Young Victoria and her jewels

If you have ever wondered what type of diamond jewellery the young Victoria would have worn, it could well have been a necklace similar to the one featured here, which is a French style fringe necklace set with old brilliant cut diamonds mounted in silver on yellow gold.

Old cut diamonds
The necklace was made around the time Victoria ascended to the throne (1837) and is set with old cut diamonds. Cut very close to the original shape of a diamond crystal, 19th century old cut diamonds are chunkier and deeper than modern brilliants as the philosophy at that time was to preserve weight rather than cutting the stone to exhibit maximum fire. Some of the light gets lost through the back of the stone, hence the softer look of antique diamond jewellery that many prefer to the glitzy sparkle of 20th century brilliants. Robert Ogden calls them 'the forgotten gems of the candlelight era': antique pieces have a subtle glow seen at its best in flickering candlelight.

Mounted in silver on yellow gold
Victorian diamond jewellery was usually mounted in silver on yellow gold. To enhance the 'whiteness' of the diamonds, they were mounted in silver and backed by yellow gold – gold is slightly harder than silver and does not stain. Nowadays, most diamond jewellery is mounted in 18ct white gold or platinum, which is harder than gold. Platinum was first used around 1900 and most Edwardian diamond jewellery is mounted in platinum.

Convertible jewellery
Many items of Victorian jewellery are multifunctional. Very often Victorian brooches, for example, have a removable brooch fitting, enabling the piece to be also worn as a pendant, a centre piece for a choker necklace or even as a hair ornament. The Victorians liked this form of economy and multiple function became especially characteristic of diamond jewellery such as hair ornaments and tiaras, which could be converted into necklaces or separated into individual brooches.

Later in life, Queen Victoria developed a fondness for jewellery set with Scottish gemstones, such as Cairngorms (citrines), agates and Tay River pearls (see Scottish Jewellery).