The Art of Victorian Jewellery

A Victorian gold, diamond set brooch of floral and foliate spray design, circa 1880

From the mid-19th century an increasingly affluent middle class combined with a growing supply of gold and precious metals from California and Australia creating an explosion in demand for jewellery.

From the 1840s the classical world, Renaissance and the natural world continued to inspire jewellery designs which evolved to adorn the fashion of the times.

A mid-19th century circular gold, garnet and diamond brooch by the Neapolitan jeweller Giacinto Melillo, circa 1860

The small mid-19th century circular gold, garnet and diamond brooch is by the Neapolitan jeweller Giacinto Melillo. Melillo trained in the workshop of Alessandro Castellani. The Castellani workshop was famous for its copies of ancient jewellery. An inch in diameter this brooch was modelled on a typically classical design and realised £2200 at Toovey’s.

A Victorian gold and coral pendant brooch, circa 1860

From the 1860s, influenced by the fashion for décolletage neck lines, many brooches changed from horizontal to vertical axis designs. Coral was particularly fashionable between 1845 and 1865. The Victorian gold and pendant brooch measures some 3 ¼ inches. It, too, is classically inspired with its vertical design, classical amphora pendant drop and delicate applied wire work.

In contrast to the earlier corsets and crinolines from the late 19th century women’s fashion sought to enhance rather than alter the wearer’s figure employing softer materials. As a consequence brooches became smaller and lighter.

The Romantic Movement of the 1840s had stimulated designs in the forms of flowers and foliage. These designs remained popular throughout the second half of the 19th century. The late Victorian diamond set brooch is a typical example with its beautifully conceived scrolls. You can imagine it moving in a spring breeze as the light moves across the diamonds. It measured 2 ¼ inches.

Late 19th century Fin de siècle brooches of smaller, delicate design became popular. They were worn pinned to the lace and tulle draped around the décolletage. It did not matter whether the brooches matched, the fashion was for wearing numerous brooches at the same time.

A Victorian diamond and half pearl set pendant star brooch, circa 188

The late Victorian gold, diamond and half pearl set pendant brooch with its detachable brooch fitting measured just 1 ¾ inches. Its delicate design and scale is characteristic of the late 19th century.

Jewellery at its best adds to the beauty of the wearer and speaks across generations of love and precious moments in our human lives. These examples sold for £700, £1000 and £550 respectively. The appeal of jewellery is timeless.

Online has been an incredible blessing in these times with strong interest and prices for jewellery and across all the specialist auctions throughout lockdown. But nothing beats real life human encounters and we are now excitedly making preparations so that, ‘R’ number willing, we will be able to welcome you once again at the salerooms for valuations and auctions from the 12th April by appointment. Until then I look forward to seeing you for valuations online and at your homes.