This silver Aesthetic Movement bracelet was most likely a souvenir from a young woman's Grand Tour. The Grand Tour was a rite of passage for upper and middle class Britons during the 17th-19th centuries. On this educational tourist trip, wealthy young people visited significant sites, including classical ruins in France and Italy, studying and producing art and poetry as they went. Collecting souvenirs of their explorations was important, and an industry popped up to accommodate their tourist shopping needs. This face of this bracelet, a memento of time spent in Italy, is affixed with a silver box known as a carnet de bal
and engraved with the word "souvenir". A carnet de bal
is a small box designed to hold a pencil and slips of paper or velum (or for older styles, thin sheets of ivory). So as not to forget the order of dances, the wearer of this piece would write them down and tuck them in her carnet de bal for safekeeping. This carnet de bal is engraved with a young woman playing a mandolin and a parrot. The hinged lid features a tree on a hillside, and tiny coins etched with the visage of the King Umberto of Italy. A very interesting and unusual piece.
VICTORIAN (1837 - 1901)
The Western world was thoroughly transformed during Queen Victoria’s epically long reign. New technology, urbanization, and industrialization created a middle class flush with disposable income, and for the first time, jewelry was mass-produced to sell to everyone.
The Victorians were avid consumers and novelty-seekers, especially when it came to fashion, and numerous fads came and went throughout the 19th century. In jewelry, whatever fashion choices Queen V. made reverberated throughout the kingdom. The Romantic period reflected the queen’s legendary love for her husband, Albert. Jewelry from this period featured joyful designs like flowers, hearts, and birds, all which often had symbolic meaning. The queen’s betrothal ring was made in the shape of a snake, which stood for love, fidelity, and eternity. The exuberant tone shifted after Prince Albert passed away in 1861, marking the beginning of the Grand Period. Black jewelry became de rigeur as the Queen and her subjects entered “mourning,” which at the time represented not just an emotional state, as we conceive of it today, but a specific manner of conduct and dress. She wore the color black for the remainder of her life, and we see lots of black onyx, enamel, jet, and gutta percha in the jewelry from this time. Finally, during the late Victorian period, which transitioned along with a rapidly changing world into the “Aesthetic Movemement”, there was a return to organic and whimsical motifs: serpents, crescent moons, animals, and Japonaisserie designed for the more liberated “Gibson Girl”.
During the second half of the 19th century, America entered the global jewelry market, with Tiffany and Co. leading the way. Lapidaries continued to perfect their techniques, and the old European cut emerged toward the end of the Victorian period. The discovery of rich diamond mines in South Africa made the colorless stones more accessible than ever before.