There was a huge fashion for mourning jewellery which highlights how sentimental the Victorian age was. The initial months of mourning were unadorned by jewellery of any kind. As the mourning rituals increased, mourning jewellery developed as a fashion item. Jet jewellery was worn a great deal by Queen Victoria after Prince Albert's death.

The Victorian Era

Victorian (c.1835 to 1890) The Victorian era of the United Kingdom marked the height of the British Industrial Revolution and the apex of the British Empire. Although commonly used to refer to the period of Queen Victoria's rule between 1837 and 1901, scholars debate whether the Victorian period—as defined by a variety of sensibilities and political concerns that have come to be associated with the Victorians—actually begins with the passage of the Reform Act 1832. The era was preceded by the Regency era and succeeded by the Edwardian period


Here is a link to some good books Fashions of the Gilded Age, Volume 1: Undergarments, Bodices, Skirts, Overskirts, Polonaises, and Day Dresses 1877-1882

Women in society

  • The status of Women in the Victorian Era is often seen as an illustration of the striking discrepancy between England's national power and wealth and what many, then and now, consider its appalling social conditions. During the era symbolized by the reign of British monarch Queen Victoria, difficulties escalated for women because of the vision of the "ideal woman" shared by most in the society. The legal rights of married women were similar to those of children; they could not vote or sue or even own property. Also, they were seen as pure and clean. Because of this view, their bodies were seen as temples which should not be adorned with jewellery nor used for physical exertion or pleasurable sex. The role of women was to have children and tend to the house, in contrast to men, according to the concept of Victorian masculinity. They could not hold a job unless it was that of a teacher or a domestic servant, nor were they allowed to have their own checking accounts or savings accounts. In the end, they were to be treated as saints, but saints that had no legal rights.

  • Culture

  • This inescapable sense of newness resulted in a deep interest in the relationship between modernity and cultural continuities. Gothic Revival architecture became increasingly significant in the period, leading to the Battle of the Styles between Gothic and Classical ideals. Charles Barry's architecture for the new Palace of Westminster, which had been badly damaged in an 1834 fire, built on the medieval style of Westminster Hall, the surviving part of the building. It constructed a narrative of cultural continuity, set in opposition to the violent disjunctions of Revolutionary France, a comparison common to the period, as expressed in Thomas Carlyle's The French Revolution: A History and Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. Gothic was also supported by the critic John Ruskin, who argued that it epitomized communal and inclusive social values, as opposed to Classicism, which he considered to epitomize mechanical standardization.

    The middle of the century saw The Great Exhibition of 1851, the first World's Fair and showcased the greatest innovations of the century. At its centre was The Crystal Palace, an enormous, modular glass and iron structure - the first of its kind. It was condemned by Ruskin as the very model of mechanical dehumanization in design, but later came to be presented as the prototype of Modern architecture. The emergence of photography, which was showcased at the Great Exhibition, resulted in significant changes in Victorian art. John Everett Millais was influenced by photography (notably in his portrait of Ruskin) as were other Pre-Raphaelite artists. It later became associated with the Impressionistic and Social Realist techniques that would dominate the later years of the period in the work of artists such as Walter Sickert and Frank Holl.

  • At the time

  • In 1842, a law was passed to ban women and children working in mines.

    In 1849, 2,000 people a week died in a cholera epidemic.

    In 1851, The Great Exhibition (the first World's Fair) was held in The Crystal Palace, with great success and international attention.

    In 1859, Charles Darwin published "The Origin of Species", which led to great religious doubt and insecurity.

    In 1861, Prince Albert died; Queen Victoria refused to go out in public for many years, and when she did she wore a widow's bonnet instead of the crown.

    In 1888, the serial killer known as Jack the Ripper murdered and mutilated five (and possibly more) prostitutes on the streets of London, leading to world-wide press coverage and hysteria. Newspapers used the deaths to bring greater focus on the plight of the unemployed and to attack police and political leaders. The killer was never caught, and the affair contributed to Sir Charles Warren's resignation.

    In 1891, education became free for every child.

  • Entertainment

    Popular forms of entertainment vary by socioeconomic class. Victorian England, like the periods before it, was interested in theatre and the arts. Music, drama, and opera were widely attended. There were, however, other forms of entertainment. Gambling at cards in establishments popularly called casinos was wildly popular during the period--so much so that evangelical and reform movements specifically targeted such establishments in their efforts to stop gambling, drinking, and prostitution.

    Brass bands and 'The bandstand' became popular in the Victorian era typically associated with the British brass band. The band stand is a simple construction which not only creates an ornamental focal point, it also serves acoustic requirements whilst providing shelter for the changeable British weather. It was common to hear the sound of a brass band whilst strolling through parklands. At this time musical recording was still very much a novelty.

    Another form of entertainment involved 'spectacles' where paranormal events, such as hypnotism, communication with the dead (by way of mediumship or channelling), ghost conjuring and the like, were carried out to the delight of crowds and participants. Such activities were very popular during this time compared to others in recent Western history.

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