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.

Key terms for Victorian Era Antiques:

Millefiori: An ancient glass technique, popularized in the 19th century, in which rods of fused glass are cut into cross sections to reveal patterns, frequently resembling flowers.

Majolica: A process developed in the 1850's in which pottery was covered in an opaque enamel made from metal oxides, fired, painted, fired again, then covered in a clear enamel.

Bisque: A piece of ceramic that has been fired but not glazed.

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    

Antique 19thc Victorian Folk Art Primitive American Young Girl Portrait PaintingAntique Victorian Pocket Barometer/altimeter By Dollond, Fully Functional + BoxAntique Silver Plate Epergne Centre Piece Victorian Dolphin Vaseline Glass Nr19thc Antique Determined Looking Lady Old Victorian Era Portrait Estate PaintingAntique Victorian Era River Valley Folk Art Primitive Landscape Oil PaintingAntique Victorian Art Nouveau Uranium Citrine Vaseline Bell Lamp Light ShadeHuge Antique Vintage Hand Embroidered Silk Piano Shawl Victorian Chinese CantonDivine Pair Antique Victorian Pink Silk Wedding Boots Shoes W. RosettesOld Antique Victorian Microscope With Case + Ascociated Box Of Specimen SlidesMagnificent Burr Walnut & Brass Bound Victorian Campaign Writing Slope With KeyAntique Victorian Faux Bone Brise Fan F9ct Gold Captain Marines Armorial Dog Saracens Head Scimitar Victorian Seal Fob19thc Antique Victorian Era Primitive Peter Herrmann Old Stoneware Pottery JugAntique Victorian Heavy Chinese / African Carved Ivory Coloured Bangle 91gLovely Brass Art Nouveau Victorian Reception Shop Counter Bell Lever SpringAntique English Shield Back Chair, Stunning Mahogany Victorian Hall Chair, Chic!19thc Antique Victorian Era Ships Bulkhead Stick Barometer Nautical ThermometerAntique 19thc Primitive Victorian Cobalt Stoneware Country Pottery Milk PitcherGorham St Cloud Sterling Silver Perfume Cigar Holder Antique Nouveau VictorianAntique Huge Silk Chantilly Lace Shawl French Black 100"wide Mantilla VictorianAntique Victorian Blue Opalescent Flint Glass Kerosene Oil Lamp ShadeLarge 19thc Victorian Sterling Silver Tray/salver, Sheffield 1895,37cm, 900gAntique Victorian Gambling Chest Playing Cards Poker Chips Dice Inlaid Game BoxVictorian Cut Glass Kerosene Oil Paraffin Duplex Sideboard Lamp Young's Burner"rowlands - Ballarat & Melbourne" Antique Victorian Glass Codd Marble Bottle Victorian Sterling Silver Hip Flask, Norman Marshall, London 1897(2) Antique 19thc Victorian Empire Wood & Plaster Corbel Style Clock Wall ShelfQueen Victoria Coronation Solid Bronze Medal, Plaque C1838 By B. Pistrucci 24.2gS Mordan Makers 9 Ct Gold Victorian Travelling Pocket Dip Pen Plume & PencilFine Victorian Coastal Scene With Several Boats Oil Painting Shayer 24 X 36 InchHuge! Victorian Window Valance Eastlake Walnut Furniture Cabinet Pediment CrestRare Antique Victorian Benham & Froud Copper Jelly Mould No 10619thc Antique Victorian Primitive Cobalt Blue Stoneware Storage Jar Old CrockA Victorian Rosewood Vanity Box & Silver Plated Fitments Needs Some Restoration Antique Victorian Thimble Holder & Charles Horner Silver Thimble - Chester 1913Ornate Cast Iron Industrial Stand Table Base Adjustable Victorian Bench Leg GearAntique Late C19th Victorian Silver; Enamel; Ruby & Seed Pearl Butterfly Brooch.Antique Victorian Ventriloquist Dummy Papier Mache 19th Century Puppet Doll Antique 1865 - 1880 Victorian Baccarat Opaline Glass Kerosene Oil LampVictorian Hm 1850 Silver Gilt Folding Rule Drawing Instrument Etui Antique C18thPr Antique Victorian Sterling Silver 925 Chatelaine Watch Fob Cigar Cutters NpaPen Nibs Box Old Dip Victorian Gilded Leonardt & Co Miniature Book Vesta 1347mAntique Victorian Solid Silver Candlesticks 1899 SheffieldAntique Victorian Shibayama Lidded Pot.Rare Antique Victorian Tunbridge Ware Sewing / Vanity / Writing / Work BoxPair Antique Cast Iron Victorian Gothic Wall Lighting Sconces Light Fixtures Superb Victorian English Silver Snuff Box By Nathaniel Mills C.1844Antique Gothic Victorian Edward Miller Rams Head Figural Ormolu Old Banquet LampAntique Vintage Victorian Art Nouveau Gold Enamel Needle Case Box Holder SewingAntique Victorian 3 Draw Mother Of Pearl Monocular Spyglass C 19002 Victorian Architectural Corbels Brackets Wood Antique Vintage 15+" Scrollwork19thc Advertising Kenton Hardware Co Iron Toys Cast Iron Victorian Woman AshtrayAntique Victorian Iron Metal Vesta Case As Flat Iron C Late 1800's1895 Victorian Antique Solid Silver Albertina Albert Pocket Watch Chain Tassel19thc Antique Silver P Repousse Victorian Figural Griffin Bust Statue CandelabraLovely Victorian Silver Aide Memoire, Nathaniel Mills 1857Rare Victorian Antique Enamel Cloisonne Solid Silver Spoon 1897 BirminghamRare & Beautiful Solid Silver Crested Victorian Card Case Edward Smith 1861Antique Victorian Eapg Coolidge Cobalt Blue Glass Oil LampVtg Victorian Pince Nez 14k Gold (585) Eyeglasses Lorgnette Monocle Steampunk