The Victorians wore jewelry that conveyed nuanced meaning, expressed sentiment, and brought fortune. They celebrated life events, friendship, love, and courtship with these designs.
Below is a list of motifs and an outline of what they symbolized for the Victorians. Many of these meanings remain today although others have been lost along the way.
- Birds had a wide variety of meanings for the Victorians. For example, swallows symbolized love and mating for life.
CRESCENT MOON AND STARS
- The crescent moon represented a new relationship and the hope it would “wax” into matrimony.
- Crossed Oars symbolized ‘contentment’.
- A dog symbolized loyalty and friendship.
- Figure eights symbolized eternity or ‘infinity’.
- Flowers and plants had diverse hidden meanings for the Victorians. An entire ‘language of flowers’ was developed, known as ‘Floriography‘.
- The garter symbolized chastity and virtue. The ‘order of the garter’ was an order of chivalry founded by the British monarchy.
- The Greek Key motif symbolized infinity or the ‘eternal flow of things’.
- The mythical griffin represented courage.
- Hands had a variety of different meanings, depending on the form, including affection, strength, family, and love.
- These symbolized love, friendship, affection, and devotion. Combined hearts and flowers signified fidelity and remembrance.
- Horseshoes symbolized good luck and fortune.
- Keys symbolized knowledge and success and were also given as a ‘coming of age’ gift on the 21st birthday. They also meant ‘you have the key to my heart’.
- A lizard symbolized ‘wedded bliss’ and was given as wedding or anniversary gifts.
- Lovers’ knots symbolized ‘eternal love,’ ‘fidelity’ and ‘commitment’.
Victorian Lover’s Knot Ring. Lang’s Antiques.
- Scarabs symbolized ‘endurance of the soul.’ They rose to prominence with the ‘Egyptian Revival’ Movements.
SHAMROCKS AND FOUR-LEAVED CLOVERS
- Shamrocks and four-leaved clovers symbolized good health, good luck, and happiness. They were very much associated with Ireland and many were produced there. They could often be made with real shamrocks or four-leaved clovers set under clear enamel, rock crystal, or glass.
- Snakes symbolized eternal life, sexuality, and mystery.
- Acrostic jewelry was a way to convey a sentimental message by way with the first letter of each stone, the first letter of which spelled out a word.