Friday, January 25, 2013

Early Victorian Engagement and Wedding Rings

Early Victorian Era Keeper Ring
Photo Source: Denham's

It is somewhat of a misnomer to speak of Early Victorian engagement rings, as the custom of giving them was not well established until the 1890s. Instead, early-century brides were given “keeper” rings, a custom which began in 1761 when King George III gave his intended, Princess Charlotte, a gold band encrusted with diamonds prior to their wedding.

Keeper Rings
These keeper (or guard) rings later served as custodian for the actual betrothal (wedding) ring to protect it from slipping off the finger. This custom continued into the Early Victorian Era, so many of the rings called Early Victorian engagement rings today were originally crafted to be worn as wedding bands set into or behind said guard rings.

Guard rings are still quite popular today and are typically purchased as part of a bridal set or wedding set. The main difference is that today guard rings are given during the wedding ceremony, whereas in Victorian times they were given in lieu of an engagement ring at the time of a couple’s formal engagement.

It appears that in 1839 Prince Albert was the first to break with the tradition of presenting a keeper ring to his intended. Instead, he gave Queen Victoria a diamond memento ring. According to George Harlow, author of The Nature of Diamonds, this sentimental ring was likely paved with several rows of tiny diamonds which adorned her finger in a nearly invisible 18k gold setting. {7}

Coiled Snake Ring
Photo Courtesy of EraGem

Victorian Romance
In 1840, Prince Albert once again broke with tradition. Rather than presenting Victoria with one of the typical half hoop gemstone and diamond rings popular for betrothal rings, he personally designed Queen Victoria ’s engagement ring. He fulfilled his intention to thoroughly enchant her when he fashioned the band into a gold serpent biting its tail.

This symbol of eternal love was further branded with a verdant green emerald atop its head. Emeralds, the symbol of hope, were not only the Queen’s birthstone, but were also endowed with the power of ensuring that a woman would become a loving wife.

Victoria and Albert’s passion for jewelry and jewelry design influenced an entire generation of Romantics. These new Romantics drew from the resources available, including both high- and low-karat gold, silver, rose gold, and pinchbeck (imitation gold made of zinc and copper), they fashioned bold and intricate settings of hearts, bows, or flowers.

As a rule, Early Victorian Era wedding rings were as ornate and whimsical as the young Queen who inspired them and as sentimental and distinguished as her Prince, who lavished his bride with copious gifts of jeweled creations of his own design. Not only did Albert’s serpent motif become a mainstay of early Victorian betrothal rings, but soon other natural motifs, including butterflies, daisies, doves, and butterflies, made their debut.

Victorian Opal Engagement Ring
Photo Courtesy of EraGem

Victorian Flare
To add a flare of color and up the ante on splendor, jewelers would imbed the most popular gemstones of the day into these naturally-inspired settings. Bright red rubies, deep blue sapphires, and shimmering green emeralds were most popular among the Royals and the upper crust nobility. For those of more modest means, the pastel lavender and aqua hues of chalcedony were popular, as were the violet strains of amethyst, the deep reds of garnet, and the bright colors of topaz.

In 1849, access to Australian opals, which became one of Queen Victoria’s favorite gemstones, gave rise to an increased use of opals in keeper and betrothal rings during the Early Victorian Era. Pearls also enjoyed great favor for wedding rings throughout this time period.

Diamonds, however, would remain the gemstone of the elite for many more decades. Cut in the old mine style and clustered together as flowers or posies to enhance their impact, these white crystals would remain rare and small until the Kimberly diamond mine was discovered in South Africa in the 1860s.


1. “American Jewelry: An Historical Timeline.” Antique Jewelry University, accessed January 13, 2013.
2. “Antique and Vintage Designs.” Rings with Love, accessed January 13, 2013.
3. “Antique Engagement Ring Settings.” Engagement Ring Settings, accessed January 13, 2013.
4. Bradley, Tara. “Victorian Engagement Rings (1830s-1900s).” Destination Weddings & Honeymoons. Accessed January 13, 2013.
5. “Elegance of a Victorian Wedding, Part II, The.” Hudson Valley Weddings, accessed January 15, 2013.
6. Fragoso, Lilyanna. “Engagement Rings in the 18th and 19th Centuries.” eHow. Accessed January 13, 2013.
7. Harlow, George E. The Nature of Diamonds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
8. “History of Jewelry, The.” Brilliance Jewelry, accessed January 13, 2013.
9. “History of Wedding Rings, The.” Everything Wedding Rings, accessed January 13, 2013.
10. “Keeper Ring.” Antique Jewelry University, accessed January 13, 2013.
11. “Promise Ring Meaning.” Antique Jewelry Investor, accessed January 13, 2013.</
12. Schoening, Lisa and Kurt Rothner. “Why a Vintage Engagement Ring?” Excalibur Jewelry, May 5, 2012. Accessed January 13, 2013.
13. “Victorian Wedding Ring and Victorian Engagement Rings, The.” Everything Wedding Rings, accessed January 13, 2013.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy


  1. I see that you are using WordPress on your blog, wordpress is the best.’`~*,

  2. Positive site, where did u come up with the information on this posting?I have read a few of the articles on your website now, and I really like your style. Thanks a million and please keep up the effective work. Radiant Cut Diamond Information

  3. This is my first time visit to your blog and I am very interested in the articles that you serve. Provide enough knowledge for me. Thank you for sharing useful and don't forget, keep sharing useful info: what is fluorescence in a diamond

  4. I think this is an informative post and it is very beneficial and knowledgeable. Therefore, I would like to thank you for the endeavors that you have made in writing this article. All the content is absolutely well-researched. Thanks... thanhtramhuong

  5. This information is meaningful and magnificent which you have shared here about the Victorian Wedding and Sustainable Engagement Rings. I am impressed by the details that you have shared in this post and It reveals how nicely you understand this subject. I would like to thanks for sharing this article here.

  6. You…are…my…hero!!! I cant believe something like this exists on the internet! Its so true, so honest, and more than that you dont sound like an idiot! Finally, someone who knows how to talk about a subject without sounding like a kid who didnt get that bike he wanted for Christmas. 예스 카지노

    As I website possessor I think the subject matter here is real wonderful, appreciate it for your efforts. 더킹 카지노

  7. We still cannot quite believe that I was able to often be any type of those staring at the important points located on your blog post. My loved ones and i are sincerely thankful for your special generosity too as for giving me possibility pursue our chosen profession path. Basically information I acquired within your web-site.

  8. Nice post. I find out some thing tougher on various blogs everyday. Most commonly it is stimulating to learn to read content from other writers and exercise a specific thing at their store. I’d would prefer to apply certain while using the content on my own blog whether or not you don’t mind. Natually I’ll supply you with a link on your own internet blog. Thank you for sharing. 스포츠사이트

  9. After reading your blog I think you have good information about Engagement and Wedding Rings. I would like to share this information with my friends who need this. If you are looking for the best Birthstones By Month, then visit Ikon Gems Co. Ltd.

  10. It certainly possibly even a fairly good create which the reality is certainly cherished checking out. Not necessarily inevitably ordinary which include the choice to figure out an individual item. Diamond rings

  11. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. 婚約指輪

  12. A round of applause for your mind blowing article. Much thanks to you, Fantastic.
    whirlpool 7 kg 5 star fully automatic top load washing machine price

  13. Customs of Early England are of interest to many even today. Your blog on early engagement and wedding bands is very informative and interesting. These diamond rings are indeed a symbol of love between the royal couples of the Great Britain.
    Shop some of the best designed engagement ring in ottawa

    at Vero Diamonds