A Primer on Buying Victorian Jewelry

Published in Citizens’ Companion August 9, 2012


One of the joys in collecting Victorian jewelry is no two pieces are ever exactly alike; each piece is a unique, one-of-a-kind item. One of the pitfalls in collecting Victorian jewelry is no two pieces are ever exactly alike; there’s rarely an identical replica found in a reference book. Plus, American made jewelry from the Victorian era seldom used hallmarks like their European counterparts, leaving collectors with no concrete way to date their pieces. The final hurdle with collecting Victorian jewelry concerns the high quality of reproductions that have flooded the market over the past decade.

But there are ways to navigate these risks, though nothing is foolproof. Experts and novices alike can be led astray by a well executed replica. The guidelines that follow should be considered before buying a piece of Victorian jewelry.

Technically, anything made during Queen Victoria’s reign is considered a Victorian item. Queen Victoria was crowned in 1837 and lived until 1901. Over those sixty plus years, women’s clothing styles changed, including accessories and jewelry. For this reason most antique jewelry collectors break the Victorian period down into three separate sub-eras: the Romantic period dating from 1837 until 1860, the Grand period dating from 1860 through 1880 and the Aesthetic period from 1880-1901.

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