Dear Sir, I am seeking to purchase some Victorian Era jewelry for my Second Life wife..what sort of gemstones were popular during the era ..should I be looking for a particular design in a ring? Thank ye kindly.
Sir, you are a gentleman and I commend you on being so thoughtful of your beloved spouse. In order to properly answer your question I had to do a little resarch of my own. I shall summarize some of that information here and will provide links to the articles themselves should you or my other dear readers wish to peruse them. <adjusts his professorial mortar board>
The Victorian era spanned 64 years and is divided into 3 major periods, The Early Victorian Period, or Romantic Period, spanning 1837-1860; the Mid or High Victorian Period, also known as the Grand Period spanning 1860-1885; and the Late Victorian Period, or Aesthetic Period spanning 1885-1901. The world of nature, inspired from styles of the Renaissance and Middle Ages, were very popular motifs in Victorian Jewelry. Bouquets of flowers, branches, leaves, grapes and berries remained fashionable. There was a symbolism associated with flowers that carried through the first half of the century. Snake and serpent motifs, as symbols of wisdom, reached their peak in the 1840's. The most popular metals incorporated into the jewels of the era were 18k to 22k gold, tri-color gold, silver, rolled gold and electroplate.
In the late 1830's to early 40's, lady's clothing fashionably covered all of the body. High necklines and bonnets covered the ears, therefore, necklaces and earrings were not often worn. Extremely large brooches were in vogue, and worn at the neck during the day, or at the low décolletage, often combined with fresh flowers, for evening wear. Adornment of the hands and wrists became increasingly important, with Victorian rings and large bracelets designed to make the hand look dainty and feminine. The most widespread gemstones used in jewelry during the Early Victorian Period were diamonds (rose-cuts and brilliants), amethyst, pink and golden topaz, turquoise, chalcedony, coral, garnet, ruby, seed pearls and cameos. Cameos were fashioned out of many elements, including shell, lava, coral and micro-crystalline, layered quartz varieties.
The latter half of the century saw a revival of Egyptian, Etruscan and Phoenician style jewelry. The passing of the Duchess of Kent, and later Prince Albert, the American Civil War and the assassination of President Lincoln brought death and mourningto the forefront of peoples minds and influenced fashions as well. Lockets became an important fashion accessory. They were often suspended on "book chains" that could double as bookmarks at night.
Although originally considered bad luck, opals became very popular, reaching a peak in 1886. Other popular gemstones in the mid-Victorian period were amethysts, cabochon garnets, crystal, emeralds, diamonds, onyx, pearl, ruby, black glass, bog oak, jet ivory and tortoise shell. Also popular was so-called "Cock Cover Jewelry" fashioned from the ornately hand pierced cock covers from watches made in the previous century. The earliest examples of Victorian solitaire diamond rings, set in both gold and silver were seen in 1895. The most popular gemstones in the late Victorian period were amethyst, aquamarine, chrysoprase, chrysoberyl, opals, moonstones, sapphires, turquoise, peridot and rubies.
For your additional reading:
And a gallery of Victorian era pieces.