Queen Victoria -The First Trendsetter

Queen Victoria’s reign was the second longest of any British monarch in history, spanning from 1837 until her death in 1901. Victoria’s long rule and beloved status meant she influenced many areas of public life including politics, social mores and fashion. The advent of photography and advances in the printing press at the beginning of her reign brought with them the first wave of mass media. From the day of her coronation the young Queen’s portrait was everywhere. Women’s magazines highlighted Victoria’s preferences in clothes and jewelry and for the first time in history enabled the world to mimic a royal’s style. Portraits from the nineteenth century show women copying Victoria’s jewelry and gowns almost exactly.

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Common people now had the images needed to emulate Victoria’s style and the industrial revolution gave them the wealth and products to purchase their own versions of it. Up to this point essentially all jewelry was being totally handmade with expensive 22k gold, 18k gold and silver. With rapid advances in technology, machines could now cut & stamp metal, make chain and electroplate gold onto base metals. The proliferation of factories meant metalworking could now be performed mass scale with affordable materials.  Suddenly jewelry was accessible to almost everyone.

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Victoria wore jewelry liberally and her tastes transitioned throughout her long reign mirroring the changes in her life. Prince Albert gave Queen Victoria a snake ring set with her birthstone, an emerald, as her engagement ring. This quickly started the trend for serpentine adornments, which were ancient symbols of eternal love. On her wedding day she wore a simple wreath of orange blossoms on her head and it became the iconic bridal headdress from that day forward.  Later Albert gifted her with a gold and porcelain orange blossom brooch and later included earrings and a wreath, all in the orange blossom theme. It was quite possibly the most copied of all of the Queen’s jewels. Orange blossom also became a popular motif in wedding bands especially in the Art Deco era. When Prince Albert died in 1861 Queen Victoria went into a prolonged period of grieving and Victorian society followed her lead. Black clothing and black mourning jewelry came into vogue. Jet (black fossilized wood) and tortoise shell were some of the materials used because their dark colors reflected the theme of loss. Lockets filled with photo miniatures and locks of hair became popular mementos. The world observed Victoria through every phase of her reign and emulated her evolving style more than any public figure before her.

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Author: Catherine Thies

2fb1dc9aab426def7d8ae823974097f9Jewelry has been an important part of my life since birth as I am a third generation antique jeweler; but my love affair with jewels started when I was a little girl. There was nothing more exciting to me to try on my mother’s jewelry when she returned home from their jewelry store. My passion grew as I became educated on antique designs, makers and the true art form of fine craftsmanship. I believe no matter the budget you can find something in our collection that makes you feel special and appreciated.

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