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Victorian Jewelry....The Aesthetic Period..1885 to 1901

Victorian Jewelry....The Aesthetic Period..1885 to 1901

The Aesthetic Period of Victorian Jewelry can be defined as one of reaction against previous jewelry styles. Fashionable women wanted to achieve the impression that they were a bit naughty or frivolous thus showing the world they were modern or Fin de Siecle. 
The 'Gibson Girl' was independent, fun loving, self-aware and self-assured.
Gibson Girl - This was the ideal look of beauty portrayed by the pen and ink illustrations of Charles Dana Gibson. This spanned from the late 19th to the early twentieth century. The Gibson girl represented the composite of a thousand American girls.

Lillian Russell. The picture was taken in 1898. Lillian lived from 1861 to 1922. She was an accomplished stage actress, singer and performer.

Victorian women during this period wore much less jewelry and very little during the day. Dress Balls and the Opera were the only occasions that brought out any display of jewels at all.
Jewelry was much lighter and on a smaller scale than previous years. Diamonds were perceived to be in poor taste during daylight hours.  

1885: First appearance of Geneva Synthetic Ruby.
1885: Carrera Y Carrera established.
1886: Statue of Liberty dedicated.
PIQUE D'OR HAIR COMB, c. 1900. Curved faux tortoise back comb with gold foliate design having paste insets and mounted with a large faceted amethyst cabochon.

Fabulous Hair Combs often carved from Tortoise Shell and covered in Gemstones were essential Accessories during this period.
Long chains that held coin purses, watches and Lorgnettes kept hands free, while Whistle Bracelets were a must for ladies who took long bicycle rides by themselves.
Large Brooches were replaced by smaller pins worn on the bodice of a dress and Diamond Brooches were often worn in the hair for evening. Small stud Earrings were desirable as the latest hairstyles exposed the ears.

1886: Tiffany setting for Diamond Solitaires introduced.
1886: Richard W. Sears starts a mail order company to sell Watches (Second company to sell jewelry and watches founded in 1889.
1887: Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee

John Betjeman on C.R. Ashbee

Pendant and necklace, designed by C.R. Ashbee, made by the Guild of Handicraft, 1901– 2. 

Guilds and Societies were being formed by craftsmen & artists. In 1884 the Art Workers Guild and in 1886 the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society was formed.
The jewelers of the New Generation were tired of the copying of Historical jewels from the past. They designed their new jewelry creations with more delicate coloring, soft curves and natural shapes.

C.R. Ashbee was a very important leader in the Arts and Crafts Movement and one of these new designers coming from the belief that jewelry should be designed for it's intrinsic beauty and not its intrinsic value. Many other jewelers had this same belief.


1887: Hall-Heroult process for refining Aluminum developed; First commercial production in Switzerland, value drops.
1887: Celluloid Photographic Film invented by Hannibal W. Goodwin.
1887: Gold Extraction process (by Cyanide) invented by John Stewart, Macarthur and the Forrest Brothers.
René Jules Lalique (6 April 1860, Ay, Marne – 5 May 1945, Paris) was a French glass designer known for his creations of glass art, perfume bottles, vases, jewelry, chandeliers, clocks and automobile hood ornaments
Lalique 1900 signed Dog Collar: diamond/enamel/seed pearls: the central section is a convex open-work panel with nine olive-green/ blue/ pink/yellow enamel thistle flowers w/pavé-set diamond stems, bordered by olive-green enamel bars. 14-row seed pearl band with a diamond clasp, the reverse of panel engraved w/a gold thistle pattern, mounted in gold. 

The Art Nouveau style was developing in France during this time and Rene Lalique was a pioneer in this style. Lalique's jewels usually included feminine heads with long flowing hair, soft colored stones, simple floral motifs and delicate enamels.

In England, jewelers were still searching for a new style to incorporate into their creations and Lalique's work was perceived as the culmination of the new aesthetic that these jewelers were striving to achieve.

With English women of this era, a more conventional type of jewelry was still popular but there was a transformation of the style to a simpler look with a featured gemstone.


1887: Black Opals discovered in NSW, Australia; Commercial mining at Lightening Ridge begins in 1903.
1887: The Belais Brothers of New York begin experimenting with alloys for White Gold (c.) David Belais introduces his formula to the trade in 1917 (18K Belais).
1887: Tiffany & Co. purchases the French Crown Jewels.

Late 19th century amethyst and diamond pendant brooch, c. 1890, the octagonal step-cut amethyst to diamond line collet mount and undulating openwork diamond line border suspended from a diamond-set pendant loop, pendant loop and brooch fitting both detachable, set in gold with platinum front

Victorian women still preferred Diamonds for special occasions such as Dress Balls and the Opera. Diamond Rivieres, Tiaras and bracelets set in Silver-Topped Gold were the most popular items.
The New Platinum, a viable metal for jewelry became a favorite for Diamond mountings in the late 1880's.
Near the end of the century, during the Boer War, the supply of Diamonds from South Africa was cut off and other gems regained their popularity.


1887: Birmingham (England) Jeweller's and Silversmiths' formed by manufactures.
1888: George Eastman introduces the first commercial Box Camera, the Kodak.
1888: C.R.Ashbee's Guild of Handicraft founded in London, the first crafts guild to specialize on jewelry making and metalwork.

Dogwood Honeymoon! The Victorians loved jewels with hidden meanings. For example small brooches with delicate enamel flowers set in a crescent moon, like this one, could be interpreted as "honeymoon." The small dogwood blossoms beautifully crafted in pink and white enamel also held symbolic meaning. Perhaps this brooch was a gift from a husband to his wife on their wedding night or at the time of their betrothal. Created by Krementz & Company in 14kt gold, circa 1900.

The Victorians passion for Novelty jewelry was still fueling the jewelry industry. The Honeymoon Brooch like the one above was a big favorite.
A wonderful design called a 'Lace Pin' (A short Bar Pin/ Safety Pin with a small design on top) along wit Bar Brooches and delicate Pendant Necklaces were very popular.

1889: Paris Exposition Universelle.
1889: Sapphire's found in Dry Cottonwood Creek, Montana.
1889: Tiffany & Co. exhibits Enameled Orchid Jewels by Paulding Farnham at the Exposition Universelle.
Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1923) in the role of Cleopatra - Georges Jules Victor Clairin

The loved Sarah Bernhardt, starring in the role of Cleopatre, wore Egyptian motif jewelry with Turquoise set in Silver for the role, fueling a Revival of Egyptian styled jewelry.
Jewelry from India also became very popular after the amazing displays of this style at the Exhibition of 1886

1889: Rene Bolvin establishes Bolvin in France.
1890: Gibson's 'Gibson Girl' appears in humor magazine 'Life'
1891: The marking of foreign imports with the name of the country of origin in English required by the Enactment of the McKinley Tariff Act, October, 1890.
Victorian filigree fusee pocket watch cock cover brooch

An unusual up-cycled jewelry trend came about in c.1885 - 1889. Hand pierced Escapement Covers 'Cock Covers' removed from Verge Watches made Circa 1600-1700's. Originally designed to protect a watches balance wheel and staff, were re-purposed into Earrings, Bracelets and Pendants.


1891: Patent for Artificial Horn (Celluloid).
1891: Fremy publishes experiments with Ruby Synthesis, drawings of Synthetic-Set jewelry.
1891: Power driven Bruting (Girdling) Machine for cutting Diamonds patented in England.

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The Jewelry....The Victorian Aesthetic Period..1885 to 1901

With the 60 plus year reign of Queen Victoria winding down, there was still beautiful jewels being created during the Victorian Aesthetic Period from Master Artists such as Rene Lalique and Boucheron. Art Nouveau era jewelry was still very popular and the Art Deco era was just on the horizon.

René Lalique. Comb. Two Peacocks in front of a Rose Window 1897/98. Brown horn patinated in blue and gold, disc of opals. 7-1/4 x 3-3/8
The Marlborough Boucheron Tiara
The Marlborough Boucheron Tiara ~ The tiara, which was set with more than a thousand diamonds, was made in the 1890s by Boucheron. It was given as a wedding gift to Consuelo by her father William Kissam Vanderbilt. Against her wishes, and almost against her will, Consuelo married Charles Spencer-Churchill, the 9th Duke of Marlborough, in 1895

Tiaras were often created as necklaces that could be attached to a rigid framewrk so as to do double duty. Individual pieces from these necklace/tiaras could be removed and worn as pins and pendants. The pins and brooches could also be used as hair ornaments.
The Russian styled "Tiara Russe" Tiaras with their spiky 'Kokoshnick Shapes' were still very popular during the 1890's.
Small Coronets or Tiaras set on small combs an worn above the hairline remained a popular hair ornament during the Victorian Aesthetic period.

1891: First commercial Opal mine opened in Australia.
1892: Marcus & Co. formerly Jaaques & Marcus established in New York.
1893: Worlds Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
A Pair Of Antique Carved Amethyst And Diamond Earrings. Ccirca 1890. A pair of antique amethyst and diamond earrings, each earring with a carved amethyst drop suspended from a pave rose-cut diamond cupola drop and single collet top, mounted in silver and gold. 

Victorian ladies wore their Earrings fairly small during the period 1880-1890.
Lovely Pendant Earrings re-appeared in the 1890's, usually covered in Diamonds designed to move and catch the light and sparkle. 
The invention of the "Screw-Back" Earring excited the Victorian woman, freeing them from having to pierce their ears.

1893:Cultured Pearls first developed by K. Mikimoto in Japan, first Spherical Pearl grown in 1905.
1893: 'Platingeld' introduced, used for Simulated Gold and Platinum Chains.
1893: Excelsior Diamond is found in South Africa.
A diamond, opal, pearl, ruby and enamel necklace, circa 1890, the detachable pendant set to the centre with a heart-shaped opal within an old brilliant-cut diamond surround, to a scroll and floral blue, white, green, yellow enamel border highlighted with old brilliant-cut diamonds and a circular-cut ruby, to a matching detachable suspensory loop and necklace with a belcher-link backchain
Lily Elsie, popular English actress and singer during the Edwardian era, best known for her starring role in the hit London premiere of Franz Lehár's operetta The Merry Widow.

Queen Victoria's Daughter-In-Law, Alexandra was setting trends in fashion long before she became Queen. The beautiful 'Collier de Chien' French style Dog Collar Necklaces she wore were very popular in England and America.
Necklaces took on a fringed appearance during the Victorian Period with graduated rows of Diamonds from dangling delicate chains.
Both the long Sautoirs and Chokers remained very popular into the next century.

1894: Thomas Edison's Kinetoscope Parlor ('Peepshow') opens in New York City.
1894: Screw-Back Earring Finding for un-pierced ears patented.
1894: Cross & Bevean, UK, Issues patent for Cellulose Acetate. 
An Antique Diamond and Enamel Brooch Set with a central pear-shaped diamond within an old-cut diamond, blue enamel and textured gold surround to the blue enamel ribbon surmount and old-cut diamond foliate trim suspending an articulated pear-shaped diamond pendant, mounted in silver and gold, circa 1890, 8.0 cm long
1890s tintype- touque hat filled w/ curly feathers,a brooch & net veil. 90s high fur collar on cape, decorated w/ holly.

Brooches were small, delicate and plentiful during the Aesthetic Period.

Some of the most popular Brooches with the Victorian ladies were Crescents, encrusted with Diamonds and Diamond-Set Sunburst Brooches.
Insect Brooches were always popular. Gem-Set Butterflies, Dragonflies, Spiders, Bees and Flies were plentiful.
Beautiful Demantoid Garnet set Frogs and Lizards and wonderful Flying Insects with Plique-a-Jour wings  were other stylish motifs.

Enameled Birds, Violins, Anchors, Arrows, Feathers and Bar Brooches continued to flourish.
Sporting Brooches were always a big favorite with the Victorians. Prince Edwards love of Horse Racing ensconced the Horseshoe as a Good Luck Charm.

'Woman wearing Feather Hat above' An interesting side note, The National Audubon Society was founded to combat the extinction of birds sacrificed for the purpose of ornamentation.

1895: American Consuelo Vanderbilt marries the British Duke of Marlborough.
1895: Blue Sapphires discovered in Yogo Gulch, Montana.
1895: Bonzano Creek Gold Rush in Klondike, Yukon, Canada
Antique Victorian Bohemian Garnet Starburst Locket / Brooch / Pendant. circa 1890
Antique Victorian Bohemian Garnet Starburst Locket / Brooch / Pendant. circa 1890
Portrait of Woman with Gold Locket and Bangle Bracelet

Brooches of this period were often called upon to do double duty as pendants.
Crosses and Hearts were the essential Pendants for the well-dressed Victorian woman.
Lockets were mostly small and monogrammed and set with small Gemstones.
Enameled Watches or Lorgnettes dangling from long chains around this time.

1895: The Wireless Telegraph invented by Guglielmo Marconi (First Transatlantic Wireless Signal in 1901)
1895: Sigfried (AKA Samuel) Bing opens his Paris Gallery of Decorative Arts called L' Art Nouveau.
1895: Rene Lalique exhibits jewelry at the Bing Gallery and the Societe DesArtistes Francais; begins work on a series of 145 pieces for Calouste Gulbenkian.
Victorian Yellow Gold and Coral Cameo Bangle Bracelet - Circa:1890
A diamond hinged bangle, circa 1890. Set to the front with a row of graduated cushion-shaped diamonds, with rose-cut diamond highlights, cushion-shaped diamonds approx. 3.05cts total, inside diameter 5.6cm

Bracelets were usually worn in multiples during this period. 
Sprung and Hinged Bangles and Cuffs as well as Gold Link Bracelets were fashionable. 

1895: Daniel Swarowski opens Glass Stone-Cutting Factory in Tirol, Austria.
1897: Queen Victoria's Diamong Jubilee.
1897: Casein Plastics marketed in Germany.
1897: Boston and Chicago Arts and Crafts Societies founded.
1897: Lacluche Freres established in Paris.
1898: Spanish American War.
Heart-shaped garnet ring inlaid with gold, silver and rose cut diamonds, c. 1890-1900.
Antique green tourmaline filigree ring, circa 1880, antique jewelry, Victorian, white gold, heirloom, cocktail ring, dinner ring

In Circa 1895 the earliest examples of Victorian Solitaire Rings appeared.
Crossover Rings defined the period.
Class Rings and Association jewelry became a thriving business. 


1898: Alaska Gold Rush.
1898: Commercial Sapphire mining begins in Rock Creek, Montana.
1898: Commercial Tourmaline mining begins in San Diego County, California.
1899: Boer War in South Africa starts, lasts until 1902.
1899: Diamond supplies curtailed by the Boer War, prices for DeBeers Reserve Stock rise.
1899: Aigrettes reach the peak of their popularity.

*Jeweler Mini Spotlight*
A DIAMOND, BLACK AND RED LACQUER LAPEL WATCH, BY LACLOCHE FRERES Of Chinese motif, the red lacquer pendant with raised black lacquer flowerheads and vine detail to the rose-cut diamond trim and pearl terminal, the reverse with white rectangular dial and Arabic numerals, circa 1926, with French assay marks Dial signed by Lacloche Frères, 

Lacloche Freres was a Spanish Jewelry House known for it's Art Deco Jewelry and Objects.
The firm was founded in 1875 by four brothers in Madrid: Fernand, Jacques, Jules and Leopold Lacloche.
The firm was famous for brightly colored "Lacquered and Enameled Cigarette and Vanity Cases".
At the 1925 Paris Exposition, the firm presented a beautiful series of Pendants that depicted La Fontaine's Fables.
In addition to their store in Madrid, Lacloche Freres established locations in Sebastian, Paris and Barriatz.
During the First World War, Lacloche Freres bought Faberge's London store and remaining stock when the Russian government repatriated Faberge's personnel and assets and set up shop in it's place.
Lacloche Freres closed in 1935. 


LACLOCHE FRERES enameled gold 'Necessaire' in the Chinese style, applied platinum/diamond 'shou', onyx sides trimmed in platinum and diamonds. The interior is fitted with three chambers and a mirror conceals ivory memo tablet and gold mechanical pencil. Pearl thumb piece, c. 1920.

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