Victorian Jewelry Symbolism

& It's Secretive Language

 

 Symbolism in jewelry is hardly uncommon, yet we often forget the complex language behind it. We use symbols very commonly today in modern jewelry, yet not nearly as intimately as in prior time periods. In present day you will see embellished hearts conveying love, personalized zodiac signs, religious symbols, gender, and cremation jewelry to name a few. But we don't always know where these romantic, magical, spiritual, endearing, audacious, blessed, grieving & gleeful symbols were brought about and represented at their best.

In 1840 Queen Victoria received an exquisite snake & emerald ring from Prince Albert for their engagement. Other women of the time period followed Queen Victoria's fashion closely and began wearing similar pieces.

In 1840 Queen Victoria received an exquisite snake & emerald ring from Prince Albert for their engagement. Other women of the time period followed Queen Victoria's fashion closely and began wearing similar pieces.

"When I carved this, my thoughts were on you, love. Your life is like this snake's coils. No matter how many turns it makes, you'll end up back where you belong. With me." -Maria V. Snyder

Stunning fiery Opal & Snake Stick Pin. Opals signified protection, loyalty & faithfulness.

Stunning fiery Opal & Snake Stick Pin. Opals signified protection, loyalty & faithfulness.

A very popular feminine symbol in the Victorian era was the mystical crescent moon & star motif, traditionally embellished with rhinestones & seed pearls.

Crescent moons in Victorian jewelry often represented spirituality and the glorification of the Feminine Moon Goddess. Whilst the stars were symbols of direction, and guidance for the spirit.

Crescent moons in Victorian jewelry often represented spirituality and the glorification of the Feminine Moon Goddess. Whilst the stars were symbols of direction, and guidance for the spirit.

A very simple yet compassionate Victorian jewelry token was the swallow bird. The Victorian era was the first to be so highly influenced by Romanticism in its jewelry fabrication. 

Antique Victorian swallow Locket with Colorful Rhinestones & a Single Seed Pearl. Swallows mate for life, which displayed ones love for their sweetheart, when given as a gift.

Antique Victorian swallow Locket with Colorful Rhinestones & a Single Seed Pearl. Swallows mate for life, which displayed ones love for their sweetheart, when given as a gift.

Rhinestones & gemstones were placed in Victorian jewelry with much care & thought. Jewelry pieces sometimes contained color coded messages with each color standing for a letter, which spelled out a kind word for loved ones.

Swallows were illustrated beautifully in fine jewelry because of their gliding slender stream lined bodies and forked long pointed wings.

Swallows were illustrated beautifully in fine jewelry because of their gliding slender stream lined bodies and forked long pointed wings.

One of the more masculine images in Victorian jewelry is the mythological creature the legendary griffin. The majestic fabled griffin guards invaluable belongings, riches, gold, and jewels in folklore.  Fictitious griffin emblems in Victorian jewelry personified fearlessness, bravery, courage, and diligent vigilance.

Griffins are known as the king of all beasts, with eagle features, talons, and a lions tail. Both animals are known as the king of the animals and birds, making it a superior fictional creature. 

Griffins are known as the king of all beasts, with eagle features, talons, and a lions tail. Both animals are known as the king of the animals and birds, making it a superior fictional creature. 

Two of the most prevalent icons that represented good fortune in Victorian jewelry were the lucky horseshoe & clover leaf.

Alluring Victorian lady with a horseshoe brooch pin adorning her collar. 

Alluring Victorian lady with a horseshoe brooch pin adorning her collar. 

Three leaf clovers did also designate domesticity, submissiveness, femininity, piety, virtue and fertility. Victorian Clover Cluster & Crescent Moon Rose Gold Ring.

Three leaf clovers did also designate domesticity, submissiveness, femininity, piety, virtue and fertility. Victorian Clover Cluster & Crescent Moon Rose Gold Ring.

"For each petal on the shamrock. This brings a wish your way. Good health, good luck, and happiness, for today and every day." -Irish Blessing

One of the more heartbreaking and sentimental jewelry fashion statements in the Victorian age was mourning Jewelry.

Victorian women weeping wearing black mourning garb. 

Victorian women weeping wearing black mourning garb. 

Sweet & Rare Antique Black Enamel Seed Pearl Hair Brooch Dating From Mid 1800's.

Sweet & Rare Antique Black Enamel Seed Pearl Hair Brooch Dating From Mid 1800's.

Black enamel, onyx, gold finishes, white pearls for tears, and different shades of hair embodied death and the departed in Victorian mourning jewelry. It sweetly lamented the loss of the beloved, before the age of photographs and proper burials. 

"For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair." -Anne Morrow Lindbergh 

An enchanting expression in Victorian jewelry was the buckle motif, found in Victorian pendants, bracelets, and rings.

..."The pearls weren't really white, they were a warm oyster beige, with little knots in between so if they broke, you only lost one. I wished my life could be like that, knotted up so that even if something broke, the whole thing wouldn't come apart..." -Janet Fitch

And a sweet ending to our coverage of Victorian symbolism in jewelry is the light hearted token, buttercups. There are endless floral motif symbols in Victorian jewelry, but perhaps none as favorable as the delightful, buoyant, sweet, and simplistic, golden yellow buttercup flower. 

Buttercups are miniature flowers with shiny petals in the floral family ranunculaceae which in latin translates to "little frog". 

Buttercups are miniature flowers with shiny petals in the floral family ranunculaceae which in latin translates to "little frog". 

There is a vast array of symbols used in Victorian jewelry and this blog post has only touched on a few of those mysterious symbols. We hope this unleashes your symbolism curiosity, makes you want to find out about those Victorian family heirloom pieces you inherited or the vintage piece of jewelry you just bought. Perhaps it will even inspire a vintage jewelry treasure hunt to acquire that special piece with a meaning that rings true to your heart!

Vintage Love,

-Dahlia Jean

 

 

Sources:

http://thegtguide.com/2012/01/27/3-ways-to-wear-a-brooch-or-demystyfing-the-brooch/

http://www.ebay.com/gds/How-to-Identify-Victorian-Jewellery-/10000000177321053/g.html

http://avintageramble.blogspot.com/2009/06/hidden-meanings-and-victorian-symbolism.html

http://www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/Queen_Victoria

http://www.ebay.com/gds/Meanings-of-antique-vintage-Victorian-jewellery-/10000000178249976/g.html

http://pastandpresent.com/2014/02/11/hidden-symbolism-in-victorian-jewelry/

https://picturespaintedbythesun.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/famous-historical-engagement-rings/

http://io9.com/love-after-death-the-beautiful-macabre-world-of-mourn-1498829544

Symbolism- "An artistic and poetic movement or style using symbolic images and indirect suggestion to express mystical ideas, emotions, and states of mind."

Antique Victorian 14K Rose Gold Coiled Snake Ring. Snakes in Victorian jewelry symbolize ones eternal love and also wisdom.

Antique Victorian 14K Rose Gold Coiled Snake RingSnakes in Victorian jewelry symbolize ones eternal love and also wisdom.

The Victorians certainly perfected this art form and took symbolism in jewelry making to a whole other level. Their hidden language is so beautifully conveyed in their timeless pieces, that we gratefully admire and humbly respect. 

Snakes also symbolized eternity. Queen Victoria's snake engagement ring had an emerald set snake head, for her May birthstone. 

Snakes also symbolized eternity. Queen Victoria's snake engagement ring had an emerald set snake head, for her May birthstone. 

"...The stars about the lovely moon, fade back and vanish very soon, when round and full, her silver face swims into sight, and lights all space..." -Sappho

Dainty Victorian Antique Rose Gold Crescent Moon & Seed Pearl Star Stick Pin Conversion Ring. Seed pearls epitomized innocence, purity, humility & harmony. 

Dainty Victorian Antique Rose Gold Crescent Moon & Seed Pearl Star Stick Pin Conversion Ring. Seed pearls epitomized innocence, purity, humility & harmony. 

Swallows also symbolized wanting your loved one to return home safely, faithfully, or just simply to come home soon. 

Swallows also symbolized wanting your loved one to return home safely, faithfully, or just simply to come home soon. 

"...Within a hush, in spring's expectant air, susurrus sound is distant heralding- White wings bright the sky, recite the prayer of swallows fierce and fragile homecoming..." -SoftlyFalling 

 "...Half-eagle, half-lion, the fabulous animal struts, saber-clawed but saintly..." -Henri Cole

Charming Antique 14K Yellow Gold Black Onyx & Seed Pearl Clover Pin. This would also be worn in time of mourning because of the black onyx style.

Charming Antique 14K Yellow Gold Black Onyx & Seed Pearl Clover Pin. This would also be worn in time of mourning because of the black onyx style.

Wearing horseshoe & clover Victorian Jewelry was an attractive common superstitious practice. It was said to help ward off demons, hardships, misfortune, and protect from evil spirits. It was thought to bring the owner success, harmony, and many blessings.

Horseshoes & clovers were thought to bring on good fortune, success, prosperity, karma and well wishes to its posesser.

Horseshoes & clovers were thought to bring on good fortune, success, prosperity, karma and well wishes to its posesser.

Something more on the macabre and morbid side is Victorian mourning with human hair, made into a piece of jewelry worn in remembrance. It was a popular thing to use a deceased loved ones hair to eternalize their soul in a keepsake portion of personal jewelry. 

Victorian stylings in hair mourning jewelry, particularly braided styles; were popular during Queen Victoria's reign. Braiding the hair kept it in tact, and was a beautiful way to display the hair in rings, brooches, pendants, and fobs. 

Victorian stylings in hair mourning jewelry, particularly braided styles; were popular during Queen Victoria's reign. Braiding the hair kept it in tact, and was a beautiful way to display the hair in rings, brooches, pendants, and fobs. 

"Here she lies, a pretty bud, 
Lately made of flesh and blood: 
Who as soon as fell fast asleep 
As her little eyes did peep. 
Give her strewings, but not stir 
The earth that lightly covers her." -
Robert Herrick

Stunning couple who may have been adorned in buckle motif jewelry. Buckles rendered safety, security, protection, authority, and ultimate victory.

Stunning couple who may have been adorned in buckle motif jewelry.

Buckles rendered safety, security, protection, authority, and ultimate victory.

The dainty little buttercup is one of the sweetest Victorian symbols. It truly embodies all things jovial, pleasant, and attractive when worn. Buttercups represent happiness, merriment, pure bliss & glee. Such a copious amount of positivity in one itty bitty delightful blossom!

"All that in this delightful garden grows should happy be and have immortal bliss."
-  Edmund Spencer, The Faerie Queen