I was first introduced to the Victorian era through childhood stamp collecting, and one of the 'must have' stamps of the time was the Penny Black, which in fact was the first adhesive stamp. In searching for his illusive prize I would frequent markets with my mother and during my search I kept coming across these curious Victorian trinkets made of silver. Many of them I could not imagine their purpose so I kept asking and learning. The more I learnt the more involved I became with the wonderful world of audacious functionality that is Victoriana, with a special interest in the care in detail to so many of these era's pieces. In truth I developed a fascination with pillboxes, perfume bottles and lorgnettes and it still surprises my sons when they see how excited I get when I handle such pieces!
The Victorian decorative art period reflects the eclectic revival and interpretation of historic styles combining the introduction of cross-cultural influences from the Middle East and Asia in furniture, fittings, interior, personal accessories and jewellery. The Victorian era marked the period of expansionist imperialism during which Britain established an enormous empire spanning the four corners of the earth from which a wealth of cultural influences permeated British society. Victorian design indulged in excess of ornamentation from which the romantic Art Nouveau style emerged.
As Britain moved into the early Victorian period fine silver jewellery became popular. At the time most pieces were handmade and silver was the ideal precious metal for setting stones because of its malleability and bright white colour. During this period many gemstones, including round rose cut diamonds, were set in silver together with popular coloured gemstones including deeper shades of amethyst, golden topaz, garnet and shell cameos.
By the middle of the Victorian era the industrial revolution was developing rapidly and the fine handcrafted designs of silver jewellery changed to include manufactured pieces. By 1852 a method for cutting and stamping out silver settings was developed allowing jewellery to be made rapidly and inexpensively.
When King Albert died in 1861, Queen Victoria went into mourning for her beloved husband and wore only black until her death. As a figurehead for the nation, Queen Victoria greatly influenced fashion and a new style of jewellery emerged using blackened oxidised silver set with dark stones such as black onyx & amethyst, this style becoming known as silver 'mourning' jewellery. As a direct result of 'mourning' jewellery, designs with an air of sentimentality became popular and wearing silver lockets and engraved or monogramed jewellery commemorating those lost but not forgotten became common in the jewellery world. By the late Victorian period this trend evolved into popular silver charm bracelets, bringing with them a more playful side to jewellery with styles, flowers, hearts and anchor shapes becoming particularly in demand.
During this era silver photo frames became very fashionable and were seen as part of the interior design revolution for decorating the dining rooms and lounges in the houses of the middle and upper class families. Small personal accessories made of silver also became class status symbols, such as pillboxes, perfume bottle, pincushions, cufflinks, bookmarks and much more.
I now invite you to view some of my creations!
Ari Daniel Norman – Founder, Designer, Silversmith, lover of nature, family, adventure and life!!