|Victorian Mourning Jewelry|
Photo Source: Coco Loves Vintage Blog
With the heavier social customs came heavier jewelry, as well as the institution of day and night jewelry. It was frowned upon to be seen during the day with glittery, ostentatious jewelry. The once frilly and colorful designs of the early Victorian years were replaced with subtler, weighty designs made from onyx, black glass, and jet (a form of fossilized driftwood).
Colored stones were strictly taboo, so colorless diamonds, found in abundance in
Africa in 1867, fast became the stone of
choice for evening wear. Though a little more flash was tolerated for night
wear, designers began to draw their inspiration from Gothic, Etruscan, and
ancient Italian architecture. The result: Darker, hefty pieces, such as the
mourning brooch shown below.
|Victorian Mourning Brooch|
Photo Source: Vintage Jewellery Pictures
During the ten years following Albert's death,
Victoria remained in seclusion, traveling
privately between Balmoral and .
She entered public view only a handful of times during those years; first for
the unveiling of a statue of Albert in 1863, second for a public ride through
the streets of London in 1864, and finally, reluctantly, for the Opening of
Parliament in 1866. She became fixated on death. It was a bleak time for fashion, with Windsor Castle England’s
fashion trendsetter remaining in deep mourning for nearly a decade.
Victoria’s obsession with death, English society turned toward what Michael Wheeler calls the "Victorian Death Cult." The majority of England became sickly fascinated with death and mourning, and funeral rites became sentimental and showy.
This fascination with death and the macabre inspired a new fashion which we now call antique jewelry. Prior to Albert’s death, the code dictated six months of deep mourning and another six months of half morning. Upon the Prince’s death, Queen
Victoria restricted her household to full mourning for one year and half mourning for one year. Deep mourning customs dictated scant jewelry and black and grey dresses made from crepe.
To the relief of many, on March 10, 1863, Queen
Victoria declared an end to the mourning period for England, making the wedding of her son Prince Bertie to the Princess Alexandra the most colorful spectacle seen on English soil for two years. Despite the Queen's release of the public, she remained heavily in mourning, purveying the ceremony from a private box shrouded in what Helen Rappaport terms her “widows weeds.” She also refused to lift the ban of half-mourning from the female members of the Household. Her daughters wore dresses of mauve, lilac, and grey to the wedding.
If Princess Alexandra hadn’t come as “a breath of fresh air to blow away the mid-century cobwebs,” the jewelry industry may have collapsed. (8) Thankfully, the jubilant wedding gave the jewelry industry permission to look to the new Princess for inspiration. Although white diamonds and pearls continued to dominate the jewelry scene into the early 1900s, designers began to introduce a little more romance and whimsy into their designs over the following decades.
1. Essortment. "Victorian Mourning Customs." Accessed June 13, 2012. http://www.essortment.com/victorian-mourning-customs-63807.html.
2. Spark Notes. "Queen Victoria: The Years of Mourning." Accessed June 13, 2012. http://www.sparknotes.com/biography/victoria/section5.rhtml.
3. Smith, S. E. "What was Victorian Mourning Like?" wiseGeek. Accessed June 13, 2012. http://www.wisegeek.com/what-was-victorian-mourning-like.htm.
4. Britton, Natalya. "Victorian Death Worship and Literature." Literary Culture @ Suite101. June 29, 2012. Accessed June 13, 2012. http://suite101.com/article/victorian-death-worship-and-literature-a255829.
5. Burnett, Ann. "Perkin's Purple." Writer and Tutor, Ann Burnett. Accessed June 13, 2012. http://www.annburnett.co.uk/perkins_purple.html.
6. Nadelhoffer, Hans. Cartier. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd., 2007.
7. Rappaport, Helen. Queen
Biographical Companion. Victoria Santa
Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2003.
8. Tisdall, E. E. P. Alexandra: Edward VII’s Unpredictable Queen.
York: J. Day Co., 1954.
*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy