• Antique Animal Jewelry

Important Donors of the Victoria & Albert Museum: Stunning Georgian & Victorian Jewelry Collections

Ever wondered how museums like the V&A get their hands on such stunning antique jewels? Well, a big part of that is due to their generous donors. From art collectors and dealers to jewelry historians and experts, these are personal collections accrued over a lifetime of some of the most pristine, historically significant, or just plain gorgeous gems around. In this blog, we take a dip into some of these collections...

A jewel in the form of a trail of flowers, probably from a head ornament, gold set with amethysts, topazes, pearls, coral, turquoise, and garnets, c.1835-45. From the Lady Cory Bequest.

©Victoria and Albert Museum.

Dame Joan Evans

Dame Joan Evans (1893-1977) was a scholar of Medieval art specializing in Early Modern and Medieval jewelry, Evans donated her entire collection of more than 800 jewels dating from the Middle Ages to the early 19th century to the V&A in 1975. Evans was the daughter of the antiquarian and businessman Sir John Evans and Maria Millington Lathbury, who was the half-sister of Sir Arthur Evans, the archaeologist and lead excavator at Knossos. Dame Joan Evans studied archaeology at Oxford and published many books on historical jewelry and other archaeological subjects. Records suggest that Evans was the first woman to give Friday Evening Discourse at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, on the subject of ‘Jewels of the Renaissance’. She was also the first female president of the Society of Antiquaries 1959-64. Here are some highlights from the collection she donated.

Glittering Antique Gemstones, Diamonds & Paste

A stunning bodice ornament and matching pair of earrings set with topazes, backed with foil, and sapphires. All the stones are set in gold. Probably French, c.1760.

©Victoria and Albert Museum

Late 17th century enameled gold openwork lozenge pendant set with sapphires, rubies, emeralds, and rose-cut diamonds, the back with a bowl of fruit in painted enamel.

©Victoria and Albert Museum

German silver and gilded silver pendant, set with emeralds, rubies, and rose- and table-cut diamonds, the back engraved, c.1700. - ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

A suite of jewelry consisting of a bodice ornament and matching earrings, set with rose-cut diamonds in silver and hessonite garnets in gold, made in the Netherlands, c.1680-1700.

©Victoria and Albert Museum

Spanish pendant with a crown design at the top, square emeralds set in gold openwork, with a large emerald drop, c.1680-1700. - ©Victoria and Albert Museum

Portuguese pendant encrusted in pastes in a silver openwork bow with flowers, with a pendant dove, c.1750. - ©Victoria and Albert Museum

Portuguese chrysoberyl jewels. Top: An aigrette set in silver openwork, with bow tops and long drops, c.1750-60. Bottom left: A brooch of silver openwork in the form of a bouquet, late 18th century. Bottom right: Earrings with bow tops and long drops, late 18th century. Both ©Victoria and Albert Museum

Spanish mid-18th-century jewels. Left: A pair of earrings with topaz and rose-cut diamonds set in silver. Right: A stunning Pendant with brilliant-cut and rose-cut diamonds and topazes set in silver.

Both ©Victoria and Albert Museum

An antique French dove brooch, made of silver set with brilliant-cut diamonds, carrying an olive branch in its beak with emeralds for leaves, a ruby for an eye, and diamonds as feathers, c.1755.

©Victoria and Albert Museum

Two jewels with blue and white pastes set in silver. Left: A French necklet of floral openwork with a pendant dove, France, c.1760. Right: A Western European shoe buckle, rounded and decorated with a ribbon of white pastes which curve in and out between larger blue pastes, c.1770.

Both ©Victoria and Albert Museum

A very impressive necklace with topazes and rock crystal in silver openwork in a ribbon and flower pattern, with two alternative pendants. Probably French, c.1760. ©Victoria and Albert Museum

Pair of French ornaments, possibly bracelet clasps, gold with central plaques of blue paste decorated with brilliant-cut diamonds, c.1770. - ©Victoria and Albert Museum

Three dazzling late 18th-century European brooches. Left: Floral brooch of rose- and brilliant-cut diamonds set in silver. Middle: Brooch in the form of a flower, crystals set in silver. Right: A bow-shaped brooch of rock crystal set in gold and silver. - All ©Victoria and Albert Museum

A spray brooch, colored gold, set with rose and brilliant-cut diamonds, western Europe, c.1830.

©Victoria and Albert Museum

A selection of c.1835-50 jewels set with pink foiled topaz. #1 A brooch of stamped and enameled gold, possibly Swiss. #2 English brooch with two pendants, stamped openwork set with foiled topaz and chrysoberyl. #3 Pair of earrings of stamped and enameled gold, possibly Swiss. #4 Necklace of stamped and enameled gold, possibly Swiss. - ©Victoria and Albert Museum

Antique Sentimental Jewels

Two royal mourning rings. Right: Enameled gold ring commemorating the life and death of King George III, the squared oval bezel with the royal crown enameled in red and white. The hoop with a chased floral border. The central band is inscribed with the motto of the order of the Garter, in gold lettering on royal blue. c.1819-1820. Left: Enameled gold mourning ring for Princess Amelia, the oval bezel with a crowned 'A' bordered by 'REMEMBER ME'. The hoop inscribed 'Pss AMELIA DIED 2 NOV: 1810 AGED 27', England, dated 1810. - Both ©Victoria and Albert Museum

Left: Enameled gold English mourning ring, with a silver bezel set with rose-cut diamonds and an amethyst in the form of a cross. The hoop is inscribed, 'RICH: PETT.DI:23 FEB: 1765 AE 76'. Right: English mourning brooch composed of a silver openwork bow, set with rose and brilliant-cut diamonds and pink sapphires over foil, and enameled gold ribbon, also set with gems and inscribed ELIZ EYTON OBIT FEB 1754 AET 81, surrounding a hair locket. - Both ©Victoria and Albert Museum

Right: Gold commemorative pendant set with the monogram of William III against an enameled pavilion with angels above and inscribed OB. MAR. 1702. Middle: A beautiful snake-shaped ring, enameled in black with diamond eyes, made to commemorate 'George Edward Earl of Waldegrave. Obt. 28 Sepr. 1846 Aet 30.', England. Right: An enameled French gold locket set with pearls and an embossed medallion on the back, c.1797-1809, inscribed 'Love and friendship' in French. - All ©Victoria and Albert Museum

Enameled with roses and daisies, this French ring was a charming lover's gift. The little hinged panels set around the hoop open to reveal the French inscriptions: 'I love you a little, a lot, passionately and not at all', based on a game played by plucking the petals from a daisy, c.1830-60.

©Victoria and Albert Museum

Left: Gold mourning buckle, set with rock crystal over an inscription, 'Ann Harford 1728' worked in gold thread on hair. Middle: This elegant French brooch takes as its theme the symbols of love. Cupid’s bow and arrows (two loose and three in the quiver) are arranged with a pair of doves, two hearts on fire and a hymeneal torch (named after Hymen, the Greek goddess of marriage), c.1800-20. Right: Pendant with symbols of love and mortality, made of gold and enamel with a pendant pearl. One of the symbols, a coffin, is inscribed with the letters PWC BUM; the various symbols are possibly a rebus, c.1700. ©Victoria and Albert Museum


Left: An unusual Swiss silver and gold chatelaine set with marcasites and red pastes, c.1780. Middle: Pinchbeck chatelaine incorporating scissors case, needle case, etui, and two thimble cases, c.1730-35. Right: Steel chatelaine with colored gold decoration, England, c.1770. All ©Victoria and Albert Museum

Neoclassical Pieces

Enameled gold pendant set with an onyx cameo of the Devotion of Marcus Curtius, hung with a pearl. The cameo, inspired by the work of Francesco Tortorino, probably Milan, c.1600, the mount c.1650-1700. ©Victoria and Albert Museum

A bracelet of copper gilt plaques with painted enamels representing Roman gods and goddesses: Jupiter, Bacchus, Cupid & Psyche, and two goddesses, c.1780-1800.

©Victoria and Albert Museum

Cameo jewels. Left: French pendant with a coral cameo depicting Bacchus, the sculpted gold frame decorated with winged mermaids and hung with pearls and diamond sparks, c.1854. Middle: A pendant with a hardstone cameo of a classical male head surrounded by marcasites set in silver openwork and hung with pearls, c.1810-20. Right: Pendant with a chalcedony cameo of Cleopatra, based on a classical type of a Bacchante with snakes, in a contemporary enameled gold frame with ribbon ties, c. 1840-1900.

©Victoria and Albert Museum

Jane Anne Gordon, Lady Cory

Lady Jane Anne Gordon Cory (1866-1947) was a pianist with a ‘passionate love of music, particularly romantic music’ and a reputation for hosting brilliant musical parties at her London home on Belgrave Square to which she invited artists such as Fritz Kreisler and Ignacy Jan


She was also an embroiderer and a jewelry and object collector of no small talent. Her extensive jewelry collection was bequeathed to the Museum in 1951, consisting of pieces with garnets, amethysts, jade, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, pearls, and diamonds.

©Victoria and Albert Museum

Impressive antique jeweled earrings. Left: Pair of gold earrings set with jade, chrysoprases, and rubies, possibly made in France, c.1825. Right: Pair of earrings, enameled gold set with diamonds, rubies, and pearls, c.1860. Elements of the design and colors used are Indian, but the construction could be European.

©Victoria and Albert Museum

Left: An enameled padlock locket set with rose-cut diamonds, c.1840-50. Right: A gold locket with an enameled criss-cross design in black, set with pearls, c.1860-1870.

Both ©Victoria and Albert Museum

Left: A necklace set with brilliant and rose-cut diamonds and pearls set in gold with black enamel fillet, England, c.1875. Right: Bracelet of pearls and brilliant-cut diamonds set in gold, England, c.1880.

Both ©Victoria and Albert Museum

Suites & Matching Sets

A necklace and earrings of sapphires in brilliant-cut diamond borders, open-set in silver, backed with gold. The necklace has two graduated rows and was adapted in the 1930s from a single row necklace to a double row, probably for Lady Cory. England, c.1850. ©Victoria and Albert Museum

A necklace and earrings with peridots in brilliant-cut diamond borders, open-set in silver, backed with gold. c.1800-1850. - ©Victoria and Albert Museum.

A matching pendant and earrings, probably for full evening wear only, each with brilliant-cut diamonds open-set in silver and backed in gold in a rosette design, c.1860. ©Victoria and Albert Museum.

Antique Bow Jewelry

Left: Pair of diamond bow brooches/bodice ornaments of silver set with brilliant-cut diamonds, from a set of three, c.1760. Middle: Brooch in the form of a jeweled and tasseled pearl bow, silver and gold set with pearls, brilliant-cut diamonds, emeralds, rubies, with a mother-of-pearl backing, c.1830. Right: A silver brooch in the form of a bow, set with pearls and brilliant-cut diamonds and with a baroque pearl pendant drop, c.1885. - All ©Victoria and Albert Museum.

Natural Motifs in Antique Jewelry

Dress ornaments from a set of 46, shuttle-shaped, brilliant-cut diamonds set in silver, made by Leopold Pfisterer, 1764, formerly part of the Russian Imperial Collection. In 1764, Empress Catherine the Great commissioned Leopold Pfisterer to make a large suite of diamond and Bohemian garnet jewelry.

©Victoria and Albert Museum.

An aigrette with brilliant-cut diamonds, turquoises, an emerald, and other colored stones, probably French, c.1810. Some of the stones were added subsequently (probably between 1820 and 1835) to increase the polychromatic effect of the piece. - ©Victoria and Albert Museum.

Left: A spray ornament designed to be worn in the hair or like a brooch attached to the bodice of a gown, set with rubies and brilliant-cut diamonds in gold and silver, decorated with enamel, c.1750-70. This piece was originally part of the Russian Imperial Collection. Right: Flower brooch with brilliant-cut diamonds, rubies, and emeralds set in gold and silver, c.1850-1900. ©Victoria and Albert Museum

Brooch in the form of a Tudor rose, gold, pavé-set with turquoises, rubies, emeralds, and pearls, probably made in England, 1830-40. Originally the centerpiece from a bracelet.

©Victoria and Albert Museum

Naturalistic jewelry decorated with clearly recognizable flowers or fruit emerged with the Romantic movement in the early 19th century and remained popular for some time. Until around 1830, the designs in jewelry with natural motifs were stylized and delicate. Later they became more elaborate and colorful, seeking to create more and more precise copies of specific flowers, leaves, fruit, and insects.

Twisted peacock feather earrings, gold pavé-set with turquoises, rubies, and pearls, c.1835-40. ©Victoria and Albert Museum.

This beautiful creature is a serpent necklace, silver and gold, pavé-set with turquoises, with rubies, pearls, and diamonds, probably English, c.1835-40. - ©Victoria and Albert Museum.

A brooch in the form of a 'convolvulus' flower, gold, pavé-set with turquoises and pearls, c.1835-1850. The convolvulus was thought to symbolize ‘bonds’ or ‘extinguished hopes’.

©Victoria and Albert Museum.

Part of a floral head ornament, later a brooch fitting, foiled rock crystals, pearls, and garnets set in enameled gold, Britain, c.1840-50. - ©Victoria and Albert Museum.

French necklace and matching earrings in the form of vines leaves and grapes, enameled gold mounted with amethysts, c.1840-50. ©Victoria and Albert Museum.

A necklace of colored gold set with pearls in the form of vine leaves and grapes, with matching earrings, possibly English, c.1850. The fashion for sets of seed pearl jewelry continued through the Victorian era. This example has an intricate and complex construction. Gold wires provide the framework, and the seed pearls are attached with horsehair or silk. - ©Victoria and Albert Museum.

Tiara in the form of a Neoclassical wreath, set with brilliant-cut and a few rose-cut diamonds in three attached units, set in silver and backed with gold, England, c.1850. The honeysuckle palmette on a trembler is a later addition of 1860–80, replacing a damaged flower. ©Victoria and Albert Museum

Bodice ornament in the form of a floral spray of roses, carnations, and other flowers, set with brilliant-cut and a few rose-cut diamonds in silver and backed with gold. Some flowers are mounted on springs as 'tremblers'. Possibly English, c.1850. - ©Victoria and Albert Museum

Left: Ornament in the form of a floral spray, brilliant-cut diamonds set in silver, c.1851. Right: Ornament in the form of a floral spray made up of three convolvulus flowers with seven rose leaves and a small bow. ©Victoria and Albert Museum.

Three spray ornaments set with diamonds. Left: A hair ornament in the form of a spray of leaves and fuchsias, brilliant-cut diamonds open-set in silver, backed with gold, c.1820. Middle: Ornament in the form of a floral spray, brilliant-cut diamonds set in silver, backed with gold, c.1830-1870. Right: Flower spray with the diamonds set in silver, c.1880.

©Victoria and Albert Museum.

Bracelet of enameled gold set with pearls in the form of a branch vine, France (Paris), c,1850. ©Victoria and Albert Museum.

Rusticated bracelet, enameled gold, set with pearls, in the form of an entwining branch, c.1850-60. ©Victoria and Albert Museum.

Turquoise Treasures

Turquoise was used in profusion in jewelry of the 19th-century, symbolizing true love...

A gold necklace, pavé-set with turquoises and half pearls, the units linked with gold chains. England, c.1820-30. Pearls and turquoise were a very popular combination in Victorian jewelry, the turquoise echoing forget-me-nots, which were a very popular motif. ©Victoria and Albert Museum.

Necklace of 28 links with a central bow and a boss-shaped clasp, gold, pavé-set with turquoises and with rose and brilliant-cut diamonds. England, c.1845-55. ©Victoria and Albert Museum.

A pair of earrings in the shape of a bow with a turquoise drop, gold, pavé-set with Russian turquoises and with rose and brilliant-cut diamonds, England, c.1850-60.

©Victoria and Albert Museum.

Antique Filigree Jewelry

A selection of jewels with amethysts set in gold filigree with cannetille decoration, all c.1820. #1 English earrings, #2 English earrings, #3 an English necklace where each unit is connected by chains. #4 A French necklace with both cannetille and grainti decoration, set with amethysts and pearls, #5 A French pendant, #6 French earrings with both cannetille and grainti decoration, set with amethysts and pearls. ©Victoria and Albert Museum.

Pair of earrings, gold filigree with cannetille and grainti decoration, set with emeralds, citrines, sapphires, garnets, rubies, aquamarines, peridots, and pearls. France, c.1820. With a matching necklace.

©Victoria and Albert Museum.

A gold openwork locket bracelet with cannetille and grainti decoration, set with foiled amethyst cabochons and other semi-precious stones. Each link has a locket fitting at the back. possibly French, c.1820-30.

©Victoria and Albert Museum.

A bracelet made from a flexible band of gold, with clasp and central motif of gold filigree with cannetille and grainti decoration, set with pearls and turquoises. From Portugal or Malta, c.1830-50.

©Victoria and Albert Museum.

Left: A tasseled bow brooch. Right: A pair of matching earrings. Both with dense gold filigree work using cannetille and grainti decoration, set with turquoises and pearls, from Malta or Portugal, c.1835-40. ©Victoria and Albert Museum.

Rev. Chauncy Hare Townshend

Chauncey Hare Townshend (1798-1868) was a poet, clergyman, and collector from a rich family. Educated at Eton and Cambridge, Townshend was friends with the likes of Robert Southey, the Wordsworths, the Coleridges, and Charles Dickens. Not just a collector of famous literary friends and books, Townshend also collected art, fossils, stuffed birds, coins, maps, and gems and jewelry. In the V&A is his 154-piece collection donated in 1869, displaying a range of precious and semiprecious stones mounted in gorgeous rings as well as some cameos and intaglios. In 1913 the Townshend gemstone collection was supplemented by a donation from A. H. Church.

Via Wikimedia Commons

A selection of rings with gemstones from the Townshend collection, all c.1800-1869.

©Victoria and Albert Museum

Three cameos from the Townshend collection. Left: An oval layered agate cameo depicting Hercules carrying the Cretan bull, Italy, c.1740-70. Middle: Gold ring with a layered onyx cameo depicting a crouching cat in a 'Roman' setting, possibly made in England, c.1825. Right: An oval sardonyx cameo of two strata, set in a gold ring, depicting Psyche naked and feeding a butterfly, Italy, c.1800.

All ©Victoria and Albert Museum

Patricia V. Goldstein

Patricia Goldstein (1930-2002) was a New York collector and dealer who often traded in France, Belgium, and Britain. Having bought her first 19th-century locket at the age of 15, her interest in fine antique jewelry was piqued, and she went on to set up a business in 1968 as a dealer. Having fallen in love with the V&A during her visits to London, she donated her collection to the museum just a few days before her death in 2002.

Three dazzling gemstone brooches. Left: Brooch of chrysoberyls and pink topazes set in silver, c.1700-1800. Middle: A brooch with a diagonal arrangement of diamond-set weapons: a canon, pistol, arrows, axe, flag, and plumed helmet, combine to create a military trophy celebrating bravery, c.1750. Right: Diamond brooch in the form of an open flower with foliage and a small drooping bud, c.1800-1900.

All ©Victoria and Albert Museum

Left: Silver brooch with floral decoration and three pear-shaped drops of faceted orange glass, c.1700-1800. Right: A Portuguese bodice ornament of topazes and rock crystal set in silver, c.1770.

©Victoria and Albert Museum

A gold micro mosaic brooch depicting two flying doves, Italy, c.1860.

©Victoria and Albert Museum

Left: Platinum and gold butterfly brooch set with diamonds and a ruby, a natural pearl, and an emerald, Marcus & Co, New York, 1875-1900. Right: Brooch in the form of a heart in gold with opal, green or demantoid garnets and diamonds, Europe or US c.1875-1900. - Both ©Victoria and Albert Museum.

Two late 19th-century flower basket brooches. Left: The basket is woven gold wire, with gem-set flowers and handle. The colored stones set in gold, the diamonds in white metal, probably white gold. Right: Depicted using platinum, gold, enamel, rose-cut diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires. Both ©Victoria and Albert Museum.

Circular knot of gold centered by three cabochon sapphires issuing as buds from rose-cut diamond settings. By August Hollming (one of Fabergé's workmasters), St Petersburg (Russia), c.1895-1899.

©Victoria and Albert Museum

Brooch of silver, gold, amethyst, enamel, and a pearl, made by Child & Child, London, c.1900. Child & Child's patrons included the late Queen Victoria, the late King Edward VII, King George V, the late Empress Frederick of Prussia, and the Tsarina of Russia.

©Victoria and Albert Museum

Left: Gold ring with bezel in the form of flowers mounted with facetted diamonds set in silver, c.1760. Right: Gold ring with foliate shoulders supporting a heart-shaped bezel mounted with rubies set in gold and diamonds set in silver, c.1780. - Both ©Victoria and Albert Museum

This English pendant with a wax relief under glass and a pearl border commemorates the death of an infant. It is inscribed, ‘Henry Halsey Inft. aged 10 Mos. died 12th Jan 1798.’ and ‘Fond Parents grieve not for thy Infant Son Your God has called him and his Will be done.’ Henry was the first son of Henry Halsey of Henley Park, Pirbright, Surrey. - ©Victoria and Albert Museum

Pendant in the form of an egg suspended from a Russian crown composed of diamonds set in silver. The egg is mounted with alternating vertical rows of gold beads and diamonds set in silver. The egg unscrews at its widest point to reveal the monogram of Catherine the Great set in diamonds on blue glass ground. Russia c.1790. This was probably presented by Catherine the Great to a member of her court at Easter.

©Victoria and Albert Museum

Interlocking zigzag design of alternating diamonds and rubies in a gold framework, Russia, 1860-1895. ©Victoria and Albert Museum

French poissarde earrings set with gold and yellow topaz, c.1820.

©Victoria and Albert Museum

Gold earrings with onyx cameos of classical female heads, possibly US, c.1870. ©Victoria and Albert Museum

Three pairs of French earrings c.1819-38. Left: Enameled gold, with glass paste over green foil. Middle: Enameled gold and opaline glass pastes painted to simulate moss agate. Right: Enamelled gold, made by Benoît-Roch Marrel. - All ©Victoria and Albert Museum.

Mr. John George Joicey

Little is known of John George Joicey's life (1863-1919) apart from that he was born in Durham but spent much of his time abroad, and occasionally in London. He had a large collection of ceramic objects, inlaid guns, gold enamel watches and snuffboxes, jewelry, and furniture, which he loaned to the V&A for exhibition. When he died, the objects on deposit to the museum became theirs.

A wreath tiara of enameled gold, set with diamonds and pearls, with hinged sections and a central paste cameo portrait inspired by antique carved gems, c.1815. ©Victoria and Albert Museum

Left: Gold cross set with six pink foiled stones in a complex frame of filigree scrolls. Britain, c.1810-1830. Right: Pendant cross, amethysts set in simple gold wire filigree, England, c.1825. Both ©Victoria and Albert Museum

Gold brooch with grainti decoration, set with a green paste, garnets, and green foiled aquamarines, c.1830.

©Victoria and Albert Museum

Earrings and a brooch in swirling gold mounts stamped out of thin gold sheet, set with carbuncles (almandine garnets), England, c.1835. - ©Victoria and Albert Museum

Pair of earrings made from stamped gold set with peridots, England, c.1835. ©Victoria and Albert Museum

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