Victorian engagement rings, or betrothal rings as they were referred to back then, became popular between 1837 and 1901, after the Georgian era and just before the Edwardian era.

The jewellery styles during that time were greatly influenced by Queen Victoria, who enjoyed wearing jewellery and had a deep and everlasting love for her husband, Prince Albert. It was the Queen’s love of diamonds that led to diamond rings becoming extremely popular, and the tradition they are today.

Victorian Ruby ring

During this time, most engagement rings were made with silver, rose gold, and yellow gold, with most rings often showcasing marquise, old mine cushion, and rose-cut diamonds.

Engagement rings of the Late Victorian era, from the 1860s, began to feature old European cuts in their settings. Since all engagement rings during the Victorian era was crafted by hand to make sure that the feature stones fit perfectly, each one is a unique, one-of-a-kind piece of jewellery!

What Made Victorian Engagement Rings So Special?

During that time, everything that Queen Victoria wore was considered fashionable, and this applied to her jewellery as well. Prince Albert gave her an emerald and snake betrothal ring, and the public followed blindly, with everyone wanting rings decorated with snakes!

Other popular gemstones of the time were ruby, smoky quartz, amethyst, chalcedony, bloodstone, garnet, topaz, and moss agate. These types of engagement rings were the trend back then, and rings usually included the bride’s birthstone.

Diamond engagement rings were normally made with small diamond clusters or one small diamond in the centre of a number of square or round gemstones. The most popular cut during that time was the brilliant cut, as well as the old rose cut.

Victorian diamond ring

Base metals were usually 18k or 22k gold. An imitation gold consisting of zinc and copper, called Pinchbeck, was also used to make jewellery. Motifs were normally inspired by nature, such as garlands, butterflies, snakes, daisies, doves, clover, as well as letters and gothic symbols.

Early Victorian Engagement Rings

Early Victorian betrothal rings were easily characterised by their bright colours and huge size. Bold patterns were created with gemstones which included the extremely popular snake design.

Also, quite common during that era, were Celtic-type designs, as well as elaborate, exaggerated designs which were even more popular. All of these were influenced by the courtship and early days of the marriage of Queen Victoria and the love of her life, Prince Albert.

Betrothal rings of the mid-Victorian era

Engagement ring styles took on a different look during the mid-Victorian era. Prince Albert passed away in 1861, and the Queen was in mourning for a long time. This is when memorial rings, also referred to as mourning rings, became extremely popular. They were also incredibly trendy a few years back too, in the Georgian era.

Base metals used during this time was normally silver and gold with a variety of karat values ranging from 9k to 18k. Also extremely popular, were rings made from gold and copper alloy, with gemstones and designs of the time normally consisting of emeralds, pearls, opals, diamonds, jet, black glass, rubies, and crystals..

Victorian emerald ring

Designs also took on a more elegant and less gaudy look, with popular design motifs being geometrical shapes, a range of flowers, shells, acorns, birds, insects, stars, bees, and hearts. The use of gold and diamond jewellery pieces also became more prevalent at this time.

Elements And Styles Of Victorian Engagement Rings

These days, if you go shopping for a Victorian engagement ring, you will find many designs, styles, and in many cases, even original rings from that era. As a reputable jeweller Vintage Tom will provide you with a certificate of authenticity, including the clarity grades and carat weights of the stones in the piece.

Elements of Victorian Engagement Rings Include:

  • Milgrain – the French meaning for “a thousand grains,” milgrain denotes the detailed work at the edges of the ring, normally metal beads in a close-set line.
  • Filigree – filigree refers to the intricately detailed metalwork on a ring, normally made up of flowing, twisting, or curving shapes. In engagements rings, the band might have a vine-like shape.
  • Metals apart from white gold – Silver wasn’t the favourite choice for jewellery during Victorian times. To indicate this, many engagement rings in the Victorian style, are made with other metals, like yellow gold.

Give Your Bride-to-be Something Old And Something New!

You’d be hard-pressed these days, to find a woman who would not relish receiving a stunning Victorian ring from her husband-to-be! Apart from being breathtakingly beautiful, engagement rings from this era are incredibly ornate, and in short, a striking blast from the past! You cannot go wrong if you give your fiancé an engagement ring from the Victorian era, that incorporates incredibly detailed milgrain and/or filigree work, that is almost guaranteed to stand the test of time!

In Conclusion

Victorian rings were sought-after way back then and are just as much in demand by many of today’s brides-to-be. The great thing is, that you have a couple of options as to how to go about buying one for your future wife. If you don’t have too much time, then it would be a good idea to buy a new one inspired by the Victorian era.

However, if you do have time and the funds, then it would be worth your while to search for one with heirloom status, that she will no doubt cherish forever. Do note though, that gemstones, and very rarely diamonds, were used in the manufacture of authentic Victorian engagement rings.


May 18, 2021 — CG Hart