A Guide to Mid-Victorian Jewellery
The Mid Victorian Jewellery 1860 to 1985 – the Grand Period Victorian jewellery during this era– often referred to as the Grand period – is sometimes considered an extension of the romantic period. Many of the themes found emerging in the romantic period bloomed during the grand period. Jewellery featuring lockets rose to prominence, with places to store pictures of loved ones. Rope designs also became more popular, possibly due to their intertwined patterns, suggesting a strong bond between two individuals. Although death and war perpetuated the Victorian desire for remembrance jewellery, new developments and ideas influenced Grand Period jewellery.
In 1879, the incandescent bulb placed jewellery in a whole different light, literally. Diamonds dazzled under electricity. The discovery of a diamond mine in South Africa in 1867 had created a great demand for the gems. The Grand Period also opened doors socially for women. As men were called to war, women filled the jobs they vacated. Also the Married Women's Property Act was passed in 1870. This allowed any money which a woman earned to be treated as her own property, and not her husband's. Further campaigning resulted in an extension of this law in 1882 to allow married women to have complete personal control over all of their property.
A revolution in secondary jewellery or costume jewellery was in full swing. Gas and steam engines found their way into jewellery workshops and low karat gold and rolled gold replaced the use of gilt metal in lower-priced jewellery. Sheets of this gold cemented to brass could be rolled paper thin and machine stamped into jewellery items. In order to give these pieces enough weight, they were filled with base metal. Pinchbeck disappeared replaced by this new process. This revolution allowed the secondary jewellery to be produced for affordable prices. Women could now buy a complete suite of brooch, earrings, and necklace for a fraction of the price.
With changes in fashion, a tie pin was the only item of jewellery that men could wear. With the restrained style of clothes, the tie pin could be flamboyant or reserved and show political, sporting, hunting, or military allegiance. It was an almost unlimited opportunity to show the wearer’s interests. Although tie pins were mainly worn by men, they were also worn by women under guises and names such as a dress pin, breast pin, coat pin, shawl pin, but all were ornamental. The Renaissance and Egyptian revivals were joined by a classical revival of Greek and Etruscan styles in the Grand period.
The famous Italian jeweller, Fortunato Pio Castellani, produced jewellery in Greek and Etruscan style. His workshop in Rome became very popular and an attraction for English tourists. Castellani used his granulation skills and other ancient jewellery techniques, he went on to produce many amazing replicas of the jewels discovered in the excavations of these ancient Greek civilizations.
In 1858 Fortunato Pio’s son Augusto continued to reproduce Greek and Etruscan jewellery along with Renaissance and Scandinavian jewellery. The jewellery enhancement techniques of engraving and chasing were replaced by the revival of ancient techniques to create matte and shiny surfaces, depth and relief were provided by corded wire, filigree, and granulation.Greek and Roman coins were also featured, set prominently in these archaeological jewels. Castellani’s work spread through Europe and the style was adopted most famously by Fontenay in France, John Brogden and Robert Phillips in London and by Italian Carlo Giuliano, who moved to London.