British Museum launches book on Queen’s jewellery

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Jewellery and prints on display at Gallery 90 to 15 August.

Jewellery in the age of Queen Victoria: a mirror to the world explores society and culture through the jewellery industry of the Victorian era.

The book looks at how the jewellery Queen Victoria wore was extensively covered in society columns of the day and how she acted as an arbiter of taste for the nation, establishing a national identity through her choices.

It also examines more widely the symbolisms of the jewellery, its language and its meaning to the women who wore it.

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Several of the meanings behind jewellery motifs revealed in the book include that of a dog denoting loyal service, a heart with a keyhole meaning ‘thou hast the key’ and an arrow standing for ‘it glitters but it wounds’.

Pieces featured include a memorial brooch for a dog, a brooch with a crystal intaglio bee, a necklace made of pale pink angle’s-skin coral carved with marine motifs and a gold and diamond flower bouquet. There are even some bizarre pieces, such as earrings made of real hummingbirds.

To mark the publication, there is a small temporary display at the British Museum which includes some of the discoveries the authors have made in the Print Room – material that has never been shown before such as advertisements and popular song sheet covers – together with related jewellery. The temporary display at Gallery 90 will show until 15 August.
 

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