When A Jewel Was More Than A Jewel

Don’t you love Victorian jewelry? From the delicate, romantic engraved and enameled pieces of the early Victorian period (1837-1860) through the  larger heavier pieces of the grand period (1860-1880) and the quieter, more severe pieces  popular in the late Victorian era ( 1880-1901) Victorian jewelry recalls the  time when a gentlemen might commission a special bracelet, necklace, locket, or hair comb to express his feelings and hopes.

The Victorians developed an intricate code for jewels that a woman might read like a book. If she knew the code. A diamond meant constancy, an emerald meant hope. Amethysts were a sign of devotion, and rubies signified passion.  By reading the first letter of  each gem’s name, a  lady receiving a piece of jewelry set with a diamond, an emerald, an amethyst, and a ruby— in that order— would get the message “DEAR.”   How clever  is that?

This sent my writer’s imagination into overdrive. Suppose a Victorian heroine received a beautiful bracelet from an unknown giver,  set with a diamond, an amethyst, a ruby, and another diamond?  Only, she doesn’t know the code. Thrilled with such gorgeous gems, she goes in search of  the donor,  unaware that her life is in danger. Now there’s the plot for one of my future novels!

The wearing of certain pieces of jewelry sent more than a message about a woman’s wealth. Her jewels, or absence thereof , spoke to her level of refinement.In Europe especially, young girls wore only pearls, crosses, chains, or mourning jewelry. Diamonds and gems were reserved for married women of a certain age. Older women, and those in mourning were not to be seen wearing anything that sparkled.

Cameos like this one are among my favorite pieces of Victorian adornment. During Victoria’s time, they were made of gold, silver, stone, shell, and mother of pearl. Today, we most often see reproductions featuring a woman’s profile, but in the Victorian age, the most popular cameo was called Rebecca  at the Well, depicting the famous scene from the Old Testament, in which the young maid  meets her future husband at the well and fulfills a prophecy.

Pendants, lockets, hair ornaments, hair pins, rings, bracelets, earrings, chokers, brooches….I love them all. What’s your favorite?

19 thoughts on “When A Jewel Was More Than A Jewel

    1. dorothy Post author

      Hope I get a chance to write it, soon, Wendy. I think it would be a lot of fun. Cameos are so elegant. You have great taste. 🙂

  1. Peggy Lee Payne

    Southern born and bred. A seventh generation Scotch-Irish American. I’m a walking advertisement for Florida. I’m a 4th generation Floridian. Pines, Palmettos and vast blue skies are my love. My home is decorated with a Victorian Cottage theme:) Can’t get enough and suspense is my favorite genre of books and movies. Can’t wait for your book:) God Bless!

  2. Ethel Gore

    I’m enjoying reading everything you write, I didn’t know we had so much in common.I’m telling all my friends at work about your books and about your web site.

  3. Janelle McManus

    Wow! I love that plot for a future book! Sounds intriguing in those few lines! I already have your book (and enjoyed it immensely!)! I love historical items, history and stories, including Victorian themed things. I really love the Victorian homes that are still around here in Portland! So intricately made, gorgeous details, and imagination put into constructing those homes. Newer homes that are built nowadays are not so great. Someday, if I were to buy a house, I’d like to get a Victorian or a Craftsman home. Have a great night! 🙂

    1. dorothy Post author

      Jessica, thank you sooo much!! I think this would be a fun book to write. But first, I must finish EVERY PERFECT GIFT, the last book in the Hickory Ridge series. Thanks for visiting my blog!

  4. Mad Monica Brown

    I, too, look forward to reading more stories, including suspenseful ones. Cameos are amazing pieces of art. The fact that they stay classy decade after decade is another thing that adds beauty to them.

    My favorite ones, however, are those that come to a person in a tattered old box found in gramma’s dresser. When you open those, you can still smell gramma’s perfume on them. If you’re really lucky, you can even smell HER gramma’s favorite perfume when you put it on.

    When they warm up, you can almost feel the warmth of their hearts touching yours. It always makes me feel closer to them. Sometimes when i’m at my lowest point, all it takes is touching the face of the lady in the cameo and I can see myself askin grammy if I could wear it. And of course she let me.. grammas always do. 🙂 Thank you for writing these stories. Seriously.

    1. dorothy Post author

      Monica, what a lovely comment. I lost both my grandmothers by the time I was nine, so I missed out on a lot of those sweet memories. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Donna

    So looking forward to your next book…my mom has my grandmother ‘s broach. So precious! Thanks for sharing.

    1. dorothy Post author

      Donna, those pieces mean so much , don’t they? I hope you will enjoy BEAUTY FOR ASHES. It was such fun to write.

  6. Wendy

    I don’t know who has won the beautiful Cameo … I would like to Congratulate the winner.
    Thank you for the fun and sharing. 🙂

    1. dorothy Post author

      Hi Wendy, Jessie won the cameo this time. Thank YOU for hanging out with me on Facebook. 🙂 I so appreciate each and every one of you.


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