polished off or the pebble can be placed in water. The water temporarily hydrates the oxidized crust and creates the illusion of polish.

When we got back to our workshop, we began brainstorming as to how to incorporate the unique amber pebbles into wearable jewelry. The amber presents two limiting issues:

            1. The pieces are small in size;

            2. The amber is more brittle than other amber we’ve encountered.

Enlarged Image of the New Jersey Amber Pebbles – Note the color and opacity variance – they are under water to enhance their color and clarity
Enlarged Image of the New Jersey Amber Pebbles – Note the color and opacity variance – they are under water to enhance their color and clarity

So far, the leading ideas are: 1) to use them like branch pearls in a sculptural brooch or pendant (possible an Egyptian style bird); 2) to partially submerge them in acrylic over engine-turned sterling silver plank and then cut the plank into triangular earring faces; 3) to simply drill them as is and hang them from 14K gold wire as hook earrings. We would greatly appreciate any other ideas or design suggestions.

  

 


[1] Grimaldi & Agosti, A Formicine in New Jersey Cretaceous Amber, PNAS December 5, 2000

vol. 97 no. 25 (This is a peer reviewed paper that discusses a “worker ant” found by the author in a Sayreville Amber specimen. The intended audience is scientifically oriented people. It’s not impossible to get through for the lay person, but not an easy read either).