Victorian bird jewellery
Birds have long been a popular motif in jewellery, however, the jewellery from the Victorian era is particularly interesting as it is full of symbolism. The Victorians had an interesting relationship with birds, they enjoyed keeping them inside as pets and yet shooting and taxidermy was highly popular.
Queen Victoria herself adored birds and owned a number of pet parrots and pigeons throughout her life. We are going to be taking a look at some spectacular examples of Victorian bird jewellery and exploring their symbolism.
At the wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the twelve bridesmaids were gifted a turquoise studded eagle brooch in a luxurious dark blue velvet case after the ceremony. Albert himself designed the brooches, he chose the shape of a German eagle to symbolise the House of Coburg. The brooches were then manufactured by the jeweller Charles du Vé who worked at a premises in Maddox Street, London.
The gemstones used were all highly symbolic and the symbolism behind the use of them in the brooches is lovely. The turquoise, the colour of forget-me-not flowers, symbolises luck, the ruby eyes symbolise passion, the diamonds on the beak represent eternity and the pearls gripped in the claws are for true love. In German jewel lore, the turquoise is the pledge of love, a gift to the betrothed and an affirmation of feeling. To the Victorians eagles symbolised many things including: nobility, strength, courage, mortality, wisdom and power.
1. AN ANTIQUE TURQUOISE, GARNET AND DIAMOND EAGLE BROOCH, 19TH CENTURY set with cabochon turquoise, garnets and round cut diamonds, suspending an articulated arrow motif, unmarked gold and silver, 3.3cm, 10.7g.
"The jewellery from the Victorian era is particularly interesting as it is full of symbolism"
2. ANTIQUE TURQUOISE AND GARNET COBURG EAGLE NECKLACE the Coburg eagle set as a slider on the fancy link chain, suspending a turquoise and garnet Maltese cross motif, 6cm, 22.9g.
3. ANTIQUE NATURAL PEARL, DIAMOND, HAIRWORK AND ENAMEL ST ESPRIT MOURNING BROOCH, EARLY 19TH CENTURY depicting the Dove of Peace, in royal blue enamel with natural pearl and diamond accents, suspending a jewelled heart locket set with woven hairwork, 4.8cm, 10.5g.
4. ANTIQUE VICTORIAN DIAMOND AND RUBY EAGLE PIN set with rose cut diamonds and a round cut ruby, 2.3cm, 2.1g.
5. ANTIQUE DIAMOND AND RUBY SWALLOW BROOCH set with a round cut ruby and rose cut diamonds, 4.8cm, 8.1g.
Queen Victoria often notably gifted bird motif jewellery to her friends and family, for Christmas in 1842 she gave The Duchess of Bedford a gold dove brooch, decorated with turquoise and pearls, carrying a heart-shaped turquoise. The reverse of the brooch contained a lock of Victoria’s hair as a sentiment.
In 1959 Charles Darwin transformed the way people thought about the natural world, particularly the ‘origin of species’. His writings transformed the way people thought about the natural world and introduced a variety of new species and concepts. Hummingbirds were a new discovery from South America and they were immensely popular in art and jewellery because of their colourful iridescent plumage.
Many Victorians were deeply religious and they associated the Holy Spirit with a dove. Often known as ‘Saint Espirit’ brooches the dove’s wings are spread in a position of descent, to symbolise the descent from heaven to earth. These doves were a symbol of faith and were meant to bring luck to the wearer. When the dove holds a heart in its beak, it symbolises love.
Bird jewellery is incredibly romantic and we have certainly had some sweet examples in our auctions throughout the years.
"Swallow brooches were often given to loved ones when they set out on a journey to keep them safe"
Swallows were another particularly popular motif in Victorian jewellery as they had a special meaning for fishermen and sailors. Swallows are an indication that land is near by and according to legend they can lead ships home and prevent them from getting lost. Thanks to this legend, swallow brooches were often given to loved ones when they set out on a journey to keep them safe so they returned home safely. Swallows were also associated with faithfulness and so were often given to young couples on their wedding day. These trinkets of sentimental exchange seem to have been worn by both men and women.
6. ANTIQUE RUBY AND DIAMOND DOVE PENDANT set with a round cut ruby and old and rose cut diamonds, 3.3g.
7. ANTIQUE DIAMOND AND RUBY SWALLOW BROOCH set with rose cut diamonds and cabochon rubies, 3.4cm, 7.3g.
8. AN ANTIQUE DIAMOND BIRD BROOCH, LATE 19TH CENTURY in yellow gold, designed as a swallow, set allover with rose cut diamonds totalling 1.5-2.0 carats, unmarked, 6.1cm, 7.3g.
9. AN ANTIQUE SAPPHIRE HUMMINGBIRD BROOCH, GEORGE L’ENFANT FOR HERMES in 18ct yellow gold, designed as a bird with jewelled sapphire eye, signed Hermes Paris and numbered, George L’Enfant makers mark, French assay marks, 6.1cm, 24.6g.
10. ANTIQUE DIAMOND AND ENAMEL PHEASANT BROOCH set with rose cut diamonds and red enamel, 3.4cm, 3.7g.
11. ANTIQUE PHEASANT BROOCH, set with red and green enamel, 5cm, 4.8g.
12. AN ANTIQUE DIAMOND AND ENAMEL PHEASANT BROOCH set with rose cut diamonds and red and green enamel, 4.5cm, 5g.