M’Lady Victorian

Art Metal Jewelry Boxes Display “Motif de la Femme”

sample_1The Victorian Era is that period of the 19th Century during which Queen Victoria (1837-1901) reigned.  Although named after an English monarch, the ideals of the Victorian Era traversed continents and American culture soon felt the effects of rapid change and development in nearly every sphere: advances in medical, scientific and technological knowledge as well as changes in population growth and location.   With the advancement of technology during the Industrial Revolution and the movement of rural populations to the urbane, the mingling of social and economic strata resulted in the emergence of what is now commonly referred to as “the middle class”.   This new level of societal hierarchy especially desired to act in a manner befitting their class and did so via education, dress, and home furnishings.

The ambitious and hard-working middle class and their resultant prosperity established an appreciation of the fine arts including literature, architecture, and finely made crafts.  It also placed inordinate importance on wealth and extravagance.   Victorian homes were elaborately decorated with furniture, paintings, and trinkets, as wealth was associated with ostentatious display and décor.

The plush lifestyle of Victorian citizenry continued to influence American culture well into the 1900’s – most often through art (paintings, metal works, and furniture).  The Victorian lady was a common theme and used to ornament trinkets adorning women’s dressing tables.   Jewel boxes, clocks, pin cushions, hair combs and brushes displayed lounging ladies upon their chaises or admiring their reflection through a looking glass.

Jewel boxes in particular-today also called Jewel Caskets or Trinket Boxes-are delightful remembrances of our American past.  Often discovered with a “motif de la femme”, these art metal jewelry boxes are as richly diverse as our own American heritage, varying in style, composition, and use.  These and other items were popular palates for the artist wishing to portray Victorian life and for the American woman wishing portray the life of a Victorian lady.

My Lady’s Jewel BoxMy lady’s jewel box, if chosen by herself, will quite probably give expression to some of the tastes and characteristics of its owner. It may be a richly embossed square or oblong silver casket, …. or another style of jewel box. Well established in favor, is the heart shaped affair of silver, which ranges from a considerable size down to the tiniest of ring and trinket holders. In briefly noting the contents of a well-equipped jewel box, there is no question of the article with which the chronicler must begin.  It cannot be other than the ring, around which clusters so much of the sentiment and romance of jewelry tradition, which has never been more profusely and elegantly worn in this country than today. For, though modified in appearance somewhat from time to time by the vagaries of ever changing fashion, the ring yet defies them all, and, with its endless round, remains essentially the same and always beloved of womankind. By Alice Benedict, Feb. 1, 1899. Jewelers’ Circular

Seen in the Shops. THE PROBLEM of choosing gifts approaches with Christmas ….The fever begins about the first of December and reaches its climax with the last week before Christmas, making necessary many tours of the shops; where this is impossible the following illustrations and suggestions will be found useful. Perhaps the easiest presents to select are those for women, including the very little maid and the grandmother …. Beautiful articles are exhibited in the new copper gold ware in the form of jewel cases, photograph frames, opera glasses, desk accoutrements and bric-a-brac. ….The Delineator, Jan. 1903