Antique Jewels: 19th Century




Late Victorian Natural Pearl and Diamond Pendant/Brooch, Lot 404 in the Dupuis Fall 2016 Important jewels Auction

Antique jewels have a story. Sometimes we aren’t told what the story is. We can, however, discover the tale by reading the secrets of the jewel.

History is a moment in time. In antique jewels, these moments are revealed by examining gems, design styles, themes, and metals. Also, owners can help by providing anecdotes, reminiscences, pictures, or documents.

The years from 1800 to 1899 are an important period in history. Pivotally, the industrial revolution changes the way people live, work, travel, and build the things of daily life.


Antique Victorian Hardstone Cameo and 14K Gold Brooch, Lot 512 in the Dupuis Fall 2016 Important Jewels Auction

There is a growing middle class. People are upwardly mobile, with spare spending money. Concentrations of population and wealth in cities creates a growing artist class. Hence there are more decorative items produced and more people using them.


Lot 324 Spring 2017

Victorian brooch by Carlo Giuliano, offered in Dupuis Spring 2017 Important Jewels Auction, Lot 324

Britain’s Queen Victoria is the ruler of the British Empire. At the time, the British rule over a huge part of the world. Victoria reigned from 1837 to 1901. We often call this the Victorian period. Her children marry into many other European royal families. World change in her time is huge.


Victoria is one of the first world leaders to be photographed. It’s the origin of the paparazzi. Every time Queen Victoria goes out, the cameras are also out. Cameras are large and unwieldy in their early days, but photography brings big change. Thus, we all see photos of Victoria and her jewels.

Once upon a time, antique jewels were the latest thing. Now antique jewels are unique wearable works of art. It’s rare to find two identical Victorian jewels. We’re all fascinated by these beautiful and unique works of art.

Lot 97, spring 2017

Victorian pocket watch, offered in the Dupuis Spring 2017 Important Jewels Auction, Lot 97

In the Victorian Age, our time is more effectively used. More people carry a watch, there are more people with more leisure time. We see more and more information about the world outside of our borders. These borders are both geographic and historic.

Historically, we look at ourselves in our own back yards. The Victorian middle class saw pictures of interesting far-away places. Archaeologists all over Europe, Egypt, and further afield bring ancient art of great beauty to light.

Collectors become obsessed with these artifacts. Therefore, artists begin to explore work of the ancient world. The result is remarkable jewels of jewellers such as Castellani and Giuliano.

The archaeological revival work of these jewellers creates a buzz at auction. These antique jewels are exceptional, inspired by the most beautiful and enduring art of the ancient world.

Lot 327 Spring 2017

Antique hair ornament by Castellani. (One is in the collection of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, New York). Offered in the Dupuis Spring 2017 Important Jewels Auction, Lot 327

The work of Castellani & Giuliano is explored in another post.

About Duncan Parker

Duncan Parker, FGA, FCGmA, CAP (CJA), Vice President. Duncan is a columnist and contributor for industry magazines and journals. He has been an instructor of the gemstone course at Ryerson University, the Gemmology courses of George Brown College and Canadian Gemmological Association as well as instructor Master Valuer Program with the Canadian Jewellers Association. A renowned expert, he speaks regularly at international gem and jewellery conferences and symposiums, as well as at less formal events. He has served as President of the Canadian Gemmological Association since 1995. Before joining Dupuis Auctioneers, Duncan was a director of research at Harold Weinstein Ltd., a leading and respected jewellery appraisal company.
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