The Language of Birds

The Language of Birds

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.

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Victorian turquoise set swallow or bluebird brooch

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Aesthetic Movement (Late Victorian) ‘Sweetheart Brooch’. Swallows are known to mate for life so were therefore often given to one’s sweetheart. Brooches with the swallow motif are often known as ‘sweetheart brooches’.

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A blue bird or swallow with a wishbone was  a common design, signifying ‘Wish for lasting love’

DOVES

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.

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Victorian Turquoise Pavé dove bangle. Currently for sale at Elder and Bloom.

BIRD’S CLAW

A bird’s claw meant ‘Thinking of you’ or ‘Praying for you.’

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In Victorian times, actual bird’s claws were sometimes turned into brooches. (One of these will never be sold by Elder and Bloom!)

PHOENIX

A phoenix represented renewal, resurrection, rebirth and immortality.

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Art Nouveau Phoenix locket. Previously sold by Elder and Bloom. For more information see here.

SWAN

Swans were symbolic of ‘purity and grace’.

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Late Victorian swan brooch. Previously for sale at Elder and Bloom.

HUMMING BIRD

The meaning of the humming bird was ‘God’s Tiny Miracle’

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Victorian Hummingbird pendant. Previously for sale at Elder and Bloom.

PHEASANT

The pheasant was thought to symbolise nobility, virtue and refinement.  It also evoked the spirit of the countryside.

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Victorian pique pheasant brooch. Previously for sale by Elder and Bloom.

LOVE BIRDS

Love birds signified faithfulness, eternal love and marriage

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Victorian ‘love bird’ brooch.

BLACKBIRDS

Blackbirds were worn during mourning.

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Victorian Blackbird mourning brooch.

CROW OR RAVEN

A crow or raven meant ‘Protection of friends’.

OWL

An owl represented vigilance and wisdom.

PEACOCK

A peacock represented immortality, beauty and knowledge.

EAGLE

An eagle represented nobility, strength, courage, wisdom and power.

FEATHERS

Feathers signified ‘obedience’ and could imply the obedience of a wife to her husband or to God.

PARROT

Parrots and birds of paradises were also often depicted but I have yet to discern the symbolic meanings.

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Victorian parrot pendant with real feathers.

See also:

The Language of Stones

The Language of Flowers

© Pippa Gaubert Bear and Elder and Bloom LLC, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pippa Bear and Elder and Bloom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.