I began my trek back through jewelry time in July, when I published the article What is Georgian Jewelry? This was the first in a series exploring the different eras of antique jewelry, including Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco. It’s now time to delve into the fascinating genre of Victorian jewelry, which hails from 1837-1901. Some major historical events occurred during this time, including the conclusion of the Industrial Revolution, the rise of the middle class, the American Civil War, and gold being discovered in a few countries, including right here in California. You may ask, “Why is it even called Victorian?” Well, it’s all from the time period when Queen Victoria sat on the throne of Britain. Pretty amazing to think that this one woman had such a profound influence on jewelry during her reign!!
Personally, every single item of antique jewelry I’ve purchased has been from the Victorian period — how strange is that?! It’s simply what I’m drawn to, before even knowing much about it. Here’s three examples of Victorian turquoise from Erica Weiner, Studio Collections and Metier. (It also doesn’t hurt that Victorian jewelry is generally much more affordable than Georgian jewelry!)
The Victorian era can be separated into three different segments. The first, called the Romantic period, was from 1837-1860. Queen Victoria was young and in love, and her jewelry reflected this. Sentimental motifs of flowers, clasped hands, and hearts (to name a few) were all the rage. Even snakes were extremely popular, as they represent wisdom and eternal love. In fact, Victoria’s engagement ring was a snake with emeralds, rubies and diamonds. (photo from aboutgemstonejewelry.com)
When Queen Victoria’s husband died in 1860, everything changed. Gone were the whimsical and light-hearted themes. In its place was dark jewlery, both in feel and color. This time is called the Grand period, and lasted for the next 25 years. Mourning and memorial jewelry were abundant, and stones such as onyx, Whitby jet, and garnets were very en vogue.
Things began to lighten up in later Victorian times — this third part is called the Aesthetic period, and took place during the last 15 or so years of Victoria’s reign. There was a return to more delicate designs, with more of a feeling of prosperity and optimism. This period also overlaps some other jewelry movements, such as Arts & Crafts.
Not only did styles of jewelry change during the Victorian era, but so did production methods. During the Industrial Revolution, both stamping and electroplating were invented. So while in the first part of the Victorian period all jewlery was handmade, in the second half it was often machine-made. In addition, in 1854 Britain made it legal to use lower karats of gold in jewelry, thereby really opening up the world of jewelry to the growing middle class, where once it had been reserved for only the very wealthy. Silver also became available in the mass market, making jewelry much more accessible.
I want to share some of the popular styles for this time period. With some, you’ll see some overlap with that of the Georgian period, such as in mourning jewlery and hair jewlery.
Brooches: These were especially popular when the fashion was wearing high necklines. It was much easier to don a brooch instead of figuring out how to have a necklace lay properly over a high collar. Not only is the bow a key motif of the period, but the engraving and the cabochon turquoise were very on trend as well. (brooch via antique jewellery company)
Cameos: They were most popular during the Grand period, and often were in onyx, coral and amethyst. These cameo earrings feature Roman centurions, and the agate is surrounded by seed pearls, another popular Victorian design detail. (earrings via Lang Antiques.)
Hair Jewelry: As you saw in the Georgian period, using a loved ones hair in jewelry was all the rage. It could be simply to honor a living person in your life, or it could be in memorial of someone who had passed. (brooch via The Rusted Anchor)
Mourning Jewelry: This piece of hair jewelry is clearly also mourning jewelry. The initials RC are on the outside, and “mama” is engraved on the $1 gold coin hanging from the ring. (ring via Gold and Silver Brokers)
Portrait Jewelry: In my mind, this is sort of an expansion of the Lover’s Eye lockets from Georgian times, which just showed a painting of the eye of one’s lover. In Victorian times, it was popular to wear small portraits of loved ones. In this example, you’ll once again see pearls being used as an edging. (brooch via Doyle & Doyle)
Posy Rings: I find these to be so charming. Posy comes from the French word “poesie,” meaning poetry. In posy rings, you’ll find short inscriptions. This particular posy ring was a wedding ring, inscribed with “A hope fulfilled. 18th March circa 1880.” (ring via Lucy Bedeman)
Acrostic Rings: These are pretty darn cool, I have to say. Basically, stones are chosen for the ring in which the first letter of each stone spells out a secret word. This one secretly says “dearest” with diamond, emerald, amethyst, ruby, emerald, sapphire, and topaz. Pretty awesome, right?! (ring via Erica Weiner)
Mizpah jewelry: Though I’ve seen mizpah jewelry here and there, I honestly had no clue what it was until I did research for this article. Mizpah signifies an emotional bond and means “watchtower” in Hebrew. It’s given to a loved one when separated by distance. How romantic! This mizpah ring is extra-special, as the word is hidden behind a hinged buckle. (ring via Erica Weiner)
Bracelets: Braclets, from bold to matching bangles to stacks, were very stylish in the Victorian period. Here’s a couple examples of popular styles. First is a snake (there’s that theme again!) with rubies. (bracelet via Lang Antiques) The second is a wide silver and gold overlay bangle with sunflowers. (bangle via the Antique Jewellery Company)
Lockets: With photos, hair, and sometimes even teeth inside, lockets were key in this period. This one also has enameling, which was also very of-the-day. (locket via Metier)
Etruscan Revial: More and more people started traveling during this time, so it makes sense that fascination with ancient time periods rose. You’ll find evidence of Egyptian and Greek motifs, as well as the granulation seen in the Etruscan Revival pieces. (earrings via Butterlane Antiques)
Out of all these different styles, which would be your first pick? I think if I were living back in Victorian times, I’d definitely be wanting an acrostic ring from my lover. And I’m definitely warming up to the idea of snake jewelry…sorry, mom!
I suppose I should be an expert on amethyst, as my birthday is this month…but I’m not. I enjoyed researching this birthstone and going on my (much-loved) virtual shopping spree. Unlike so many stones which come in a wide range of colors, amethyst really sticks to the purple family, from lavender and lilac to deep purple and red-violet. The amount of iron in the quartz determines the shade of purple. Though I have heard of green amethyst over the years, I learned this is a misnomer. Green amethyst is in fact created by heating a natural amethyst, and its true name is prasiolite. (Click here for a more detailed description.)
Amethyst comes from the Greek word meaning “without drunkenness” and has often been referred to as the sobriety stone. It can be transparent or opaque (didn’t know that!), and it has some potent qualities, such as:
-guards against overindulgence
-aids with curing addictions
-it is “nature’s tranquilizer,” helping soothe the mind and emotions
-brings the wearer balance and peace
-wonderful in meditation, as it opens the channels between realms
-enhances intuition and psychic ability
Having this new knowledge in mind, I set off on my quest for amethyst jewelry. With colored stones currently so en vogue, I was surprised there weren’t more pieces to be found. Many popular jewelry sites I visited didn’t have a single amethyst piece. (What?!) I have a feeling this is going to change with the coming season. I know many designers are amping up their color game. Nonetheless, I found many items I would be very happy to have in my own jewelry box. In no particular order:
So what do you think? Do any of these gems spark your interest? I guess it’s time for me to find my self-gift for my birthday! (But where is my bottomless wallet??) Sending warm birthday wishes to my fellow February-ians. (Yes, I just made up that name.)
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always thought of a garnet as a red stone. Well who knew, but they come in a wide range of colors, from clear to (even) black. Green is apparently the rarest color, and red and orange hues are more common. The name garnet comes from the word “granatum” (seed), as it resembles pomegranate seeds.
Garnets also have a stellar repertoire of benefits to the wearer, including:
-strengthening the bloodstream
-symbolizing friendship and trust
-uplifts the attitude/ brings a light heart
-if you put it under your pillow, will aid with bad dreams and depression
-stimulates success in business
Sign me up! For this installment of birthstone jewelry, I thought I’d take a different focus and just look at rings. In no particular order, here’s some truly beautiful garnet rings.
#RoughBeauty is the hashtag you’ll find on Variance Objects’ Instagram feed. (Click here to see their images.) It’s the perfect description of this line from Santa Cruz, California, with its semi-raw stones set in oxidized silver and various shades of gold. The juxtaposition of rough and beauty suddenly makes perfect sense when you see the jewelry in person; it’s raw, yet sophisticated. It’s wonderful.
I had the pleasure of meeting Nicole Rimedio, the designer, and her partner, Scott Zankman, who runs the business side of things and takes the stunning photographs of each piece, during their trunk show at Metier in San Francisco.
I’m pleased to share some Q & A I had with Nicole:
I know you have a background in landscape architecture. How and why did you make the career switch to jewelry designer in 2013?
Well, there are at least two ways of looking at it. One is that I realized through being in graduate school and working some in landscape architecture offices that it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. The people working there didn’t seem happy or inspired. The other way to see it is that I always wanted to make jewelry, and being involved in what I didn’t want, made me realize what I have always loved doing. How did I make the switch? I just started…
Are you a self-taught jeweler?
Yes, mostly. I’ve taken some courses in metalsmithing but my way of doing metal work is self-taught. I used the skills I learned in these classes, but I sort of deconstructed them. Jewelry making is about order of operations. I just took some of the steps out and added others. I did the same thing with priorities. The teachers taught what was most important in the process; I changed it up some.
I am completely self-taught as a stone cutter. I did watch some youtube videos and talk to people working in rock shops but never took a class. By the time I started cutting stones, I knew how I wanted them to look and how I wanted to do it. I knew my way of cutting would be an alternative.
Has jewelry always been a passion for you?
Yes. Many of my earliest memories involve jewels or stones in some way. As a child, I used to carry stones in my pockets. I really cannot remember a time when jewelry wasn’t of great interest to me. As I already mentioned, I tried to take a more traditional road, but I was miserable. Now I’m not. Ha.
What do you find the biggest challenges and rewards are as a jewelry designer?
The rewards and challenges are really the same thing. As a jeweler and business owner, I feel like Scott and me are on a great adventure together. It’s a wonderful and exciting endeavor. At the same time, there’s so many aspects of it all we don’t have control over. The things we do have the ability to impact, have so many details to them. Variance is our baby; we want to do it right.
You and Scott live in Santa Cruz, CA, which is an area I adore! What’s your favorite:
Restaurant?Probably Bantam but if I really want amazing food, I go to SF. If I want love in my food, then Scott cooks it.
Retail Store?Cameron Marks – easy but sophisticated clothes, great objects and paper goods too. Also, there’s Judi Wyant Antiques. They have a great selection of antique jewelry with a focus on Victorian jewelry and unusual stuff.
Place for a great view (maybe with a cocktail?)I’m a big fan of just sitting on West Cliff Drive and looking out at the ocean.
So are you intrigued now? I bet you are! You can find out more about Variance Objects on their website. Oh, and while I took the photos in this article while at the trunk show, I have to share one of Scott’s professional pictures he recently shared on Instagram–over 5 carats of rose cut diamonds. Deeeee-lish!
Nicole and Scott, it was an absolute pleasure to meet you both and learn about the line!!
It’s always fun to come across a line that I’ve never seen before, and it’s even better when the pieces are selling at accessible price points. This was the case when I visited Red Bird recently over in Berkeley. I saw this 52-inch long necklace of chains tied on a thin leather cord from Buju Jewelry. Hmmm…what could I do with that? I was intrigued. It seemed like a perfect layering necklace.
Well, I thought it might be fab with the Arielle de Pinto necklace from Metier, right?! They seemed to speak the same language, with their chains and coloration.
Loved the combo, and I’ve already worn it a few times in the past week. (Just fyi…I prioritize jewelry purchases over buying groceries. And I know I’m not the only one out there!)
Checking out their website, I learned that the co-desigers are two gals from “Bu” (aka Malibu) who were looking to create a line that’s ethnic and organic, yet still completely current. I think they’ve really struck this chord with their designs. Here’s a selection of bracelets and necklaces from their website.
I think it’s fresh and fun, and it fits in perfectly with my “urban bohemian” personal style. What do you think? Could you see yourself donning this line?
What?! Don’t you live/work in SF? Well, yes…I do. I am a Bay Area native. I work in San Francisco many days a week, and I lived in Pacific Heights for a few years as well. (I currently live 15 miles south of the city.) But don’t you find that when you live somewhere, you often don’t take the time to visit all the cool, local places as opposed to when you’re visiting somewhere new? Heck, I know SF born and bred people who have never been to Alcatraz or walked the Golden Gate Bridge, but I know all my friends who’ve visited from abroad have done these things!
This was the impetus for Friday’s field trip, with my fabulous co-hort, Jennifer Bressie. There were a few jewelry stores in areas of SF we don’t often frequent which have been on our “must see” list. So we both cleared our schedule for the day to check them out. Jen was the driver, and I was the the direction girl…(Jen probably should have been worried when I had my directions scrawled on a piece of paper, instead of using Google maps on my phone!)
Our first stop was going to be D & H Sustainable Jewelers in the Castro. Now I know that directions aren’t my strong suit, but the streets in the area where Noe and Market (and others?) meet are so catywompus, that we found ourselves stuck behind this trolley, at a dead stop. (Please note the “Dead End” sign to the right. It’s true, signs don’t lie.) Oops! Let’s do a “creative” U-turn. Perfect. Did I mention I’m not the best navigator?!
But it was all worth it, and Jen’s superb driving skills got us to our destination. In a matter of about 10 minutes, I knew that I wanted Shawn Higgins, half of the duo behind D & H Sustainable Jewelers, as a new best friend. His humor, expertise, and openness are infectious.
This store is among the first that will be SCS certified, meaning that 100% of their products are ethically sourced and sustainable. What a fabulous feat! They sell their own designs, as well as representing many other jewelry designers. It’s clear that bridal is a huge category for them. Being the magpie that I am, I went straight for the bling-iest ring in the case, featuring a flawless yellow canary diamond. (This is one of their own designs.)
Another one of their amazing pieces is this cage pendant, which took over a year to make, to get it just right. It’s made of sterling silver and 14K gold, and housed an incredible Alexander the Great coin, dating back 2500 years. Adore.
You can open it up, and really put whatever sort of talisman you’d like inside.
I also thought this necklace, made from a re-purposed 1910 Edwardian lingerie pin was quite fantastic.
If you’re looking for a supremely unique wedding ring for your guy, then check out this Gibeon meteorite set in rose gold by Lashbrooke!
After briefly meeting Lindsay (the other partner), we had to run. Lunch was most definitely next on the agenda, and you can’t go wrong with the croque monsieur (for me) or the burger sans bun (for Jen–she’s so good!) at Absinthe in Hayes Valley.
With our appetites sufficiently satisfied, were were off to Metier. You may be familiar with this store. They spent 5 years on Maiden Lane (Union Square), 16 years on Sutter (where they were a large clothing and jewelry boutique), and then a year in the Shreve building, before moving to this new location on Laguna. This jewel-box of a boutique offers both vintage/antique jewelry as well as merchandise from current designers. The more carefully you look, the more you see. The owners, Sheri Evans and Trina Papini, have an impeccable eye, so the collection is curated to perfection. During our visit, the place was hopping with customers!
I couldn’t resist trying on these Georgian rings, which are from the late 1700’s-early 1800’s. Amazeballs.
Or what about one of these silver bracelets, from Victorian to Arts & Crafts? So easy to mix with current outfits!
One of the current designers they carry is Arielle de Pinto, who weaves magic with metal. The ombre finish on this necklace is just perfect.
Loved seeing Sheri and Trina, and I’ll certainly be back soon.
Our last stop of the day was in the Mission. Love & Luxe is an amazing jewelry gallery and atelier owned by artist-in-residence, Betsy Barron. She shows her own work and also showcases 40+ other hand-crafted lines in her spacious store. As luck would have it, she came to the store during our visit. Yay!
First checking out Betsy’s line, I couldn’t help but try on a few rings.
Jen was in love with this rose gold locket from 1870. She is a total rose gold girl!
I definitely have always had a thing for turquoise, and this vintage-inspired design with Sleeping Beauty turquoise by Chris Neff made me smile.
Definitely one of the most unique lines I’ve ever seen is James Banks, which is a collaboration between Adam Schulman and Heidi Nahser-Fink. Here is their necklace called “Lightkeeper.” On one necklace, there is a glass bulb filled with black diamonds and one ruby. Then on the other necklace are the “tools” you can use to open the bulb to add/change whatever you want inside. Have you ever seen something like this?!
Even the box it comes in is exquisite.
There was also a lovely selection of work by Johnny Ninos. His current collection is inspired by barnacles, as shown in these rings. Organic beauty, no doubt.
Jen had to take one more look at that locket before we had to leave and get back on the road…
I can’t think of a better way to spend the day–with a life-long friend (We actually went to kindergarten together!) looking at gorgeous jewelry! Thanks to all of you for your time, knowledge and kindness!