The Victorian Era, named after the prosperous and peaceful reign of England's Queen Victoria (1837-1901), is a rich and diverse area for collectors. From furniture to lamps, trade cards to prints, cuckoo clocks to music boxes, hatpins to belt buckles, there's a wide range of Victorian items to choose from.

According to Victorian furniture collector John Werry, the Victorian era encompasses aspects of numerous design movements. Gothic Revival, which began in the 18th century, was still going strong during the Victorian Era — the British Houses of Parliament, a good example of the style, were commissioned in 1836 and completed during Victoria’s reign.

French Rococo also left its mark on English furnishings and architecture from about 1840 until 1865. The Renaissance Revival (also known as Neo-Renaissance) followed until about 1890, when the Eastlake and Aesthetic movements took over. They, in turn, were the catalysts for the post-Victorian periods of Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts.

To contemporary eyes used to shopping for furnishings at Ikea, the Victorians with their mixing and matching of aesthetic styles probably seem desperately in need of simplification. They thought nothing of grabbing cultural influences from all corners of the British Empire. It was a great deal of style to reconcile.

Despite their eclecticism, orderliness was a paramount goal. To make the aesthetic even more complex, so was ornamentation. A bare room was considered to be in bad taste, so the Victorians filled them to bursting with elaborately ornamented wood-trimmed furniture by Allen and Brother, George Hunzinger, and Merklen Brothers; glass table lamps on bases of marble, brass, or both; and decorative ceramic Staffordshire figurines of barnyard animals, dogs, and popular historical characters.

The sideboard in the dining room (which in addition to the parlor was one of the few rooms most guests were permitted to see in the typical Victorian home) was particularly important. Fine Belleek china from Ireland would adorn its surface, Haviland china imported from Limoges, France, would be squirreled away within its cabinets, and Majolica pitchers and platters would be at the ready to serve and impress their guests.

Out of sight in the master’s library, you might find a millefiori paperweight or two. In the children’s room, you were sure to come across glistening glass marbles or elaborately costumed dolls with papier-mache, wood, or bisque heads...

Of course Victorian styles and practices were not limited to England. On the William Morris wallpapered walls of American homes during this period, it was common to see Currier and Ives lithographs depicting idealized visions of the good life in the New World. That same lithography made the distribution and collecting of colorful advertisements now known as trade cards possible.

Finally, no mention of the Victorian Era would be complete without acknowledging the profusion of objects of personal adornment that were producing during this period. Necklaces and earrings, of course, but also belt buckles, hatpins, brooches, and cameo rings. The Victorians also appear to have had a thing for buttons, some carved from pearls, others combining pearls with semi-precious metals.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

The Scrap Album

The Scrap Album

Malcolm Warrington’s The Scrap Album is a handsomely organized site, as you’d expect from an articulate champio… [read review or visit site]

Stevengraphs Bookmarks and Postcards

Stevengraphs Bookmarks and Postcards

Malcolm Roebuck's tribute to the ornate silk picture bookmarks and postcards ('Stevengraphs') produced by Thomas St… [read review or visit site]

Most watched eBay auctions    

Incredblec1870 Victorian Tunbridge Ware Parquetry Burl Wood Jewel Coin Chest BoxMuseum Quality 1838 Victorian Sterling Silver Wine Ewer Claret Pitcher Jug19thc Antique Victorian Leaded Stained Glass Window W/ Jewels, No Reserve!Original -civil War- Victorian Union Army Cavalry Uniform Shell Coat/jacketAmazing Estate Lot Georgian Victorian Carved Bone & Wood Desk Wax Letter SealsAntique Victorian Expandable Change Purse, Gold Coin And Silver Money Cases19thc Victorian Triple Silver Plate Centerpiece & Venetian Style Art Glass VaseBest! Antique 19thc Victorian Satin Velvet Silk Embroidery Table Top Crazy QuiltLarge Antique Victorian Seth Thomas Gilt Brass Regulator Clock W/ Lion Finial19thc Antique Victorian Fireman Speaking Trumpet Old Tin & Brass Captains HornOriginal 19th Century Victorian Oil Painting Signed Callow Girl Landscape 1800sSugar Pink Antique Late Victorian Trained & Corset Evening Dress For RenovationV.fine Largec1870 Victorian Rosewood Mother Of Pearl Inlaid Sewing Jewellery BoxLovely C1880 Victorian Brass French Blue Opaline Glass Candle Lamps CandlesticksMy Best Huge Victorian 1876 Barnard & Sons Sterling Silver Serving Platter TrayVictorian Masonic Misers Wooden Snuff Box John Douglas Architect 1865 HandshakePique Gold Antique Victorian Mechanical Propelling Pencil Lapis Lazuli SealVictorian Walnut Semi Domed Tunbridge Sewing /work /storage Box Circa 1870Original -civil War- Victorian Union Army Infantry Qm Sgt Uniform Frock Coat(2) Antique Art Nouveau Figural Lady & Man Musician Statue Victorian Parlor LampVictorian Cameo Acid Etched Glass Lamp Shade 4 7/8 X 4 X 2 1/8 InchesLate Victorian Ascot Clockwork Racing Game By Jaques & Son Of London No ReserveAntique Victorian Large Jumbo Baltic Butterscotch Amber Necklace 73 GramsNew! Yard-o-led Viceroy Grand Victorian Sterling Silver Fountain PenJapanese Shibayama Jade Bugs Insects Beetle Spider Victorian Stud Buttons Ants 4Antique Victorian Aesthetic Design Miniature Sterling Silver Frame, NrGorgeous Victorian Aesthetic Movement Gorham Sterling Silver Calling Card Case19thc Antique Primitive Wood Iron Banded Victorian Hotel Fire Bucket Water PailFinec1870 Victorian Marquetry Inlaid Wood Baccarat Glass Perfume Bottle TantalusFine Antique Victorian Coromandel & Mother Of Pearl Sewing Jewellery Box C.1880sLg Antique Civil War Era Victorian Lady Old Pa Estate Oil Portrait PaintingLovely Largec1880 Victorian Enamelled Satin Glass Rose Bowl Vase W Bronze MountsAntique 19thc Victorian Miniature Gold & Banded Agate Pill Box Or VinaigretteAntique Victorian Girl W/doll German Spun Cotton Batting Christmas Ornament YqzAntique Victorian 9ct Gold & Turquoise Cross Shape Propelling Pencil Chatelaine Stunning, Victorian Silver Ink Stand, 1837, 863gm V.rare 1890 Victorian Sterling Silver Chateliane W Chinese Jade Agate Fob Mounts19thc Antique Victorian Market Scene Lady Musket Rifle Target Folk Art PaintingStunning Huge Victorian Dominick & Haff Sterling Silver Repousse Dresser MirrorGorgeous C1880 Victorian Cut Glass Brass Banquet Oil Lamp W Yellow Glass ShadeAntique Malachite Gold Victorian Bramah Clip Dip Pen Armorial Crown Coronet SealVictorian Solid Sterling Silver Fancy Link Sunday Albert Pocket Watch Chain Original 19th Century Victorian Oil Painting Signed British Landscape SuffolkMint! 1800s Tiger Oak Clock Case Crest? Parts Small Victorian Furniture PedimentAmethyst Cut Glass Silver Perfume Bottle Antique Victorian Scent Snuff 19c LilacClipper Victorian Double Glass Snail Inkwell Bascule Pivoting Patent 1878 Pen"victorian Solid Silver Chatelaine Pin Cushion" Birmingham 1888Austrian Hand Painted Bronze Antique Victorian Desktop Inkwell Parrot Birds HeadAntique Victorian Large Size Coral BroochAntique French Victorian Carved Mother Pearl Hand Fan Painting Greek God Zeus British Best Briar & Sterling Silver & Amber 1898 Victorian Pipe Bbb L.b & CaseLate 1800s Victorian Francis Kroeber Porcelain Violet Gold Gilt Mantle Clock YqzFine 19thc Victorian Sterling Silver Chatelaine W Mechanical Pencil Dance Card +Rose Quartz Victorian Intaglio Desktop Desk Armorial Griffin Seal Judd HeraldicLarge Faux Tortoiseshell Mother Pearl Playing Card Case Antique Victorian 19cFabulous Matching Antique Victorian 1842 Avery 1 & 1/2 Brass Sovereign WeightsLovely Antique Victorian 1861 Solid Silver Calling Card Case Shipping InterestBritish Oil Painting C 1900 Victorian Art Floral Still Life Gilt Frame AntiqueDecadent Victorian Lace Doily 35" Star Shape Table Topper Rose Mother's Day GiftLg 19thc Antique Victorian Era Lady Estate Portrait Painting Old Folk Art Frame