The Victorians wore jewellery which conveyed nuanced meaning, expressed sentiment and brought fortune. They celebrated life events, friendship, love, and courtship with these designs. Below is a list of motifs and an outline of what they symbolised for the Victorians. Many of these meanings remain today although others have been lost along the way.
Birds had a wide variety of meaning for the Victorians. For example, swallows symbolized love and mating for life.
Read more about the LANGUAGE OF BIRDS
CRESCENT MOON AND STARS
The crescent moon represented a new relationship and the hope it would “wax” into matrimony. Read more about ASTROLOGICAL MOTIFS
Crossed Oars symbolised ‘contentment’.
A dog symbolised loyalty and friendship.
Figure eights symbolised eternity or ‘infinity’.
Flowers and plants had diverse hidden meanings for the Victorians. An entire ‘language of flowers’ was developed, known as ‘Floriography‘. Read more about the LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS
The garter symbolised chastity and virtue. The ‘order of the garter’ was an order of chivalry founded by the British monarchy.
The Greek Key motif symbolised infinity or the ‘eternal flow of things’. Read more about the GREEK KEY MOTIF
The mythical griffin represented courage.
Hands had a variety of different meanings, depending on the form, including affection, strength, family and love.
These symbolised love, friendship, affection and devotion. Combined hearts and flowers signified fidelity and remembrance.
Horseshoes symbolised good luck and fortune.
Keys symbolised knowledge and success and were also given as a ‘coming of age’ gift on the 21st birthday. They also meant ‘you have the key to my heart’.
A lizard symbolised ‘wedded bliss’ and was given as wedding or anniversary gifts.
Lovers’ knots symbolized ‘eternal love,’ ‘fidelity’ and ‘commitment’. See also FEDE, CLADDAGH, GIMMEL and PUZZLE RINGS
Scarabs symbolised ‘endurance of the soul.’ They rose to prominence with the ‘Egyptian Revival’ Movements.
SHAMROCKS AND FOUR-LEAVED CLOVERS
Shamrocks and four-leaved clovers symbolised good health, good luck, and happiness. They were very much associated with Ireland and many were produced there. They could often be made with real shamrocks or four-leaved clovers set under clear enamel, rock crystal or glass.
Snakes symbolised eternal life, sexuality and mystery. Read more about SNAKE MOTIFS
Acrostic jewelry was a way to convey a sentimental message by way with the first letter of each stone, the first letter of which spelled out a word. Read more about the LANGUAGE OF STONES
Further reading: https://beautifulantiquetreasures.com/2013/02/21/charm-bracelets/
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