With the advent of the industrial revolution, jewelry became affordable and accessible to the middle-class. While gold and precious gems could still be expensive, gold and silver mining in the American West and Australia made those metals more accessible and less costly. Also, the industrial revolution also brought many newly invented manufactured materials within reach of  the middle-class budget.

Jewelry items favored by 1860s ladies included earrings, necklaces, brooches, bracelets, rings, and watches.


1860s earrings were French hook, or "shepherd's hook," style. Clip-ons, screw-backs and posts had not yet been invented. Styles ranged from very simple single bead drops to highly complicated dangles with multiple pendants. Plain gold, or occasionally silver, was popular, but there were many designs that included faux and real gems, faux and real pearls, engraved and inlaid metals, scrollwork, filigree, hair, and beautiful non-precious stones such as agates.


Mid-Victorian necklaces were made from a wide variety of materials. Clasps were typically hooks, box clasps, bolt rings or pin and barrel. (Split rings, spring rings, and jump rings were invented later.) Pearls, beads (including fake pearls), chains, and manufactured chain links were common. Pendants were also occasionally worn on a ribbon.


Brooch settings were somewhat simpler than designs later in the 19th century. Fasteners of the 1860s were the C-clasp and T-bar, with the pin itself extending beyond the brooch's edge. Brooch materials ranged from precious and semi-precious gems to beautiful stones, shell, foiled glass (i.e. glass with colored foil behind it), manufactured materials such as Vulcanite, and photographs.

Cameos can be difficult to date. Avoid cameos with pony tails, inlaid rhinestones, or rough carving. Mid-Victorian cameos were typically very finely detailed and often included scenes or people from biblical and mythological stories.


While 1860s ladies often wore a single bracelet, they favored wearing multiple bracelets, or matching bracelets on each wrist. Elastic was invented in the 1820s and available for stringing bracelets. There were a variety of jewelry clasps. Bracelet materials included precious, semi-precious and manufactured beads, molded materials in various shapes, and metals such as pinchbeck, gold or silver.


Rings of the Mid-Victorian era tended to be delicate and thin. Some were plain bands, but many bands had intricate carving on the settings. Pearls, precious stones, colored glass, semi-precious stones and woven hair were all used on 1860s rings.


By the 1860s, watches were mass-produced and affordable for the upper middle class. They were often worn by both men and women. Ladies typically wore them on a chain hung around their neck or from their belt. The watch was then slipped behind the belt or into a specially sewn watch pocket inside the dress at the waist. Watch chains could be plain or decorated with ornate "sliders" to keep both strands together.

Some Materials Used in 1860s Jewelry

Agates - Queen Victoria popularized the use of agates for jewelry. She enjoyed looking for agates in Scottish streams while vacationing at her castle in Balmoral. Banded (striped) agates and moss agates in particular were quite popular in all types of jewelry.

Aluminum - Aluminum in a commercial grade was first produced in 1854 and caused a sensation. It was originally believed to be rare, but the price quickly dropped as it became commercially produced. It was as popular as gold in the 1860s.

Bog Oak - Pine, yew and oak wood buried in peat bogs for hundreds of years form the partly fossilized brownish-black material called bog oak. It was often carved into jewelry, especially with Irish themes such as harps, shamrocks, or images of Irish abbeys.

Bois durci - Patented in France in 1856, bois durci was a hard composite made from blood (from slaughterhouses) and powdered wood, mixed with coloring, heated and molded. The mixture was cured under heat and pressure yielding a hard, dense, glossy, molding.

Coral - Coral is easy to carve and polish. It ranges in color from dark red to light pinkish-white. It was used as beads, carved as cameos, and embedded or strung into almost every jewelry item possible.

Gold - Gold has been popular for millennia for jewelry. Due to mining in Australia and the American West, gold was more easily accessible for all types of jewelry.

Goldstone - Goldstone has been made for centuries from chemicals with copper flecks in it that resemble gold particles. It can be polished or carved, making it favored for many types of jewelry in the 1860s.

Gutta Percha - Classified in 1843, gutta percha is a hard, tough thermoplastic substance that is the coagulated latex of certain Malaysian trees. Its properties allowed it to be heated and molded, making it a good choice for manufacturing jewelry, though it was predominantly used for industrial purposes.

Hair - Human hair was a favorite material for creating memento jewelry in the 1860s. Ladies could create their own jewelry from their hair (saved from their hairbrushes, or cut specifically for the purpose), or they could send it off to jewelry manufacturers who created ornate jewelry from it. Horsehair was also used for general, non-memento jewelry. The hair was treated and then woven into highly intricate flat or 3D designs.

Ivory & Bone - Ivory was used for many items in the 1860s because of its milky whiteness and ease of carving. Highly detailed brooches and beads were made from both bone and ivory.

Jewels - Precious gems were used in all types of jewelry in the Mid-Victorian era. More affordable paste jewels were also available.

Mother of Pearl - Mother of pearl, or MOP, is the iridescent inside layer of fresh- and salt-water shells like abalone and conch. Also known as nacre, mother of pearl is literally the stuff pearls are made of, hence its name. MOP is much harder than actual pearls and can be carved into intricate cameos and cut into other shapes without breaking. It was popular for all forms of jewelry.

Pearls - Pearls were expensive in the 1860s but faux pearls had also been around for centuries. "Roman pearls" were made from a combination of glass, wax and fish scales. Pearls and Roman pearls were used for earrings, necklaces, brooches, bracelets, and rings.

Pinchbeck - Pinchbeck is a form of brass, an alloy of copper and zinc, mixed in proportions so that it closely resembles gold in appearance. It was invented in the 18th century and used for all types of jewelry. It was more affordable than gold.

Silver - Silver has been popular for millenia for jewelry. Due to mining in Australia and the American West, silver was more easily accessible for all types of jewelry, though it wasn't a main trend in the mid-1860s.

Turquoise - Victorian turquoise was mined in Persia (Iran) since ancient times and originally came to Europe through Turkey, hence the name "turquoise." Unlike turquoise from the American west, Persian turquoise is solid sky blue with no "matrix" of other colors. It was set in both gold and silver, often in mosaics of many tiny beads.

Vulcanite - Also called Ebonite, this is a brand name for very hard black rubber first obtained by Charles Goodyear by vulcanizing natural rubber for prolonged periods. He patented the process in 1844. It was molded into all types of jewelry items.

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