The Victorian period, from the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837 until her death in 1901, covers a number of different styles in jewellery. For the first 20 years of Victoria’s reign, there was not really a clear distinction from the jewellery styles of the previous 20 to 30 years, except they were perhaps smoother, flatter and slightly less ornate styles. During this time, hair was generally drawn back off the face and worked into a bun at the back. Ringlets made with curling tongs often lined the face. Sometimes ears were covered, either smoothly as the hair was drawn back or with braids and loops, like an early Princess Leia look.
In the 1850s and 1860s, hair became less severe and was fluffed out around the face, with the back hair either braided or worn in a net, often jewelled. In the 1870s and 1880s, hair was worn up in rolls or plaits and was piled high, with false hair pieces being added for bulk. Fringes became common and soft curls along the temples.
In the 1890s and beginning of the 20th century, hair styles were soft and piled loosely on the top of the head, with soft curls. Throughout all these different stages of hairstyle, drop earrings were in fashion.
There were three important influences on fashion and jewellery during Victoria’s reign. The first was Queen Victoria herself. Styles changed during the early decades of her reign, reflecting the years of her marriage and then her long widowhood, and finally her old age. Second was the global dominance of England with her vast overseas possessions, which led to new sources in gold and finds in gemstones, and to new styles of jewellery. Third were discoveries like the excavations in Egypt, Turkey and Iran, as well as Ireland. I will talk about more about these influences next week.