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    

Antique Early 20thc Victorian Slag Glass Table Lamp, No Reserve!Antique Victorian Figured Walnut Table Desk Top Cabinet Stationery Writing Box(2) Antique Victorian Brass Figural Dolphin & Urn Figural Wall Mirror No SconceFrench Silver Victorian Mechanical Propelling Pencil Dip Pen Calendar Seal Lovely Antique Victorian Steel Brass Adjustable Davis 12" Filigree Level Tool CoBeautiful Old Antique Georgian Or Victorian 9ct Gold & Garnet Earrings Af (b7)Rare Unusual Antique Victorian Travelling Inkwell Seal Taxidermy Desktop WalrusFabulous Antique Victorian Gorilla Face Nut Model Charm Ape Monkey Doll TreenAntique Victorian Pocket Cased Barometer & Compass Working Callaghan London Beautiful Painted Lady Antique Papier Mache Victorian Shoe Snuff Box Vesta Case19thc Antique Victorian Architectural Foyer Cut Glass Door Window Panel NrAntique Victorian Lady Harvest Prayer Old Farm House Newel Post Statue Lamp12 Silver And White Metal & Fob Pendant Compass & 3 Victorian Vtg Lladro Victorian Girl On Swing Large Porcelain Figurine SculptureBeautiful Victorian Solid Silver Pendant Magnifying Glass & Chain 1868 4 Antique Victorian 19thc Architectural Etched Glass Door Or Window PanelsDesktop Victorian Antique Brass Fountain Dip Pen Rest Stand Calligraphy Writing Antique Early Victorian Rosewood Brass Bound Vanity Sewing Jewellery Work Box Superb Victorian Antique Solid Silver Albertina Pocket Watch Chain W Tassel Fob Pr Gorgeous Victorian Clarkes Fairy Lights W Pillow Pattern Milk Cranberry GlassRare Tiny Sterling Silver Crystal Chatelaine Perfume Bottle Victorian Nouveau Antique Casket Thimble Holder & Victorian Silver Thimble, Birmingham 1898 Superb Boxed Antique Victorian Miniature Brass Field MicroscopeBeautiful Victorian Antique Solid Silver Albertina Pocket Watch Chain W Coin/fobMagnificent X Large Antique Victorian Glass Button Cobalt Spindle W/ EnamelLeonard And Wilson Antique Victorian Sterling Silver Card CaseBeautiful Victorian Antique Solid Silver Albertina Pocket Watch Chain W TasselAntique Victorian/edwardian Lace ShawlMid Victorian English Brass Spirit Kettle Teapot & Stand 1860sAntique Victorian Wooden Olympia 15 3/4 Disc Music Box Plus 14 DiscsVictorian Brass Microscope C1870 - Excellent ProvenanceAntique Victorian Solid Silver Albert Pocket Watch Chain & T-bar Hallmarked 1884Syphon Tea Kettle Antique Victorian Reservoir Blue Opaque Glass Desktop Inkwell Coffee Grinder Farm House Machine Wall Mount Victorian Burr Mill Tin Cast IronFine Orig English Antique Victorian C1880 Aesthetic Engraved Solid Silver LocketVictorian Antique Queen Victoria Silver Jubilee Crown Lion Bookmark Book Marker Beautiful Victorian Antique Solid Silver Albertina Pocket Watch Chain TasselFrench Silver & Banded Agate Antique Victorian Desktop Paper Letter Opener Victorian Sterling Silver Châtelaine Thimble Holder & Thimble, London 1881C1890 Victorian Hobnail Gas/oil Lamp Shade Emerald GreenMid Victorian Travelling Casket Box Tea Caddy Priests Last Rights? 1880sOld Antique Victorian Miniature Fine Carved Wood Black Forest Cow Carving FigureUnusual Marked London Patent Antique Victorian Corkscrew Rosewood & Brush NrAntique Victorian/edwardian Lace ShawlSmart Victorian Silver Vesta Case / Cheroot Cutter, 1853, 22gmAntique Victorian Austrian Miniature Atlas World Map Figural Globe Inkwell 2.5"Victorian Silver Travelling Or Campaign Shaving Brush, C. 1840/50Nailsea Style Victorian Hand Blown Art Glass Bowl C1890s Cranberry & Blue CasedAntique Victorian Rosewood Brass Mounted Writing Slope Box 2 Secret Drawers1.47m Beautiful 19th Century Victorian Silk Blonde Lace Scarf ShawlAntique C19th Victorian Era Chester Assayed Silver Brooch Mount With Enamel CoinRussian Silver Nut Cracker Antique Victorian Art Nouveau Nutcrackers & Pick Gorham Strasbourg Sterling Silver Teaspoons - 1897 - Victorian Monogram.Victorian 9ct Gold Thimble & Welsh Jeweller's Box Antique Victorian Miniature Novelty Pitcher Water Jug Propelling Silver PencilVery Ornate Victorian Antique Solid Silver Albert Chatelaine Chain Whistle FobGood Quality Antique Solid Silver Victorian Teapot, Robert Harper, London 1880..Antique Victorian Hand Made Briar Pipe Silver & Amber Stem & Case W CarringtonOld Antique Victorian Carved Wood Black Forest Bear Brass Thimble Holder SewingAntique Victorian Figural Lady Tin Metal Sewing Cloth Marker Tool Dress Maker