Beads, Blog Hops and Challenges

Victorian Charms — The History Hop 2


It’s time for the second History Hop, hosted by Leah Curtis. I did this hop last year, creating a necklace and earrings inspired by the Art Nouveau movement. This time around, I’ve focused on Victorian jewellery—specifically English Romanticism and mourning jewellery.

The Victorian era spanned the long reign of Queen Victoria, who ascended the throne in 1837 and died in 1901. Queen Victoria, who was only 18 when she inherited the throne, loved jewellery, and her tastes in jewellery and fashion influenced the world!

Victorian jewellery is classified into three periods: the Romantic period or English Romanticism, which spanned 1837-1860, the Grand Period from 1860-1885, and the Aesthetic Period from 1885-1901. English Romantic jewellery featured stylised and symbolic themes from nature, including flowers, leaves, grapes, and berries, as well as motifs such as snakes, birds and insects. Gold was the prominent metal, but due to its scarcity at the time—the US and Australian gold rushes didn’t happen until the mid-1800s—filigree and other light forms such as chasing and repousse were popular. Gemstones and natural materials including tortoise shell, lava, jet, agate, bog oak, ivory and coral were frequently used. Jewellery was largely still handcrafted during this period.

The increase in English tourism to destinations throughout Europe made jewellery a frequent souvenir, with cameos from Pompei, micro-mosaics from Rome, enamelled plaques from Switzerland and more coming back to England. Cameos had been around since Roman times, and enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in the Victorian era, in materials including shell, coral, onyx, carnelian and agate.

Brooches, bracelets and rings were the most popular jewellery forms, in part due to the high necklines and bonnets of daytime fashions. Necklaces tended to be worn close to the neck and ranged from simple chokers, ribbons and chains displaying a pendant or locket to elaborate designs incorporating gemstones and more. Queen Victoria also loved charm bracelets, and would often give her family members charms as gifts.

Mourning jewellery was also prevalent during Victorian times, although it had been around for a few centuries. Hair jewellery was very prevalent, with elaborate woven pieces of jewellery made from human hair, as well as simple lockets holding small locks of hair from deceased loved ones. But mourning jewellery really came to the fore after Queen Victoria’s beloved husband Prince Albert died in 1861. The bereaved queen entered a long period of full mourning, with strict protocols requiring both black dress and black jewellery, utilising dark gems and materials including jet and onyx, black enamel and black glass.

So, after reading as much as I could find about English Romanticism and mourning jewellery I decided to create two pieces inspired by the era, a cameo necklace and a charm bracelet in a dark gothic style inspired by mourning jewellery.

I found it difficult to find images of cameo jewellery specifically from the Victorian era—plenty of cameos, but mostly on fairly simple chains. Most of the pictures I found came from the mid-20th century revival of Victorian style jewellery and later. My version has a green and white cameo on an antique brass frame, with some  brass connectors.  Although probably not particularly authentic, I used freshwater pearls and some faceted Czech crystal to highlight the green background of the cameo.


The gorgeously gothic dark tones of Fallen Angel Brass inspired the mourning charm bracelet. I used a lovely heavy chain for the bracelet, and dangled a series of charms from it including hearts, flowers, an acorn, a tiny hinged book of love, a dragonfly, a lock and key, a swallow, interspersed with black and smoky grey crystals set into pronged settings, dark grey pearls, black Czech crystals and even a few tiny garnet red Swarovski crystals. I did plan to include some fabulous black intaglios (reverse cameos with the image carved into the glass) set into an ornate frame, but I ran into problems getting the glass to stay glued in the frame, and decided to save that for another day.


Now that you’ve seen what inspired me, please take some time to look at the creations of the other blog hop participants. There is a wonderful range of time periods and places represented amongst them!

Leah Curtis – Indus Valley – <– Our Hostess!
Laney Mead – Māori –
Becca – Art Nouveau –
Melissa – English Romanticism and Mourning Jewellery – <– You are Here!
Tracy Stillman – Native American –

Gerda – English Romanticism and Mourning Jewellery –
Liz E – Native North American –
Ahowin – Māori (New Zealand)  – 
Jasvanti – Indus Valley –
Lizzie – Art Nouveau –

Julia Hay – Merovingian –
Dini – Celtic –
Caroline – Art Nouveau – 
Charlie – Moche of Peru –
Karin – China –

Niky Sayers – Rome –
Marcia Dunne – Celtic and Mourning Jewellery –
anafiassa – Mesopotamia –
Kokopelli – Native American –
Christa – Native American –

Clair – Roman –
Susan Bowie – Native American –
Gloria Allen – English Romanticism –
Sheila Garrett – Early Russia –

16 thoughts on “Victorian Charms — The History Hop 2”

  1. love the bracelet and the dark colouring, the necklace is very elegant. Great to read some more about the history of this jewellery style.

  2. Love them both! I think I just learned a lot from your blog. I have a soft spot for cameos, but that bracelet is my favorite. Great mix of dark yet sparkly components.

  3. Lovely designs. I like how you have really incorporated the nuances of the time into the details of your pieces. From the filigree connectors on the necklace to the sombre black swallows on the charm bracelet, you’ve done a lovely job 🙂

  4. Your post was so interesting, it really made me think about the Victorian era. Thanks for taking the time to write all that up. Both of your pieces are wonderful. Your cameo necklace invoked the era exceptionally well. The bracelet is pretty and has a story reflected in all the charms you choose. I also really liked the heavy chain you used. Wonderful job!

  5. I really like what you have done with the necklace – lovely, lovely work. The bracelet is gorgeous as well – I love the dark tones.

  6. Lovely work! Thank you for sharing–both the background behind your pieces, as well as the pieces themselves. The necklace and bracelet are both beautiful–I can’t pick a favorite!

  7. Both of your pieces are stunning, but the necklace is my favourite. Love the shade of green you used.

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