Thursday, April 17, 2014

Victorian Jet Locket

Antique mourning jewelry is a favorite here at Prather Beeland, and although I’ve written about it before here and here, I thought that this beautiful Victorian jet locket deserves special attention. It brings together elements of trends set by two style icons of their day: Queen Victoria (below left in mourning) and her daughter-in-law Princess Alexandra (below right in some of her favorite jewels). Jet, a semi-precious mineral made when wood is subject to extreme pressure, has been used for jewelry in Britain since the Bronze Age. The ancient Romans, also great fans of jet jewelry, sourced their jet from Whitby, a British town that continues to be famous for its jet mines. When Queen Victoria entered mourning for her husband, black jewelry materials such as jet saw a new spike in popularity. The starburst motif on the front of the locket was popularized by Princess Alexandra, a beloved public figure and jewelry fanatic who frequently wore star and crescent moon designs set with pearls or diamonds. Alexandra’s fashions were emblematic of the Aesthetic Period: toward the end of the Victorian era, as the people tired of decades of mourning and women became more active in the public sphere, lighter jewelry with a sense of fun pushed back against the heavier styles of years past and expressed one’s identity as a modern, liberated woman. This piece brings together the styles of both the Queen and the Princess, and also has its own story to tell: who is the man with the hopeful expression in the locket’s photograph, and who was wearing it and thinking of him? Check it out here.