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.
Onyx is the name for the black and white banded variety of chalcedony. It has been used since antiquity when it was highly prized as a cameo stone. The layered color structure allows the engraver to cut the subject in one color while creating a background of another. The term onyx is often encountered describing pure black material although this is technically incorrect.
Marcasite is an iron sulfide mineral with an orthorhombic crystal structure. It is very brittle and unsuitable for jewelry. What we call "marcasite" in jewelry is actually Pyrite – "fools gold" – that has been faceted to imitate diamonds. Popular from around 1700 onward, marcasite is usually found mounted in silver. Because of its golden yellow color and metallic luster, Marcasite has remained popular in higher quality fashion jewelry. In antique jewelry, marcasite can be distinguished from cut steel faux gems because marcasites are usually bead or prong-set as a gemstone would be and cut steel is riveted.
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.