The Victorian era lasted the 63 year reign of Queen Victoria, saw the vast expansion of the British Empire, the results of the Industrial Revolution and is regarded as an age of innovation and social development. Democracy, feminism, unionization of workers, socialism, Marxism, and other modern movements came about.
The sweeping description of the Victorians as “prudish,” “repressed” and “old fashioned” does not do justice to a diverse age of invention, expansion, scientific advance and exploration. It makes sense to break the Victorian era down into chunks.
Britain managed to build a vast empire during the Victorian period. It was also a time of profound change in London and abroad. In England, there was a demographic shift as people swapped their bucolic existence and instead chose to live and work in increasingly industrialized towns. The population doubled, demand increased and the British landscape evolved as new towns were built to accommodate the growing urban workforce.
In 64 years Britain became ruler to a quarter of the world’s population, and was the largest Empire in History. British troops were deployed to defend Britain in far flung corners of the Empire.
Developments in transport meant Victorians were able to travel by train to the seaside, we have all seen the photographs of holiday makers barrelling down the beach in stripy swimming costumes and bath caps. International travel also became faesible. At the start of the Victorian period sailing the Atlantic took up to eight weeks in ships 1901 it took a week in a steam boat! The Victorian age was a time of unprecedented change.
Flowers, trees, and bird motifs were all incorporated into early Victorian jewellery design. Delicate forms and intricate engraving were typical of the early Victorian era. Later designs adopt the heavier aesthetic of the Gothic Revival.
Prince Albert’s death in 1861 cast a shadow over the nation. Jet mourning jewellery was all the rage; whitby Jet is considered the best quality. Touching examples of commemoratory jewellery retracing the history of large dynasties is collected today.
Archeological digs in Egypt and Greece saw treasures being unearthed and copied by commercially minded jewellers. Mosaic, shells, fringes and rosettes were abundant.