The Victorian Era - Part III

The Victorian Era is dated to the reign of Queen Victoria, from 1837 to 1901. To be truly Victorian we feel a piece needs to be capable of being definitively dated to this period. However, questions do come up regarding the use of terms such as Victorian Revival or Victorian style.

Using “Victorian style” to describe a piece can be very problematic. The world saw many changes in this period of over 60 years, including the world of fashion. Women’s clothing is separated into at least three distinct major periods. Jewelry and decorative objects are influenced by a number of revivals and movements within the Victorian Era. Means of mass production develop and are rebelled against. The influence of tastes from the far flung corners of the British Empire is seen in all areas of design. New materials are available from these areas, and technological innovation is allowing new materials to be produced.

Many of the style elements of Victorian pieces are borrowed from other periods or cultures. The range of style is so wide as to make the term Victorian style meaningless in many cases. Simply possessing one or two style elements used in the Victorian Era does not necessarily make a piece “Victorian Style”, as these style elements are also present in the work of many other times. The term should be used with extreme caution.

Influenced largely by the film industry, the late 1920’s saw the birth of a recognized style of jewelry design known as Victorian Revival. These pieces, which are inspired by Victorian fashion while not being faithful reproductions, are normally dated from the late 1920’s to the mid-1940’s. The use of cameos, materials simulating jet, and some floral designs are hallmarks of this trend. Some of the metal filigree work of this period is also considered Victorian Revival, although the pieces are really based on designs that were more Edwardian than Victorian. While there was also a strong influence of similar tastes in the late 1950’s through the 1960’s, the term Victorian Revival should be limited to pieces produced from the late 1920’s to the mid-1940’s.

While this same trend undoubtedly influenced fashion and furniture as well, we know of no clearly defined Victorian Revival period for these items.

If you have serious questions about whether or not a piece qualifies for the term Victorian, Victorian Style or Victorian Revival, you probably should avoid the use of the term. When in doubt, don’t. You may always include more questionable speculation in the non-searchable area of your description. The use of the terms should be reserved for those pieces which clearly deserve them.

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