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:


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.

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