Bracelets remained very popular in Victorian period, with two or more bracelets being worn. They were usually made of linked rounds or of articulated bands, although woven gold bands were still used for the popular garter and buckle bracelets. Also common in this period are mourning seed pearl bracelets. By the 1870s, bangles, both wide and narrow, became more popular than bracelets (I will talk about them in the next post) and it was not until the end of the century that bracelets again became as popular as the bangle. By this time, bracelets were often narrower with a central gem set plaque. If the wearer could not afford diamonds, then other less precious gems were use, like garnets, citrines, yellow sapphires and peridots. Curb link chain bracelets became popular. For evening wear, velvet ribbons set with diamond or pearl slides were often worn to match a choker.
Bracelet design reflected key themes of the Victorian era – mourning, grand tours, classical revivals and excavations. Mourning bracelets were similar to those of the late Georgian era, made with rows of seed pearls, with a clasp containing a lock of hair and a bordered by seed pearls.
By the 1840s, with a more settled political environment in Europe, Victorians travelled more for holidays, particularly to Italy. There was a rapid growth in good (and bad) quality souvenirs and travel mementos. There were micro-mosaics from Rome, pietra dura from Florence, carved coral from Naples and Genoa, lava from Vesuvius, and shell cameos from Naples and Rome. The settings varied, from 22ct gold down to base metal.
The Victorians were inspired by nature, such as shells, wings and teeth, and by beautiful stones, whether these items were valuable or not. Scottish agate in particular was very popular, particularly once Queen Victoria and her young family began to spend time in Scotland, purchasing Balmoral Castle in 1847. At the peak of public interest in Scottish jewellery in the 1870s, over 1000 people worked in the pebble jewellery industry, though many of them were based in Birmingham and much of the ‘Scottish’ agate was being sourced from Germany, India and Italy. The production of Scottish jewellery was also outsourced to Germany. Some lovely bracelets, usually set in silver, were made with agate, but are difficult to find.
Next post: Bangles