The Victorians assigned symbolism to many things and birds in jewellery held a nuanced and precise meaning. Below is an overview of this meaning.
SWALLOWS AND BLUEBIRDS
Both swallows and bluebirds had a special meaning for seafarers because these birds were the first sign that land was near. Swallows were thought to lead ships home and prevent them from being lost. The meaning assigned to these birds became to be ‘safe home’, or ‘to safely return home’ and so they were often given to loved ones when they set out on a journey. They also symbolised ‘heart and home’ and were associated with faithfulness. ‘Messengers of Venus’ was another assigned meaning. Flying birds in general were thought to represent the soul.
Doves have carried the meaning of hope and peace since ancient times. During Victorian times, they were often shown with the word pax (the Latin word for peace) holding an olive branch in their beak. The dove was a symbol of faith and was meant to represent The Holy Spirit. The French ‘Saint Esprit’ or ‘Holy Spirit dove’ could often be depicted descending from heaven to earth with wings spread. Doves were often pavé set with turquoise, which was meant to bring luck to the wearer. When the dove held a heart in its beak, it symbolised love.
A bird’s claw meant ‘Thinking of you’ or ‘Praying for you.’
A phoenix represented renewal, resurrection, rebirth and immortality.
Swans were symbolic of ‘purity and grace’.
The meaning of the humming bird was ‘God’s Tiny Miracle’
The pheasant was thought to symbolise nobility, virtue and refinement. It also evoked the spirit of the countryside.
Love birds signified faithfulness, eternal love and marriage
Blackbirds were worn during mourning.
A crow or raven meant ‘Protection of friends’.
An owl represented vigilance and wisdom.
A peacock represented immortality, beauty and knowledge.
An eagle represented nobility, strength, courage, wisdom and power.
Feathers signified ‘obedience’ and could imply the obedience of a wife to her husband or to God.
Parrots and birds of paradises were also often depicted but I have yet to discern the symbolic meanings.
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