Identifying Victorian Jewelry

(Picture) Antique Sapphire & Diamond Flower Spray Pin, Betteridge
Article by Daye Salander, IAntiques

When looking at vintage jewelry it can sometimes be a bit confusing to figure out what period the jewelry was made. Here are some key items that can help you identify jewelry made during the Victorian Era (1837 – 1901).

With time and with comparing antique jewelry, you will soon get the hang of identifying the different periods. Remember that the Art Deco Period was within the Victorian Period and it tends to have of its own attributes.

Because of the death of Prince Albert and the fact that the general public took its cue from the queen, her years of mourning affected the jewelry industry. In fact, it almost drove several prominent companies out of business.

    • Stamp Act of 1854 was enacted in 1854 and standardized gold content to 9, 12, or 15 karats and gold jewelry was required to be stamped.
    • Gemstones such as Ceylon Sapphires and Alexandrites became available on in the late Victorian period.
    • Stones with 48 or more facets indicate a later date in the Victorian period.
    • Brooches were fitted with a C-clasp. The safety clasp was not used until 1910. Note that some items were still made with a C-clasp after 1910 so do not use this fact alone to date your piece of jewelry.
    • Earrings had short fish hooks.
    • When looking at a brooch from the front, normally the pinback can be seen – it is longer than the brooch itself.
    • Trombone clasps are primarily found in European jewelry and date to the 1850’s and forward.
    • Repousse is a method of using a series of rounded tip punches to create a design from the backside of a flat sheet of metal. This was popular during the Victorian period but dates back to 1425BC.
    • Hinges on broaches were mostly what is called a tube hinge. It is a long tube shaped metal to which the pin stem is attached. Obviously, when the word “long” is used, it seems long compare to jewelry made in the 20th Century. They became much narrower in the 1900’s.

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