Tally-ho: sporting pursuits captured in antique jewellery

Popular outdoor pursuits in the Victorian and Edwardian eras rally collectors of antique jewellery to find their sporting style.

Victoria Sterling 18ct hunting horn and hound brooch

Watch any period film or television series that takes place in Victorian or Edwardian England and there will ultimately be a hunting party, cricket, tennis or other sports match - see Downton Abbey for a recent reference, and films based on Oscar Wilde plays, Jane Austen novels and/or Merchant Ivory productions.

The jewellery of that time was either inspired by sporting life, thereby depicting sports themes, or was designed for women of social standing who either attended or joined in with the activities, such as a hunting party.

The Industrial Revolution brought new, prosperous times and, as travel and souvenir jewellery gained in popularity, so did taking part in various forms of leisure gatherings. The Victorian era introduced many modern sports, including tennis, which originated in Birmingham, England in the mid 1800s, with the first of the Wimbledon Championships being played in London in 1877.

Read more about jewellery inspired by the Victorian era

The most popular motifs and designs in jewellery were based on horseback riding, as well as the thrill of the hunt. And if you ever wondered why there are so many horseshoe motifs shown in every classification of jewellery throughout Victorian times, the royal family greatly influenced what people wore. Case in point: Prince Edward's love of horse racing was widely known and, therefore, the horseshoe became known as a good luck charm, which it still acts as today. With the tips pointing upward it brings luck to the wearer, and pointing outward brings luck to all those that surround you.

There was also a jewellery fashion for women who joined in with hunting parties and the ride. Brooches were the most popular, often depicting scenes on reverse-painted intaglios - Cooks crystals - or translated into precious gems and metals featuring motifs of foxes and dogs. Pocket watches, pendants and fobs were also popular items. Men’s fashion included jewellery based on these sporting pursuits in styles such as tiepins and cufflinks.

If you have not yet joined the chase for one of these distinctive pieces of antique jewellery, game on - time to go out and find your particular style.

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