=> Jewelry History - The Craftsmanship of Victorian Jewelry - Part I
=> Jewelry History - Decorative Techniques of Old Jewelry - Part I
=> Victorian Jewelry Tidbits
=> What Is This? Year  1891
=> Goodbye Sizzling Summer Sale
=> Sites of Interest

This issue is going to focus on the craftsmanship of jewelry so as to encourage you to look more closely at your pieces for the evidence of fine skills and design. If you have a knowledge of the skills used to make the jewelry it will lead you to a greater appreciation of its beauty and aid you in dating Antique Jewelry.

Jewelry History - The Craftsmanship of Victorian Jewelry - Part 1

Early Catches and Hinges

Let's start with Catches and Hinges. Sometimes you can detect the age of a piece by the catch/hinge. However, keep in mind that over the years these may have been replaced, leaving you to find other ways of dating your piece. The "C" catch is the earliest type and following that in about 1895 a safety type catch was used for a brief period of time. Sort of like the third catch you see from the right in the picture. Around the 1920's the present day type safety catch caught on even though a safety catch had been used by some since about 1912. The Trombone clasp is primarily found on European jewelry from the 1940's though it was very popular back in the 1890's as well. The clasp alone will not date a piece as you will see. As far as the hinges go... there are basically two types that are prominent in costume jewelry - the ball hinge (c 1890), which has variations; with one type you grip the pin by tightening the sides of the hinge as in the second example from the right in the picture shown. Another note: Better quality jewelry brooches usually had a small loop at the back for attaching a safety chain. On many pins I've come across, there has been the loop or even an O ring... but the safety chain was missing. These often broke over the years and weren't replaced. The tube hinge as shown in the photo is the earlier hinge - pre 1890's.

Holloware Victorian BroochBrooches during the Victorian era were often formed as a hollow structure known as holloware. This was done partly to reduce the cost but also to reduce the weight - heavy brooches cause damage to delicate fabrics and tend to sag on the material. When you feel a piece of holloware you are aware of it's light weight, however, you might also notice the presence of tiny breather holes in the back - this allowed soldering to be carried out when the when the piece was being made. The problem with holloware is that is was very often made using very thin metal so it was easily dented and crushed. Very few pieces survived in mint condition. Also there was a tendency for the metal to tear around the stress points of the hinge and latch. This type of damage is difficult to repair.
Tearing around the stress points
Note stress points on the back of the brooch.

Victorian Chains

Victorian Chains Example 1

For much of the 19th century chain were made by hand-working skills. Because of the work involved, craftsmen avoided very fine links and chains were designed carefully in order to reduce the time making them. This is understandable. I myself tried my hand at silversmithing and very well know how much work can go into a single piece, yet alone a bunch of chain links! So these craftsman used their ingenuity and made longer links. Made sense. Some of the chains were made from hundreds of tiny stampings which needed no soldering.

More on Antique Chains...
Victorian Chains Pic 1

As you can see in this pic, there are three chains above (the left three) that are machine stamped and connected with O rings.

The Graduated Curb Chain is typical example of labor intensive chainmaking. The Loop-In-Loop chain is of ancient origin and there are many clever variations on this simple basic idea. The advantage was that each loop could be soldered before being assembled, thus preventing the problem of accidentally soldering a number of links together.

Victorian Chains Pic 2

Watch Chains

The watch chain served the practical function of allowing the watch to be taken from the pocket and retained securely while being used. The Albert Chain was a long chain which was secured at the center to one of the buttonholes of the waistcoat and hung in curves to pockets on each side. (SEE BELOW)

Albert Watch Chain
Ladies Rolled Plate Victoria Chains
c 1892 Variety of Ladies' Rolled Plate Victoria Chains

Rolled Plate Dicken Vest Chains

Jewelry History - Decorative Techniques of Old Jewelry - Part I


Repoussé is a method of imparting a raised design or pattern to a flat sheet of metal by punching the forms in from the back. The metal is supported on a block of pitch (sometimes made of wood) which provides a cushion for the forming of areas which have to be raised by the carefully using a series of punches with rounded tips. Since not all of the detailed work can be done this way the metal is turned over and the finer details of the design are punched in from the front, once again with the pitch supporting the metal. The use of steel punches this way is called Chasing. Repoussé is a time consuming task and was mostly used on the larger, more valuable pieces in Western Jewelry.

Repousse Example

An example of the Repoussé Technique

Victorian Jewelry Tidbits

Interest in 19th c jewelry is growing these days. Could it be because we're in a new millennium now and the jewelry seems older to us? Those Victorian days are getting away from us... and sooner or later the jewelry from that era will be harder and harder to obtain.

During the 1930's it wasn't very popular and thought to be in shocking taste. With the passage of time, the jewelry begins to look more and more antique and has found favor again. During World War II it was impossible to buy new jewelry and this turned the attention of many women to second-hand shops where to their astonishment they found beautiful Victorian brooches, bracelets and rings.

One sad consequence of this renewed popularity of Victorian era jewelry has been that inferior imitations are cropping up everywhere, and the collector has to distinguish between the genuine and the fake. The more you look at genuine Antique jewelry, the more you'll be able to recognize the imitiations.

During Victoria's reign which was about 60 years, everyone wore jewelry following the example of the Queen. They wore more jewelry than we do today - especially on their heads. One look in an old Godey's Magazine will show you the various ways the women wore their hair up and adorned it with jewelry.

There are many objects that aren't exactly considered jewelry but are very collectible. Buckles and clasps, links and studs, châtelaines, jewelled belts, fan holders, bouquet holders and lorgnettes.

The Victorian era was a time of quick changing fashions and you can see the changes in the appearance of the jewelry from decade to decade. There are three main periods that stand out in the transition of the jewelry; The Early Victorian or Romantic Period (1837 - 1860); The mid-Victorian or Grand Period (1860-1885) and lastly7 the The Late Victorian or Aesthetic Period (1885 - 1901).

The fads of the Victorian were no different than ours today. There was novelty jewelry that went quickly in and out of fashion. In the 1860's flies under crystal were popular; in the 1870's earrings in the shapes of hammers, tongs or ladders; and in the 1880's Locomotives were worn.

Another thing I noticed is that young children today don't wear jewelry as they did in the 19th century. I've come across some beautiful little bracelets, lockets and rings that you don't see our children wearing. I often wonder how the children from that era kept the rings on their little fingers or the bracelets from being plucked off!

One last thing on the subject of Victorian jewelry that might interest you. Miniatures were much used as clasps for bracelets or as centers of brooches. The Queen liked to wear a bracelet which was made up of linked miniatures of all her children, and the bridesmaids of Princess Alexandra gave her a bracelet containing miniatures, on her marriage to the Prince of Wales. Towards the end of the 1800's it became fashionable for couples to exhange miniatures. The girl's portrait, framed in pearls, was worn by the man, attached to his watch-chain. The man's miniatures, framed in diamonds and pearls, was worn as a locket by the girl.

What IS This? Year: 1891

Can you guess what this is?

So can you guess what this is? Don't go by appearances! Do you think this is JUST a Bracelet? Think AGAIN!

Sites of Interest

The complete set of Replica Crown Jewels and Replica Queens Jewels
The British Crown Jewels are a symbol of monarchy for the British people. The Jewels have been used by Kings and Queens since 1661 or earlier and there is a long history that you can read at this site. The Crown Jewels are part of the National Heritage held by the Queen as sovereign... They are now in the Tower of London which the Queen opened in 1994.

I was browsing the web and found one of many sites that prove just how much jewelry can be a very good investment as well as an enjoyed adornment. Of course, this investment jewelry is not cheap and as my mother always said, "It take money, to make money"; unless of course you get super lucky and have a keen eye to find that buried treasure. Chit Chat Jewelry

Yes, it is still possible to find gold in them there hills... and I'm proof. A few years back I purchased a pin on eBay for 30 dollars. It was sold in a Krementz box and I KNEW it wasn't a Krementz piece of jewelry because the box was from the 1960's and the pin looked quite old. I fell in love with it immediately. I purchased it and took it to the Antique Road Show where it was appraised for $1800. It was 18kt gold with a mined diamond and a mississippi river pearl. Just sayin'....

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