A very important part of dressing up in a Victorian costume is completing the outfit with some good accessories. In all the excitement of making or buying a Victorian costume dress, the accessories are often forgotten. Adding Victorian costume jewelry such as a necklace, brooch (pin), and bracelets is an easy and affordable way to give your costume an extra dose of Victorian style.
Genuine antique Victorian jewelry is quite expensive. Thankfully, new reproduction costume jewelry looks good enough for most costume wearers. But what do you buy?
Here are several styles of Victorian costume jewelry I recommend you start with:
Victorian Costume Necklace
A necklace intricately carved in silver (or another silver color metal) with hundreds of small clear jewels in the shapes of leaves, flowers, or birds is the most Victorian looking. Jewelry was a way to show off your wealth, so women would want the most expensive looking necklace they could afford. The bigger it was, the better, and detailed carvings with a lot of sparkle made it popular. You don’t have to sell a kidney to afford a reproduction necklace today. This one pictured above is an excellent quality necklace for less than $100. Similar necklaces with a little less sparkle can be found for $30-50.
A simpler Victorian necklace is the pendant necklace. Hung on a simple gold or silver chain, the pendant could be a cameo, hand painted flower, locket with a picture of a loved one, or a heart carved with your initials. Some women wore a necklace with a small pocket watch as a locket so they could keep time while they were out. These were especially popular with the working servant class who had to keep time for their upper class employers.
A third simple necklace is the pearl necklace. A single strand of pearl was very elegant and quite expensive back then. Fake pearls had not been invented yet, so to own a real pearl necklace was a special gift. The very wealthy could afford many strands of pearl which they wore all at once in layers, or as a “choker” with a brooch pinned at the front. The brooch was often changed out according to the formality of the dress.
The one Victorian jewelry piece which is a lost art today is the brooch or pin. Brooches adorned women of all classes — small handmade ones on the poor and ones of large elaborate stonework on the rich. A cameo brooch was an especially popular style of pin. A white bust over a blue background is the most signature style, although background colors came in all hues. Brooches could be pinned to the necklace choker, front of the blouse collar, over the left heart on a dress, on the waistband of a skirt, or on a hat for more decoration. Brooch style clips also adorned ladies’ slippers and shoes. If you buy nothing else, at least get a Victorian costume brooch and wear it wherever you please.
Victorian Rings and Earrings
Believe it or not, Victorian women didn’t wear many earrings or finger rings. Earrings were mostly uncomfortable clip-ons, so women only wore them on special occasions. Finger rings were worn as wedding bands, but decorative rings were too impractical under the leather gloves ladies wore. Rings were again mostly in favor with the upper class and for special occasions.
Earrings were small drop styles with dangling tear drop gems, flowers, and hearts. They often coordinated with the necklace and/or brooch. Rings, on the other hand, did not need to coordinate. The bigger they were, the better. Large round oval shapes of cameos and flowers were very popular. Large gems set in square or oval casings were made to show off wealth. I believe the “college” ring got its style from over the top Victorian men’s rings. Victorian rings could be large since women and gentlemen rarely worked with their hands. Should you choose to wear a large ring, keep in mind they won’t fit well under gloves. Choose either to wear a large ring or gloves but not both.
Buying Victorian Costume Jewelry
It is not very difficult to find Victorian costume jewelry locally. Prices of jewelry will vary by quality and store.
- Antique stores – These often have antique Victorian jewelry, but also Victorian-style costume jewelry that is newer yet still vintage. Sometimes, I find new costume pieces as well.
- Thrift stores – Full of cheap jewelry and can be a goldmine for Victorian style costume jewelry.
- Department stores/your favorite clothing store – Victorian style jewelry comes in and out of fashion quickly. You may be surprised to find your favorite clothing stores also carry Victorian style jewelry. Just last week I found a pearl choker with a brooch at Forever 21.
- Garage sales – Just like thrift stores, family garage sales, especially estate or moving sales, often have old family jewelry that might be in the Victorian style.
- Online – There is a wealth of Victorian jewelry online. I created a shopping page to help you find affordable Victorian Costume Jewelry online. If you want high quality Victorian style jewelry, I recommend Victorian Trading co.
More Victorian costume dresses and accessories can be found here at VintageDancer:
- Victorian costume dresses – Most under $100.
- Victorian Shoes – Boots and shoes in a range of prices.
- Victorian Shawls – Beautiful shawls and other accessories.
- Victorian Parasols and Umbrellas.
Shop these affordable Victorian style jewelry pieces: