Falconry, the ancient practice of hunting quarry aka small woodland animals and birds with a trained raptor, has been in recorded use since 1700 BC. This method of hunting came from the East to the British Isles in the Middle Ages (around 800 AD) and was widely employed by all classes of people as a way of procuring food for the table from common property. As lands were increasingly privatized in the ensuing centuries, falconry became a sport exclusive to the upper classes and joined the ranks of elite pursuits such as archery and riding. This outstanding Victorian pendant (formerly a brooch) was undoubtedly made for an aristocrat with an enthusiasm for the pastime. The bird is a peregrine falcon - the raptor assigned to the ranks of duke and prince - rendered in 14k gold set with pearls and studded in turquoise and garnet pavé. Hangs from a new 18" 14k gold chain.
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.