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
Victorian turquoise and silver bird bangle. Elder & Bloom.
CRESCENT MOON AND STARS
The crescent moon represented a new relationship and the hope it would “wax” into matrimony. Read more about ASTROLOGICAL MOTIFS
The simple crescent moon was a popular motif in the late Victorian era
England, c. 1890
Gold set with diamonds
Crossed Oars symbolised ‘contentment’.
Photo source: Spielman Antiques
A dog symbolised loyalty and friendship.
Victorian Dog Motif Brooch. Lang’s Antiques.
Figure eights symbolised eternity or ‘infinity’.
Victorian ‘Figure Eight’ Brooch. Photo Source: Lang Antiques.
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
Forget-me-not, rose and acorn motif. The acorn symbolized strength and longevity.
Paris, c. 1820-1840
Brooch with gold, diamonds and turquoises.
The garter symbolised chastity and virtue. The ‘order of the garter’ was an order of chivalry founded by the British monarchy.
Garter Motif brooch. Source, Lang Antiques.
The Greek Key motif symbolised infinity or the ‘eternal flow of things’. Read more about the GREEK KEY MOTIF
The mythical griffin represented courage.
Victorian Griffin Pendant. Elder and Bloom.
Hands had a variety of different meanings, depending on the form, including affection, strength, family and love.
See THE HAND MOTIF See also FEDE, CLADDAGH, GIMMEL and PUZZLE RINGS
Victorian Hand Motif Necklace / Watch Chain. Elder and Bloom.
These symbolised love, friendship, affection and devotion. Combined hearts and flowers signified fidelity and remembrance.
Victorian Heart Earrings. Elder and Bloom.
Horseshoes symbolised good luck and fortune.
Victorian Horseshoe Motif Brooch. Source: Ebay.
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’.
Victorian Key Pendant. Source: Butter Lane Antiques.
A lizard symbolised ‘wedded bliss’ and was given as wedding or anniversary gifts.
A Victorian opal, diamond and ruby salamander brooch, late 19th century.
Lovers’ knots symbolized ‘eternal love,’ ‘fidelity’ and ‘commitment’. See also FEDE, CLADDAGH, GIMMEL and PUZZLE RINGS
Victorian Lover’s Knot Ring. Lang’s Antiques.
Scarabs symbolised ‘endurance of the soul.’ They rose to prominence with the ‘Egyptian Revival’ Movements.
Victorian Scarab Necklace. Lang’s Antiques.
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.
Victorian Four-Leaved Clover Brooch. Source: Ebay
Snakes symbolised eternal life, sexuality and mystery. Read more about SNAKE MOTIFS
Victorian gold serpent ring. Elder and Bloom.
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
England, c. 1830
Pendant, gold with lapis lazuli, glass in imitation of opal, garnet, emerald and gold.
Here, the pendant has the stones of Lapis Lazuli, glass in imitation of Opal, Vermeil ( the old name for garnet ) and Emerald which spell LOVE.
Further reading: https://beautifulantiquetreasures.com/2013/02/21/charm-bracelets/
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