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Victorian Symbolism in Jewellery

Explore the 'Symbolism' found in Victorian antique jewellery, an era abundant with symbolic designs. The Victorians expertly crafted jewellery with meaningful symbols such as snakes representing eternal love and ivy leaves symbolising fidelity. These motifs turned ornaments into art imbued with profound meanings.


Acorns: Acorns symbolised growth and potential. An acorn on a piece of jewellery might have been a wish for the wearer's potential to be realized.

Anchor: An anchor was a Christian symbol of hope or steadfastness.

Birds: Birds also had different meanings. Swallows, for instance, symbolised home and a safe return, and were often given to loved ones before a journey.

Bows: Bows often symbolised love and remembrance, much like a knot tied to remember someone or something

Cherubs: Cherubs or angels were often used as symbols of innocence and spirituality. They were also sometimes used as a memorial symbol, referencing the journey of the soul in the afterlife.

Diamonds: As today, diamonds symbolised eternal love and strength because of their durability and clarity.

Emeralds: Emeralds symbolised rebirth and fertility. They were often used to represent spring and renewal.

Flowers: Specific flowers had different meanings. For example, forget-me-nots symbolised remembrance, lilies symbolised purity, and roses often symbolised love. Ivy represented fidelity and eternal love.

Fly: The fly symbolised humility due to its lowly nature. It was also a symbol of persistence and hard work.

Garnets: Garnets were thought to symbolise deep and enduring affection. They were often associated with friendship and trust.

Hands: Hands were also a symbol of affection, friendship, and a bond that wouldn't be broken. A specific style, known as "fede" rings, featured two clasped hands symbolizing trust and faith.

Hearts: As today, hearts in Victorian jewellery symbolised love and affection.

Hair: While it may seem strange to us now, lockets and brooches with a loved one's hair were very common in the Victorian era. This was a way of keeping a part of that person close, particularly after their death.

Horseshoe: Horseshoes are a universal symbol of good luck, and that meaning carried into Victorian times as well. When worn pointing upwards, it acts as a container for good luck, capturing it and keeping it with the wearer. If the horseshoe was shown pointing downwards, it was thought to symbolise luck flowing outwards, bestowing good fortune on others.

Insects: Insects, particularly bees and butterflies, were common symbols in Victorian jewellery. Butterflies symbolised the soul and transformation, while bees could symbolise industriousness and loyalty.

Moon: The moon has also held a wide array of meanings, being associated with various goddesses and deities throughout history. In Victorian symbolism, a crescent moon often symbolised femininity and motherhood due to its connections with various goddesses. It could also represent changeability due to the moon's different phases.

Opals: Opals were thought to symbolise hope, innocence, and purity in the Victorian era. However, after the publication of Sir Walter Scott's novel Anne of Geierstein, which described a cursed opal, the gemstone was also associated with bad luck for some time.

Padlocks: Padlocks were symbols of security, permanence, and ownership. Often, they were given as love tokens, signifying that the giver had 'locked' their heart to the recipient.

Pearls: Pearls were associated with innocence, purity, and femininity. They were also used to symbolise tears and were often incorporated into mourning jewellery.

Pig: While not as common, when pigs were featured, they symbolized abundance, fertility, and good luck.

Rubies: Rubies were symbols of passion, love, and power. They were often associated with the heart and courage.

Snakes: Interestingly, snakes were symbols of eternal love in the Victorian era. Queen Victoria herself had a snake engagement ring.

Stars: In the Victorian era, they were often used to symbolise guidance, aspiration, and enlightenment. Stars were seen as constant and unchanging, thus they could also symbolise steadfastness or eternity. A falling or shooting star could represent a moment of significance or change.

Sun: The sun was typically associated with the divine, often symbolising power, glory, illumination, and vitality. It was also a universal symbol of constancy and reliable cycles.

Thistle: The thistle, especially in Scottish jewellery, symbolised strength, protection, and healing. It's the national emblem of Scotland and was used to symbolise Scottish pride.

Turquoise: Turquoise was associated with protection. It was also often linked to forget-me-nots due to its similar color, thus making it a symbol of enduring love and remembrance.

Wings: Wings were a common symbol of aspiration, spiritual elevation, and protection. In some cases, they were also associated with speed and freedom.

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