If your heart is set on a Victorian-style engagement ring, you’ve landed in the right place. At Raymond Lee Jewelers in Boca Raton, we have a wide range of engagement rings inspired by the Victorian era and we are experts in the field of classic jewelry eras.
In this article, we are going to take you back in time to the Victorian Era, to a place where people and engagement rings had an incredible “refined sensibility”. It was a period of great change for both the world and the jewelry industry, and it ultimately become the classic jewelry era that set the tone for modern diamond engagement rings.
WHAT ARE VICTORIAN STYLE ENGAGEMENT RINGS?
Victorian style engagement rings are engagement rings inspired from the Victorian era. The Victorian era was the period of Queen Victoria’s reign (1837 – 1901). It is one of the classic jewelry eras. To this day, modern brides immensely appreciate the characteristics of Victorian era engagement rings. However, real antique Victorian era engagement rings are very hard to come by. Moreover, women still want up-to-date advancements in diamond cutting and engagement ring settings. Needless to say, contemporary rings are far more refined and brilliant. So, with Victoria “style” engagement rings, you can have a taste of the old world with the beauty and brilliance of the new. It’s the perfect combination.
HISTORY OF VICTORIAN ERA ENGAGEMENT RINGS AND THE CHARACTERISTICS THAT INSPIRE MODERN VICTORIAN-STYLE ENGAGEMENT RINGS
The Victorian era of classic jewelry is one of the longest of the six separate and distinct eras in jewelry that began in the 1700s and ended in the 1950s. The Victorian era spanned the years from 1837, which was the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign, to 1901, at which time the Queen passed away.
During the 64 years of the Victorian era, the widely beloved monarch’s tastes greatly influenced art, style and customs in the Western world. Jewelry makers created engagement rings for the entire culture around her preferences, which changed throughout time. She set the tone for what was fashionable.
What’s more, there were a lot of advancements in technology and jewelry making, as well as new discoveries in the world of gemstones and precious metals in the course of her sovereignty. Because of this, the Victorian era has three separate categories – Early Victorian, Mid-Victorian, and Late Victorian. Each period has unique differences and a divergence in style. This makes the Victorian era one of the most interesting classic jewelry eras.
Early Victorian Era Engagement Rings: 1837-1860
Early Victorian era engagement rings represents a happy time for Queen Victorian. It was the high point in her reign and the time she was married to Albert.
Albert gave Queen Victoria a snake and emerald engagement ring. Like everything Queen Victoria wore, her engagement ring became the most sought after style for the public. However, only the most affluential followed these kinds of practices. Not everyone could afford jewelry. It was a luxury only for the wealthy.
Gemstones over Diamonds
At this time, diamonds were very scarce due to few discoveries of diamond mines, so gemstones were more common for engagement rings. Gemstones of this early period include amethyst, bloodstone, chalcedony, garnet, moss agate, ruby, smoky quartz, and topaz, and it was common to use more than one type for an engagement ring.
It was also desirable to use the birthstone in an engagement ring.
Celtic designs were very popular during this time as well. So, with that, bright colors and ostentatious, over-the-top styles were all the rage.
Motifs were based on natural themes like butterflies, clovers, daisies, garlands, doves, Gothic symbols, and, of course, snakes.
Rings often embraced other types of materials like coral, tortoise shell, ivory, seed pears. Certain engagement rings inlaid imaged under the gemstone.
Diamond cuts of the Early Victorian Era were the then-new “brilliant” cut and the Old World Rose Cut.
As for precious metal, engagement rings were made from 22K and 18K gold, rose gold, silver, and pinchbeck (a type of “fake” gold made with copper and zinc). It wasn’t until the end of the Early Victorian Era that people started testing lower carats like 9k, 12k and 15k gold alloys.
Advancements in Jewelry Manufacturing – 1840s
During the 1840s, jewelry manufacturing took off, so jewelry of this time was surprisingly sophisticated in the metal working and filigree detailing. If you saw a true antique engagement ring from this time, the overall quality is not what you’d expect to see from a ring that is 150 years old.
Mid-Victorian Era Engagement Rings: 1860-1885
When Albert passed away in 1861, jewelry and ring styles took on a different tone.
Memorial rings (aka mourning rings) became popular and eventually this style reached an all time peak in history during the Mid-Victorian Era. Note: Mourning rings were first introduced in the Georgian era.
Alberts death was caused by typhoid, and it was very untimely, having been only 42 years old. Queen Victoria’s love for Albert was truly everlasting and something of a legend to this day. She mourned him for the rest of her life.
Gemstones of the Mid-Victorian Engagement Ring Era include opals, emeralds, diamonds, pearls and rubies. Designs also had Crystals and black glass.
During the Mid-Victorian Engagement Ring Era, styles became less ornate. Much more sophisticated rings were being produced through new handcrafting techniques, as well as die-casting and gold wire work. Popular motifs were hearts, bees, birds, stars, insects, acorns, shells, flowers, and even some geometrical shapes.
Major Diamond Discovery in 1867
Diamonds became less scarce during the Mid-Victorian era as there was a huge diamond mine discovery in South Africa. This caused a tremendous increase in the demand for diamonds. Eventually they became more accessible to jewelry makers, which in turn meant the diamond would be within reach of the rising middle class.
Overall, this marked the beginning of the diamond’s journey as the go-to gemstone for engagement rings and jewelry.
Diamond Cuts – The most popular diamond cuts of the time were the old mine cut and the marquise-shaped diamond. The old mine cut diamond has 58 facets, like round brilliants do. However, the table is smaller and it has a larger culet and the crown is higher.
1854 Gold Stamp Law
In 1854, five years after the gold strike occurred in California, the USA passed a law that gold must be stamped. This went into effect immediately in the US, the entire Western world followed suit. Gold had to be stamped with the carats. Legal standards were 18k, 22k, as well as 15k, 14k, 12k and 9k.
This was the official introduction of lower karat gold alloys.
Like diamonds, gold became accessible to the middle class, thanks to the California gold rush. Mid-Victorian era engagement rings were commonly made from 18k, 15k, 14k, 12k and 9k gold. Silver also became much more affordable due to the drop in demand.
Rose Gold: Gold alloyed with copper, i.e. Rose Gold, has a special place in the Mid-Victorian era. It was very popular during this time. People looking for Mid-Victorian Era style engagement rings should definitely consider rose gold.
Note: It wasn’t just the discovery of gold and diamonds that makes the Mid-Victorian Era special. It was also a time of great advancements in transportation. This is how jewelers, and thus people, from all over the world were able to buy gold and diamonds. Not just the wealthy.
Late Victorian Era Engagement Rings: 1890-1901
The Late Victorian Era marks the final years of Queen Victoria’s reign and the beginning of the 20th century. While it was only a decade long, a lot changed in this short time.
Thanks to the diamond rush, diamond jewelry and engagement rings had finally reached much of the middle class. A diamond was the most desirable gemstone for an engagement ring.
Advances in diamond-cutting technology really took off in the late 1800s, allowing cutters to create round girdles. With that, the Late Victorian Era saw the development of the Old European Cut, which was the precursor for today’s round brilliant diamond. This was one of the most popular diamond cuts of the Late Victorian Era, especially with the solitaire setting beginning its rule as the most classic engagement ring setting.
Tiffany Setting – 6 Prong Solitaire Setting
The world-renowned designer brand Tiffany introduced the solitaire setting in 1886. The six-prong setting of the Tiffany Solitaire greatly amplified a diamonds brilliance by allowing more light to enter the diamond. It instantly become the most popular choice for an engagement ring. While some people used the Old Mine Cut, others would use the newer Old European Cut Diamond and the more brilliantly modified Marquise Diamond.
The most iconic diamond shapes of the time were the Old Mine Cut (similar to today’s cushion cut), the Old European Cut (similar to today’s round brilliant) and more fancy shapes like Marquise and Oval shaped diamonds.
Additionally, pearls were a desirable look for those who were seeking more affordable fine jewelry. Some people even had pearls on their engagements, as they did in the Mid-Victorian Era.
All in all, the light airy styles of the Late Victorian Era paved the way for the next classic jewelry era, the Edwardian era.
Platinum Engagement Rings
While gold was still a popular choice, and more affordable than ever, platinum took over the scene. Silver was on the way out, no longer having a firm place in the realm of engagement rings.
Thanks to advancements in technology, jewelry makers were able to work with platinum finally (note: Platinum has a much higher melting temperature than gold).
Platinum became the most superior precious metal for engagement rings. However, at the same time, there was a major shift from handcrafted-rings to mass-produced rings using machines.
What was once the norm – handcrafted rings – soon became a novelty. Thankfully, this art form still exists.
Motifs & Detailings
The Late Victorian Era featured engagement rings with bows and ribbons, lace-style filigree, milgrain detailing, stars, feathers, double hearts, grape clusters, oak leaves, doves, crowns and even Egyptian-type designs.
While diamonds and pearls were the major sources for engagement rings, aquamarine, emeralds, rubies, sapphires, opals, amethyst, chrysoberyl, peridot, and turquoise were part of engagement rings as well.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A VICTORIAN STYLE ENGAGEMENT RING
If you want an engagement ring that epitomizes the Victorian era, look for a modest design – Delicate rings that reflect immense beauty in a subtle manner.
In terms of features, here is a quick summary of the above…
Note: If you can find an engagement ring with an Old Mine Cut or Old European Cut diamond, that’s even better, as long as you don’t mind a little less light performance than modern cuts provide.
Motifs: Scrolls, Lace, Ribbons, Floral, or other nature-esque designs.
Detailing: Filigree, Milgrain
Settings: Solitaire, Cluster, Halo, or even Bypass Rings
Precious Metal: Yellow Gold, Rose Gold or Platinum
VICTORIAN ERA INSPIRED ENGAGEMENT RINGS AT RAYMOND LEE JEWELERS IN BOCA RATON
At Raymond Lee Jewelers (and Diamonds By Raymond Lee) in Boca Raton, you will find a plethora of delightful Victorian style engagement rings. Whether you prefer the characteristics of the Early, Middle or Late Victorian Era, we have the perfect Victorian-Inspired Engagement Ring for you.