mid-Victorian era – 1861-1885 – The Grand Period
In 1861, Prince Albert passed away and the American Civil War started; both incidents bring an abrupt halt to the whimsical romance of the early Victorian years.
The Grand Period Notables
Death and war opened this period and perpetuated the desire for mourning and remembrance jewelry. The war also opened doors for women as they are called to fill jobs vacated by men called to war.
The light bulb is invented in 1879, throwing jewelry into a whole different light. Diamonds dazzled with electricity and the discovery of a diamond mine in South Africa in 1867 fed the public’s demand for the gems.
Jewelry is heavy and massive and designed to reflect the opulence of the time as industry boomed and millionaires were created overnight.
Silver is discovered in Nevada in 1860 and jewelry manufacturers used it with enthusiasm.
Jewelry featured gemstones in gypsy style settings in which the gemstone is almost imbedded into the piece with minute prongs holding it in place. Pave settings are being used which feature the gemstones set with almost invisible prongs, creating a piece “paved” with gemstones.
Brooches now contain a lever catch in the “C” design clasp in order to better secure it.
Common Metals Used – low karat gold (9k, 12k, and 15k), rolled gold, silver, steel
Common Motifs – Crescents, acorns, hearts, bees, bells, stars, shield shapes, monograms, crosses, birds, daisies, enameling, geometric patterns
- Archeological digs continued so Greek, Roman, Egyptian designs are still popular, as are cameos.
- Etruscan revival, an ancient metal technique featuring fine, beaded granulation, is resurrected with the excavation of ancient cities.
The Hot Items
- Memorial and hair jewelry
- Cabochon cut gems with smaller gem designs set in the center of the cabochon
- Earrings of all sizes
- Large necklaces with large pendants
- Micro-mosaic jewelry – tiny tiles of gemstones and glass organized into artistic designs, fabricated in Florence, Rome, and Venice
- Bracelets with buckles
- Wide mesh bracelets with enameling and foxtails
- Wide bangle bracelets
- Long, rectangular bar pins
- Tiaras and tortoiseshell combs
- Post earrings are introduced
- Carbuncles (cabochon cut garnets) in pendants, brooches, and necklaces
Cutting Styles of Gems –
- Rose cut – round shape with a domed top and flat bottom
- Old mine cut – rounded square shape with many facets and closely resembles today’s modern round brilliant cut
- Cabochon – rounded top and flat bottom
This memorial locket features two, round, clear rock quartz discs hinged at the top in 15k yellow gold. The front disc is engraved with a name and date. This is a perfect example of the memorial jewelry popular during this period. The locket’s excellent condition and engraving make it valuable. It sells for $1,085 (The Three Graces © Photo courtesy of The Three Graces).
This Whitby jet ring is made entirely of jet or fossilized wood (coal) from Whitby, England. Jet was a common gemstone used in mourning jewelry because of its black color. This ring features a .65 carat old mine cut diamond in a rose gold collet setting. This bold, dark ring is indicative of The Grand Period. The large diamond and the detailing of the jet make this ring a sweet find (The Three Graces © Photo courtesy of The Three Graces).
This locket features a .25 carat cabochon cut amethyst imbedded with a starburst of eighteen rose cut diamonds surrounding a centered, old mine cut diamond (.37 carat total weight). The blue beads are an example of Etruscan revival. The diamonds, in combination with the amethyst, are substantial, and the craftsmanship of the piece is exquisite. The combination makes this locket a rare find. The locket sells for $5,895 (The Three Graces © Photo courtesy of The Three Graces).
This Etruscan revival bangle showcases the fine granulation technique prevalent during this period as well as the bold opulence theme. The 18k yellow gold bracelet is decorated with well-matched, cabochon cut turquoise in pave settings. The weight of this 18k gold piece and its craftsmanship are standout attributes to its value (The Three Graces © Photo courtesy of The Three Graces).
This micro-mosaic brooch features an Egyptian scarab beetle fashioned entirely out of tiny tiles of glass, called tesserae. The micro-mosaic is housed in a 15k yellow gold mounting. The value of the micro-mosaic is set by how closely the tiles fit together and if they are free from chips or cracks. (The Three Graces © Photo courtesy of The Three Graces).
This mesh bracelet with foxtail embellishments and an enameled, engraved slide is an example of the opulence of mid-Victorian jewelry. The excellent condition of the 15k yellow gold mesh is remarkable as well as the fine condition of the enameling. The bracelet sells for $3,450 (courtesy of Lang Antiques and photographed by Cole Bybee).
This wide bangle bracelet is an excellent example of the style worn during The Grand Period. The bangle is decorated with acorns and is silver with a gold overlay. It’s a substantial piece and is in excellent condition and sells for $1,295 (The Three Graces © Photo courtesy of The Three Graces).
This locket features carbuncle garnets surrounding a star of nine, old mine cut diamonds set in 15k yellow gold mounting with scalloped edges and a hinged, garnet drop. The perfectly matched and perfectly cut garnets along with the number of diamonds make the piece valuable (The Three Graces © Photo courtesy of The Three Graces).
Victoria mourned her husband for the remainder of her days and it set the tone for this period of jewelry manufacturing. However, her subjects buckled under the heavy gloom and eventually turned to lighter styles in jewelry and clothing.