Victorian-era rings embraced a variety of styles, from romantic and floral to sculptured and bold. This diversity owed mainly to the long reign of Queen Victoria, which spanned six decades. Because of this jewellery historians tend to group Victorian rings into three timelines, early Victorian, Mid Victorian and late Victorian – at which point you can begin to see the definite leaning towards an Edwardian style.
Early Victorian rings
In early Victorian times, ostentatious and over-the-top styles and designs were favoured. It was also popular to create engagement rings using the bride’s birthstone. Rings often included multiple gemstones and other types of materials such as coral, ivory, tortoise shell and seed pears. Diamond rings often included small clusters of diamonds or small diamonds which framed circular or square shaped gemstones. The most popular diamond cuts of the day were the new “brilliant” cut and the old world “rose cut”. Popular motifs at that time leaned towards natural themes like butterflies, clover, garlands, daisies, doves, Gothic symbols and letters plus snakes. Even though rings from this time are over 150 years old they are quite sophisticated in their metal and filigree work and quality of settings.
Mid Victorian ring styles
During the Mid-Victorian period, ring styles began to take on a different tone. Albert passed away in 1861, and memorial rings (also known as mourning rings) became very popular again (they were initially quite popular during the Georgian era). Rose gold rings created from gold alloyed with copper also became very popular during this time.
Popular gemstones and designs during the Mid-Victorian period included opals, crystals, emeralds, diamonds, pearls, black glass, jet, and the ruby. Design styles became less ornate and much more sophisticated. Rings were made by hand-crafting, some die casting and gold wire work. Popular jewelry design motifs included acorns, hearts, bees, birds, stars, insects, shells, some flowers and geometrical shapes.
Late Victorian rings
Wedding rings from the Late Victorian period are defined in a large part by their use of diamonds, cluster and marquise boat shapes, which were sometimes called “dinner rings”. Use of pearls was still present and light airy styles which were an inspiration for rings made in the upcoming Edwardian period. The Late Victorian era was also when the solitaire diamond engagement ring made its first début.
Platinum became widely used for gemstone and diamond settings for the first time too, replacing the previously favoured gold and silver settings. Common motifs and jewelry themes prevalent during the Late Victorian period were bows and ribbons, lace-type filigree, stars, feathers, double hearts, crowns, doves, oak leaves, grape clusters and Egyptian influences.