Victorian Betrothal Rings

While engagement rings now are just an accepted part of the marriage tradition, that wasn’t always the case. Victorian betrothal rings or engagement rings are those which were designed and used during the Victorian era, from 1837 to 1901 and are the rings


Photograph of Queen Victoria, 1882

that popularized engagement rings in general. Queen Victoria herself had a great influence on the styles of jewelry during her time. She was fond of jewelry and had an everlasting affection for her husband, Prince Albert. It was her love for a diamond that led to a revolution in diamond rings making them the favorite.

When it comes to jewelry, the Victorian era is classified into three parts – Early Victorian era, the mid-Victorian era, and late Victorian era. Many changes in the preference of metals and diamonds as well as gemstones were seen during the Victorian era.

Before 1854, lower karat gold alloys were used to make jewelry. Precious rings were created with 22k or 18k gold which had 75% of pure gold alloyed with copper, silver, nickel or sometimes a mixture of all these metals.

Rings were also made of silver before 1854. But after 1854, gold standards changed and even rings made of 15k, 12k and 9k gold were found in the market. The second biggest and most important change that took place was once the diamond mines in South Africa were opened in 1870.

Before this time, diamonds were rare and even if they were seen, clusters of small diamonds were found in the diamond rings. However, after 1870 and after the opening of South African large diamonds were made available and were  used in the making of wedding rings and engagement rings.

l_15k_ruby_snake_ring_1_org_l.jpgEarly Victorian engagement rings and wedding rings could be easily distinguished by their huge size and bright colors. Gemstones were used and bold designs were created in which snake designs were quite famous. Celtic designs were also pretty common these days. During this time, flashy and over-the-top designs were more common. These were from the heydays and early married days of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

The popularity of the snake patterned ring was because Albert had presented Victoria a snake and emerald ring as a betrothal ring. During that time, people blindly followed and considered whatever queen Victoria wore as the fashion. In fact, right from that time, the Victorian engagement rings enjoyed years of popularity.

Gemstones popularly used during this time were amethyst, ruby, smoky quartz, chalcedony, moss agate, bloodstone, garnet, and topaz. It was a trend during those days and the rings were usually made of the bride’s birthstone.


Brilliant Cut

Diamond rings at this time were mainly small clusters of diamond or a small diamond surrounded by circular or square shaped gemstones. The brilliant cut was the most popular diamond cut at that time along with the traditional rose cut.

During the middle years of the Victorian era, the engagement ring style took a different tone. Prince Albert died in 1861 and Queen Victoria took a long time to come out of the grief. During this time, memorial rings which were also known as mourning rings became highly popular. These were famous during the Georgian era too, a few years back.

During this time, the base metal was usually silver and gold with different karat values ranging from 18k to 9k. Rings made of gold alloyed with copper which was called rose gold rings were also very popular. Prevalent gemstones and designs during this time were emeralds, pearls, diamonds, opals, crystals, jet, black glass, and the ruby.

IMG_0133.jpgThe designs became more sophisticated and less showy. Popular jewelry design motifs were hearts, acorns, stars, bees, birds, insects, shells, some flowers as well as geometrical shapes. A gradual increase in the use of gold and diamond jewelry had started to be seen by this time.

The late Victorian era saw wedding rings designed in the shape of a boat, more use of pearls and light airy styles was seen. These rings worked as inspiration for the Edwardian era which was soon to arrive.

The diamond rush brought big changes in the engagement rings of the Victorian era. There was a shift from handcrafted rings to machine-made rings during this time. gradually the age-old technique of metal work was lost in history.

The late Victorian era saw solitaire diamond engagement ring made its debut and this became highly popular in the mid-1840s. People started using platinum for gemstones and diamond was also started to be set with platinum replacing gold and silver to a large extent.Victorian-Ruby-Grape-Cluster-14K-Gold-full-2-720-16-l-95a6ba-ffffff

During this time, the popular motifs were stars, feathers, bows and ribbons, lace-type filigree, double hearts, doves, oak leaves, crowns, grape clusters, and Egyptian designs. Popular gemstones were rubies, sapphires, aquamarine, peridot, chrysoberyl, turquoise opals, amethyst, and emeralds.

Betrothal rings were made of metals including 18k, 15k, 12k, and 9k yellow gold along with silver, rose gold and platinum. These were the preferred metals for diamond and different gemstones set in luxurious places.

The Victorian era defined engagement rings and carried the tradition into modern era.

[X] [X] [X] [X] [X]

Post-Mortem Photography

Historically you can find numerous cultural traditions that we might find odd today, such as taxidermy animal hats, professional mourners, and cheese rolling festivals (yes those were a thing!). But one tradition that sticks out as not only odd but a bit unsettling is post-mortem photography. Post-mortem photography was a type of photography that gained popularity in the Victorian era where families would photograph their loved ones after they had passed away.

In images that are both unsettling and strangely poignant, families would often pose with the dead, infants appear asleep, and consumptive young ladies elegantly recline, the disease not only taking their life but increasing their beauty.


Until the mid-19th century, photography was considered an expensive luxury that not many could afford. As the price of photographic material came down and the number of photographers increased during the 1850s, more people paid to have them or their family photographed, often even on their deathbed. Tragic as it may seem, to low-income families, post-mortem photos were often the only family photographs that they had; as death was their last chance to scrounge together the money to afford the photos. Getting photos taken was regarded as a luxurious family occasion.

Photographers had an important job and a part of the photographer’s tasks was to prepare the body of the deceased and make it look more “lifelike,” or as if it was asleep. The BBC notes that “the long exposures when taking photographs meant that the dead were often seen more sharply than the slightly-blurred living, because of their lack of movement.”


deceased child with painted on eyes

As technology slowly advanced there were more options for the families to choose from. Sometimes portrait cards were created to be distributed to family and friends; these portrait cards looked even creepier as eyes were painted on to the deceased. Later examples of memento mori photographs show the deceased presented in their coffin, often with a large group of funeral attendees.

Today, post-mortem photography is a nearly exterminated practice and peaked in popularity around the end of the 19th century. Although it is still present in some parts of Eastern Europe. This type of photography is nowadays regularly practiced in police and practice of pathology. The advent of snapshots allowed most families to have photographs taken in life.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This post is apart of our 13 days of Halloween series. Checkout our other spooky posts:

  1. Washington Ghost Stories
  2. Out of Place Artifacts
  3. Henry Rathbone
  4. Charon and the Journey to Hades
  5. Post-Mortem Photography
  6. All Hallows Eve Divination Games
  7. Saved By The Bell and other Idioms
  8. Halloween Coins
  9. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
  10. Coins Connecting You to the Spirit World
  11. Ancient Egyptian Alien Coins
  12. Superstitions Around the World
  13. A Brief History of Halloween

John Ruskin

John Ruskin was a leading English art critic of the Victorian era, as well as an art patron, draughtsman, watercolourist, a prominent social thinker and philanthropist. His writing styles and literary forms were varied; he penned essays, treatises, poetry, lectures, travel guides, manuals, letters, and fairy tales. He also made detailed sketches and paintings of rocks, plants, birds, landscapes, and architectural structures and ornamentation.

Ruskin was hugely influential in the latter half of the 19th century and up to the First World War. After a period of relative decline, his reputation steadily improved since the 1960’s with the publication of numerous academic studies of his work. Today, his ideas and concerns are widely recognized as having anticipated interest in environmentalism, sustainability and craft.


Ruskin as a young child, painted by James Northcote

Ruskin was born in 1823 and he grew up in the village of Camberwell in South London. He was educated at home by his parents and private tutors, and from 1834 to 1835 attended the school in Peckham run by the progressive Evangelical, Thomas Dale (1797–1870). Ruskin went on to enroll and complete his studies at King’s College, where he prepared for Oxford under Dale’s tutelage


Ruskin was greatly influenced by the extensive and privileged travels he enjoyed in his childhood. Travel helped establish his taste and enriched his education. His father visited business clients in Britain’s country houses, exposing him to English landscapes, architecture and paintings. The tours provided Ruskin with the opportunity to record his observations of nature. He composed conventional poetry, some of which was published in Friendship’s Offering. His early notebooks and sketchbooks are full of visually sophisticated and technically accomplished drawings of maps, landscapes and buildings, remarkable for a boy of his age.

Ruskin’s travels also provided inspiration for writing. His first publication was the poem “On Skiddaw and Derwent Water” (August 1829). In 1834 three short articles for Loudon’s Magazine of Natural History were published; they show early signs of his skill as a close “scientific” observer of nature, especially its geology. From September 1837 to December 1838, Ruskin’s The Poetry of Architecture was serialized in Loudon’s Architectural Magazine, under the pen name “Kata Physin” (Greek for “According to Nature”). The poetry was a study of cottages, villas, and other dwellings which centered on an argument that buildings should be sympathetic to their immediate environment and use local materials. In 1839, Ruskin’s ‘Remarks on the Present State of Meteorological Science’ was published in Transactions of the Meteorological Society.

Ruskin toured the continent again with his parents in 1844, visiting Chamonix and Paris, studying the geology of the Alps and the paintings of Titian, Veronese and Perugino among others at the Louvre. In 1845, at the age of 26, he traveled without his parents for the first time and it provided him with an opportunity to study medieval art and architecture in France, Switzerland and especially Italy. In Lucca he saw the Tomb of Ilaria del Carretto by Jacopo della Quercia which Ruskin considered the exemplar of Christian sculpture.

During 1847 Ruskin became closer to Effie Gray, the daughter of family friends. It was for Effie that Ruskin had written “The King of the Golden River”. The couple was engaged in October and they married on 10 April 1848 at her home in Perth. The European Revolutions of 1848 meant that the newlyweds’ earliest travelling together was limited, but they were able to visit Normandy, where Ruskin admired the Gothic architecture.


Their early life together was spent at 31 Park Street, Mayfair, a home bought for them by Ruskin’s father. Effie was too ill to undertake the European tour of 1849, so Ruskin visited the Alps with his parents, gathering material for the third and fourth volumes of Modern Painters. He was struck by the contrast between the Alpine beauty and the poverty of Alpine peasants.

In November 1849, Effie and John Ruskin visited Venice. For Effie, Venice provided an opportunity to socialize, while Ruskin was engaged in solitary studies. In particular, he made a point of drawing the Ca’ d’Oro and the Doge’s Palace, because he feared they would be destroyed by the occupying Austrian troops. One of these troops, Lieutenant Charles Paulizza, made friends with Effie, apparently with no objection from Ruskin. Her brother, among others, later claimed that Ruskin was deliberately encouraging the friendship to compromise her, as an excuse to separate. Their marriage, not consummated, later dissolved under discord and eventual annulment.

Ruskin’s sexuality has led to much speculation and critical comment. His one marriage, to Effie Gray, was annulled after six years because of non-consummation. Effie, in a letter to her parents, claimed that he found her “person” repugnant:

He alleged various reasons, hatred of children, religious motives, a desire to preserve my beauty, and finally this last year he told me his true reason… that he had imagined women were quite different to what he saw I was, and that the reason he did not make me his Wife was because he was disgusted with my person the first evening 10th April [1848].

Ruskin confirmed this in his statement to his lawyer during the annulment proceedings:

It may be thought strange that I could abstain from a woman who to most people was so attractive. But though her face was beautiful, her person was not formed to excite passion. On the contrary, there were certain circumstances in her person which completely checked it.

The cause of Ruskin’s “disgust” has led to much controversy. Ruskin’s biographer, Mary Lutyens, suggested that he rejected Effie because he was horrified by the sight of her pubic hair. Lutyens argued that Ruskin must have known the female form only through Greek statues and paintings of the nude lacking pubic hair and found the reality shocking. However, Peter Fuller in his book Theoria: Art and the Absence of Grace writes, “It has been said that he was frightened on the wedding night by the sight of his wife’s pubic hair; more probably, he was perturbed by her menstrual blood.” Ruskin’s biographers Tim Hilton and John Batchelor also take the view that menstruation is the more likely explanation, though Batchelor also suggests that body-odor may have been the problem.

Ruskin’s later relationship with Rose La Touche has led to claims that he was a pedophile, since he outwardly declared that he fell in love with her when he met her at the age of nine. It is also true that in letters from Ruskin to Kate Greenaway he asked her to draw her “girlies” (as he called her child figures) without clothing In a letter to his physician John Simon on 15 May 1886, Ruskin wrote:

I like my girls from ten to sixteen—allowing of 17 or 18 as long as they’re not in love with anybody but me.—I’ve got some darlings of 8—12—14—just now, and my Pigwiggina here—12—who fetches my wood and is learning to play my bells.

Ruskin’s biographers disagree about the allegation of “pedophilia”. Tim Hilton, in his two-volume biography, boldly asserts that Ruskin “was a pedophile” but leaves the claim unexplained, while John Batchelor argues that the term is inappropriate because Ruskin’s behavior does not “fit the profile”. It is because of this that many speculate Ruskin’s marriage with Effie truly never worked out.

Meanwhile after Ruskin’s marriage was annulled, he was making the extensive sketches and notes that he used for his three-volume work, “The Stones of Venice” (1851–53). Developing from a technical history of Venetian architecture, from the Romanesque to the Renaissance, into a broad cultural history, Stones also reflected Ruskin’s view of contemporary England. It acted as a warning about the moral and spiritual health of society. Ruskin argued that Venice had slowly deteriorated, that its cultural achievements had been compromised, and its society corrupted, by the decline of true Christian faith. Instead of revering the divine, Renaissance artists honored themselves, arrogantly celebrating human sensuousness.

Ruskin was unanimously appointed the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford University in August 1869, largely through the help of his friend, Henry Acland. He gave his inaugural lecture on his 51st birthday in 1870, at the Sheldonian Theatre to a larger-than-expected audience. It was here that he said, “The art of any country is the exponent of its social and political virtues. Thus, its effect on each man should be visible and moving.”

In 1871, John Ruskin founded his own art school at Oxford, The Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. Ruskin endowed the school with £5000 of his own money. He also established a large collection of drawings, watercolors and other materials with which to illustrate his lectures. His lectures were often so popular that they had to be given twice, once for the students, and again for the public. Most of them were also eventually published. He lectured on a wide range of subjects at Oxford, his interpretation of “Art” encompassing almost every conceivable area of study, including wood and metal engraving (Ariadne Florentina), the relation of science to art (The Eagle’s Nest) and sculpture (Aratra Pentelici). His lectures ranged through myth, ornithology, geology, nature-study and literature. “The teaching of Art…,” Ruskin wrote, “is the teaching of all things.”

In the same year he founded his art school, Ruskin set out to found his ‘utopian society’: The Guild of St George. Its aims and objectives were articulated in Fors Clavigera; a communitarian venture, it had a hierarchical structure, with Ruskin as its Master, and dedicated members called “Companions” whose first loyalty was nearly always to Ruskin personally. Ruskin wished to show that contemporary life could still be enjoyed in the countryside, with land being farmed traditionally and with minimal mechanical assistance. With a personal donation of £7,000, Ruskin acquired some land and a remarkable collection of books, art and other precious and beautiful objects.

Ruskin worked out different levels of “Companions”, wrote codes of practice, described styles of dress and even designed the Guild’s own coins. Ruskin wished to see St George’s Schools established, and published various volumes to aid its teaching, but the schools themselves were never established. In reality, the Guild, which still exists today as a charitable organisation, has only ever operated on a small scale.


Rose La Touche, 1861, by John Ruskin

In 1858, Ruskin had become acquainted to the wealthy Irish La Touche family; Maria La Touche, a minor Irish poet and novelist, asked Ruskin to teach her daughters drawing and painting. The aforementioned, Rose La Touche was nine, and Ruskin gradually fell in love with her. Their first meeting came at a time when Ruskin’s own religious faith was under strain, which always caused difficulties for the extremely Protestant La Touche family who at various times prevented the two from meeting. Ruskin’s love for Rose was a cause of great joy and deep depression for him, and always a source of anxiety.

Ruskin proposed to La Touche on her eighteenth birthday in 1867, but she asked him to wait three years for an answer, until she was 21. A chance meeting at the Royal Academy in 1869 was one of the few occasions they came into personal contact thereafter. She finally rejected him in 1872, but they still occasionally met. After a long illness, she died on 25 May 1875, at the age of 27. These events plunged Ruskin into despair and led to increasingly severe bouts of mental illness involving a number of breakdowns and delirious visions. Ruskin turned to spiritualism and was by turns comforted and disturbed by what he believed was his ability to communicate with the dead Rose.

In the 1880s, Ruskin returned his writings to some literature and themes that had been among his favorites since childhood. He wrote about Walter Scott, Byron and Wordsworth in “Fiction, Fair and Foul” (1880) and returned to meteorological observations in his lectures. Ruskin’s prophetic writings were also tied to his emotions, and his more general dissatisfaction with the modern world.

His last great work was his autobiography, “Praeterita” (1885–89) (meaning, ‘Of Past Things’), a highly intimate, but incomplete account of his life.


John Ruskin in 1882

The period from the late 1880s was one of steady decline and it became too difficult for him to travel to Europe. He suffered a complete collapse on his final tour, which included Beauvais, Sallanches and Venice, in 1888. His later writings were increasingly seen as irrelevant, especially as he seemed to be more interested in book illustrators such as Kate Greenaway than in modern art. He also attacked Darwinian theory with increasing violence, although he knew and respected Darwin personally.


Ruskin’s 80th birthday was widely celebrated in 1899, but Ruskin was scarcely aware of it. He died from influenza on 20 January 1900 at the age of 80. He was buried five days later in the churchyard at Coniston, according to his wishes. As he had grown weaker, suffering prolonged bouts of mental illness, he had been looked after by his second cousin, Joan Severn and she inherited his estate. “Joanna’s Care” was the eloquent final chapter of his memoir which he dedicated to her as a fitting tribute.

Kenneth Clark defines Ruskin:

‘He was a character of great fascination and complexity . . . made up of contradictions:
intelligence and silliness; puritanism and a refined sensuality; selfishness and extreme generosity . . . The central drama of his life, that of the pampered aesthete who gradually becomes aware of social injustice and as a result sacrifices his reputation, his wealth and ultimately his sanity, is as moving as anything in fiction . . . We should read Ruskin for the very quality of his mind . . . his refusal to consider any human faculty in isolation.’

To purchase your own copy of The King of The Golden River, written originally for Effie, visit our Ebay Store!

Mysterious Lover’s Eye Miniatures

They’re so mysterious that no one but the original wearer knows whose eye they display, and that’s kind of the point.

These tiny eye paintings started as a fad in the late 1700s. Their purpose? To carry a piece of a loved one at all times without revealing their identity.

It’s a true token of a love affair, and fodder for a story of romance.

The alleged beginning of these “lover’s eyes” comes from the prince of Wales, later King George IV, who once became determined to court a Catholic, twice-widowed woman named Maria Fitzherbert. The court frowned upon this courting and at first Maria Fitzherbert was not particularly impressed either. Finally, she reluctantly agreed to marry him, though their marriage would not be officially recognized since George III had not approved it.

Some accounts say that Maria came to her senses before the marriage and fled to America. But the prince did not give up. He sent her a locket with a miniature painting of his eye inside and the note, “P.S. I send you a parcel, and I send you at the same time an eye. If you have not totally forgotten the whole countenance, I think the likeness will strike you.” Whether it was the portrait or his letter, Maria decided to give in and marry George. Rumors say that George kept a portrait of Maria’s eye as well.


The whole event sparked an interest in miniature eye portraits. Worn not only by lovers and spouses, but also close family members and friends, they were the perfect way to openly wear special jewelry without having to worry about anyone knowing who was being represented.

Miniaturists like Richard Cosway and George Engleheart were some of the first to paint these pieces.

Some say these trinkets were a French invention, though no one knows for sure. Lady Eleanor Butler wrote in her diary at the time of the fad, “an Eye, done in Paris and set in a ring – a true French idea.”

Only limited amounts of eye miniatures from the 18th and 19th centuries exist today. The estimated number is under 1,000.

You can find the eyes most often set in lockets, brooches and rings, often surrounded by jewels or pearls. The biggest currently known collection is owned by the Skiers of Birmingham, Alabama, who have been collecting these pieces for decades.

You’d Be Surprised What Human Hair Can Make

Get this: Victorians didn’t just throw their hair away after brushing it out like we do today. They kept it as a household material.

Women kept tools called “hair receivers” on their vanity and put the extra hair that caught on their brush inside them. These pieces have small holes in the middle of the lid to put the hair in, and when they’re full the lid can be taken off. Many have beautiful patterns on them and are made of materials like glass and porcelain. These were used up through the 1950s.

Hair Receiver

From a 1900s catalogue.


Waste not, want not, right?

They put this extra hair to use for a variety of things. Big, tall hair was very popular at the time, and women put rats of hair into small hairnets to add major volume. It was like the BumpIt of the Victorian era.



Women also stuffed the hair into pincushions and pillows.

We’ve also written about Victorian mourning jewelry, which often kept locks of hair as keepsakes.

But one of the most unusual uses for hair was hair art. Women would put together art from locks of hair of their family members, creating a wreath that symbolized family ties. Other hair wreaths would mourn a lost loved one, and some art or albums even kept locks of friends’ hair in braided patterns.

It seems like an odd practice to us today, but to the Victorians it was a beloved tradition to honor loved ones.

Some people make art out of hair today too, although obviously it’s a rare find.


Ruby Lane

Remembering the Dead: All About Mourning Jewelry

Who knew jewelry could be so macabre?

Once upon a time before photography, people needed a way to remember their deceased family members. So they used what might seem a little odd today: jewelry in which to keep pieces of the dead loved one’s hair.

The practice started as late as the 16th century and lasted through the Victorian Era. Queen Victoria, ever the trendsetter, popularized mourning jewelry after the death of Prince Albert in 1861. Black jewelry in general became especially popular at the time.

$_57 (1)

This antique mourning locket still has a lock of hair inside.

Mourning rings were the most popular type, but you can also find hair in lockets and other types of jewelry.

Jewelers got creative with hair: locks were not only kept in lockets, but also braided with a cord or ground and mixed with paint to paint a small, detailed picture. No matter the type, each piece of jewelry was inscribed with the name and date of death of the deceased. Some also had morbid epitaphs like “we must submit” and “we’re his last”.

Black enamel was the most common material in mourning jewelry. But other materials also had their own significance: for instance, white enamel meant a girl had died before she was married, and pearls meant the death of a child. Victorians had extra-strict rules for mourning periods, and their jewelry would match each period based on the appropriate color.


A mourning brooch.

When photography became more widely available in the Victorian Era, people started the infinitely creepier practice of post mortem photography. People put their dead loved ones in poses as if they were alive and had photos taken with them to remember them by. You can easily find these by searching online.

Most mourning jewelry you’ll find out there is beautiful, so keep an eye out and you may just be surprised by what you can find.


Historic New England


On (re)Purpose

The Symbolism of Flowers

Watch out: If you’re given a red geranium, the gift might not have good intentions.

Flowers, especially in the Victorian era, often have hidden (and sometimes not-so-hidden) symbolism. Red geraniums just happen to carry an insult: they mean “stupidity”.

But worry not, most popular flowers today have positive messages. And with spring just around the corner, it would be helpful to know these messages.

Floriography, the language of flowers, communicates messages through flower arrangements.

While France hit a floriography phase in the first half of the 19th century, the practice was most common in the Victorian era in Britain, at the time when lack of modesty was frowned upon and subtlety and tact had to go a long way for communication. Victorian men courting women used flowers to say to their beloved what they would not outright say in front of her parents or chaperones.


A vintage advertisement featuring chrysanthemums.

A vintage advertisement featuring chrysanthemums, symbols for optimism or joy.

Flowers can mean more than one thing, depending on the symbol guide you check. But usually it’s not hard to get to the bottom of their meaning.

Want to know what your flowers mean? Here’s a cheat sheet for some of the more common flowers:

Azalea – abundance
Crocus – youth
Daffodil – chivalry
Daisy – innocence
Freesia – spirited
Forget-Me-Not – remember me forever (as if that one wasn’t obvious)
Gardenia – joy
Hydrangea – perseverance
Jasmine – grace and elegance
Lavender – distrust
Lilac – first love
Rhododendron – beware
Pink Rose – friendship
Red Rose – passionate love
White Rose – purity
Yellow Rose – zealous or jealousy
Sunflower – adoration
Violet – faithfulness

Note the less savory symbols, like Lavender’s “distrust”. Other such insults include Amaryllis’s “haughtiness”, Peony’s “anger”, and Yellow Carnation’s “you have disappointed me.”

Flowers have been used as symbolism in art and literature as well. Authors including Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Emily Bronte used flower language in their works, and Pre-Raphaelites commonly used symbolic flowers in their pieces, like in John Everett Millais’s painting Ophelia.


More extensive list of flower symbolism


Hidden Symbolism in Victorian Jewelry

No one loves symbolism like the Victorians loved symbolism.



In an age of complex manners and rules, Victorians used symbolism to speak a secret language.

Especially when it came to courting, jewelry held its own hidden messages. Men went through complicated processes to court women, closely guarded by their parents and chaperones, and jewelry conveyed more heartfelt messages than he was able to communicate in person.

Queen Victoria, the fashionable queen with more than a little influence on Victorian style, received an engagement ring from Prince Albert in the form of a snake, the symbol of eternity.


The star symbolizes spirit and guidance in this Victorian star, moon, diamond and pearl necklace.

Sometimes it takes serious contemplation before figuring out the meaning behind a piece of Victorian jewelry.

There are plenty of complex symbols. Jewelry with different types of stones spell out a message as an acronym of the stones’ first letters. For instance, if a ring has a ruby, emerald, garnet, amethyst, another ruby, and a diamond, it spells out “REGARD”. This is one of the most common words in acronym jewelry, and carries a meaning like “with my regards” or “I highly regard you”.

And that’s just the start of the hidden meanings. Symbols abound in Victorian pieces. For instance, if a couple was on their honeymoon, the bride would wear a pin with a crescent moon and flowers. The flowers represented the nectar, or “honey” part of the word “honeymoon”.

290px-Victorian_WomanSome other symbols in Victorian jewelry:
Pearls – Tears
Forget-Me-Nots – Remembrance
Doves – Domesticity
Crowned Heart – Love Triumphant
Butterfly – Soul
Clasped Hands – Friendship, Lasting Love

Do you have any jewelry with hidden symbols? Go here for a comprehensive list of symbol meaning in jewelry, and tell us if you find anything!