The Victorian Era spanned Queen Victoria's rule of England from 1837 until 1901. During this time, a middle class began to emerge, sparking a demand for jewelry in the mass market, jewelry trends often reflected the tone of current events. The era is usually divided into several subsections: the Romantic Period from 1837 to 1861, the Grand Period from 1861 to 1880, and the Aesthetic Period from 1880 to 1901.
During the Romantic Period jewelry also featured nature-inspired designs, similar to jewelry of the Georgian era. Frequently, these designs were delicately and intricately etched into gold. Lockets and brooches were popular in daytime jewelry during the early Victorian era, whereas colored gemstones and diamonds were worn during the evening.
During the Grand Period jewelry , because the Grand or Mid-Victorian era corresponded with the death of Queen Victoria's husband, many jewelry pieces have solemn, somber designs. Known as mourning jewelry, the pieces feature heavy, dark stones. Jet, onyx, amethyst, and garnet are frequently found in jewelry from this period. Compared to previous periods, Mid-Victorian-era jewelry features highly creative, colorful designs using shells, mosaics and gemstones.
During the Aesthetic period, jewelers used diamonds and feminine, bright gemstones such as sapphire, peridot, and spinel. Star and crescent designs as well as elaborate hat pins were also popular. Some scholars believe the aesthetic era began sooner, in 1875, and ended as early as 1890.
The name agate is derived from the Achatus river in Sicily (now named the Dirillo river) where large amounts of this gem were discovered as early as 300 BC. During the Gallic wars, agate deposits were discovered along the Nahe river (a tributary to the Rhine) in Germany. The gem-cutting facilities set up there by the Romans survive to present day and, although the deposits are now depleted, Idar-Oberstein – on the Nahe river – is still the major lapidary center of Europe. Today the agates cut there are imported from Brazil and other locations.
Silver is a white metallic element, harder than gold, softer than copper and second only to gold in malleability and ductility. Represented on the Periodic Table of the Elements by the symbol Ag, silver is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity. Silver is considered one of the noble metals because of it is excellent resistance to oxidation. Historically, silver has played a prominent role in the production of jewelry an objets d'art and is usually alloyed with another metal to harden it enough to maintain the desired shape and details imparted to it.