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 Primitive Victorian Firkin Wood Sugar Bucket Mincemeat Farm Country PailGorgeous Large Victorian Solid Sterling Silver Locket Double Photo Frame Hm 1883Beautiful Gothic Antique Victorian B1872 Solid Sterling Silver Calling Card Case1889 Blair Mahogany & Cherry Wood Plate Camera * Near Mint Victorian Era AntiqueAntique Victorian Miniature Porcelain Birds Egg Silver Lid Scent Perfume BottleAntique Victorian 'faux' Tortoiseshell Etui Sewing Needle Thimble Case C1870Antique Victorian Type Wood Carved Figural Winged Angel Old Folk Art Wall StatueArchitectural Salvage Large Victorian Gothic Green Man Bronze Door Knocker Very Chunky Victorian String Natural Dark Red Coral Beads For Re Threading 37 Gr1887 Scovill Victorian Era Antique Wood Plate Camera * Mint Condition * A MarvelAntique Victorian Era Gothic Cathedral Church Cast Iron A.c. Williams Still BankFabulous Gilded Antique Multi Seal Wheel Victorian Desktop Writing Citrine MottoAntique Victorian 12k Yellow Gold Opal Pearl Watch Chain Slide Necklace LocketJohn Linnell 1792-1882 British Landscape Wye Bristol Oil Painting Victorian ArtLovely Pair Of Victorian Solid Sterling Silver Gilt Pepper & Salt Shakers C1879Victorian Oil Painting On Canvas - '' Sheep In A Highland Landscape ''1885 English Victorian Hm Sterling Silver Belt Buckle Bracelet Heavy Old BangleSuperb Antique Victorian Burmese Solid Silver Beaker, 188 Grams, C1890 Antique Vintage Victorian Juno No. 2 Parlor Banquet Oil Lamp Tall Fancy BrassHuge 19thc Antique Victorian Druggist Caswell Massey Newport Ri Advertising JugSuperb Large Decorative Antique Victorian L1878 Solid Silver Snuff Cigarette BoxAntique Victorian Silver Plated Samovar / Tea Urn Sturges, Bladdon & Middletown Antique Victorian French Orange Wax Bud Flower Wedding Lace Veil Dress VintageFabulous Antique Vintage Victorian Cranberry Miniature Oil Lamp Very Long Victorian String Of Natural Dark Red Coral Beads For Re ThreadingAntique Figural Victorian Spelter Converted Gas Sconce Glass Shade .99 Start NrQuality Antique 19th Century Victorian Snake Pin Cushion / Hat Pin Holder C1890sEarly Victorian Silver Hip Flask, 1868, 116gmAntique Black Walnut Victorian 3 Drawer Spool Thread Cabinet NrAn 1852 Victorian Era C19th Century 18ct Gold Gypsy Ring Blue Sapphire & DiamondSuperb Victorian Art Nouveau Cased Blue Opaque Glass Oil Lamp Banquet Table FontFine Antique Victorian Silkwork Sampler - Eliza Crane 1867 - IbstockExtremely Rare Large Victorian Deakin & Francis Solid Silver Desk Bell French Victorian Brass & Porcelain Snail Well Bascule Inkwell Pivoting RotatingFine Victorian Cut Glass Solid Silver Decanter / Claret Jug Hallmarked 1886 684gLrg Antique 19th C Victorian Oil Painting Cupid Love Struck Partial Nude WomanAntique Victorian 12k Rose Gold Opal Pearl Ruby Watch Slide Chain Necklace HdmcoLarge Antique Victorian Old Solid Wooden Box With Key Dovetailed WorkboxVictorian Mordan Hand Engraved Mechanical Propelling Pencil Sterling SilverVictorian Rosewood Writing Slope/box With Secret Drawers & Ink BottlesAntique Late Victorian Edwardian Oak Stationery Writing Slope Compendium Box Vintage Victorian German Christmas Hand Blown Girl Flesh Face Ornament Fabulous Antique Early Victorian Pocket "picnic" Corkscrew With Screw-on SheathLarge Antique Victorian B1892 Elkington & Co Solid Sterling Silver Pint TankardAntique Victorian Sterling Silver Repousse Flower Basket Beaded Purse Bag, NrCharles Dickens Owned Victorian Specimen Moss Agate Domed Top Antique Casket NrAntique Victorian Bradley & Hubbard Figural Parrot Bird Parakeet B&h DoorstopStunning Victorian Beadwork Tea-cosyLg 1800's Victorian B&h Bradley Hubbard Oil Lamp Parlor Banquet Marble Cast IronVictorian Mauchline Ware Treen Pocket Watch Stand View Of BournemouthAntique Victorian Sterling Silver Christening Mug Chinese Influence London 184319thc Antique Victorian Era Hoof Footed Wood Carved Pedestal Smoking Plant StandGothic Drapes! Tiger Oak Church Panels Victorian Cabinet Doors Library PedimentsBeautiful Antique Victorian Peg & Worm Pocket Corkscrew With Fluted WormNice Victorian Porcupine Quill Pen W/ Engraved Mount Desktop WritingJoseph Gillotts Antique Drawing Dip Pen & Nibs On Sales Shop Card VictorianAntique Victorian Walnut Stick And Ball Fretwork - BracketsAntique Art Deco Era Copper Clad Jungle Lion Old Desk Statue Victorian SculptureAntique Mechanical Propelling Pencil Silver Large Victorian Mordan Seal 1887Quality Victorian Silver Propelling Pen / Pencil Combo & Carnelian Seal C1880s