Sentiment and Superstition were important parts of life in the 19th century.
With constant reminders of the fragility of life, the Victorians embraced love and entreated luck. These two themes can be seen in the jewels of the era.
In the staid environment of 19th-century society a language developed, subtle signs and tokens were given and received to convey thoughts and feelings. Women closed, opened, and fluttered their fans to communicate desire or disdain for a suitor. Bouquets delivered messages, each flower having a meaning. And symbolic Jewels were given as tokens of love.
The jewels could be as obvious as a locket in the shape of a heart with a plait of your lover's hair inside or as subtle as a ring with a sentiment engraved on the inside. Undying eternal love was a popular theme and was expressed in inventive ways. A buckled belt ring its surface engraved with oak leaves, the belt a symbol of a never-ending circle of devotion, the oak leaf representing fertility and strength of conviction.A coiled snake was another way to represent eternity, it could take many forms. Here we have a golden snake pendant with an opal heart suspend within its embrace.
Acrostic jewels were popular tokens as well, with gems spelling out words to convey the giver's feelings. Some of the popular words were REGARD: Ruby Emerald Garnet Amethyst Ruby Diamond and ADORE: Amethyst Diamond Opal Ruby Emerald. Below is an example of an acrostic jewel, conveying regard.
Affection could even be expressed by a color, the most popular being a specific shade of blue. The forget me not flower was a symbol of love long before the Victorians embraced it, and it became so ubiquitous that even the color of the flower was known for a symbol of a wish never to be forgotten. Jewels were enameled in a shade of robins egg blue associated with the flower and given as tokens of affection. Persian turquoise was prized for its perfect blue and used in jewels to reference the forget me not. This elaborate necklace has turquoise gems set closely together covering the surface, and if that isn’t sentimental enough every pendant is a locket.
Life was short and often difficult in the 19th century, they needed luck on their side. Horseshoes hung over doors, salt was thrown over shoulders, umbrellas were never opened inside, bad luck was to be avoided. While perfect summer afternoons were spent searching meadows and fields for four-leaf clovers. Superstitions and good luck charms go hand in hand.
Whether it was a word to impart good luck, an engraving or design on a jewel, the symbolism was rife in the 19th century. From the maid with her lucky rabbit's foot to the mistress of the house with her golden horseshoe, superstition was a part of daily life. Sheaves of wheat decorated brooches with the hope they would bring abundance. Charms and bright blue beads were worn to keep jealousy and the evil eye away. Horseshoes suspended by the heels were thought to gather and hold good luck.
Pairs of matched bracelets were popular wedding gifts and often included symbols to bring the couple good luck and fertility. Whether a real clover encased in a glass locket or its likeness engraved on a jewel they held equal fascination in Victorian society. This pair of wedding bracelets features an engraved clover on the center of each wishing the couple good luck.
The word Mizpah is often found on rings, brooches, and bangles from the Victorian era. It symbolizes a wish for God to watch over two people when they are apart and keep them safe until they are together again. Even the simple phrase of Good Luck is found on jewels of the period.
A gold band such as this would have served the dual purpose of a love token and a good luck charm.
The Victorians weren't much different than us, we all need the same thing some Love and a bit of Good Luck. p.