Planning your wedding this summer? With the Wedding Dresses exhibition coming soon to the V&A museum, which will trace the development of the traditional white wedding dress through history, we explore other bridal traditions and another hugely important thing to consider for the big day – your jewellery!
While it is sometimes thought of as unlucky for the bride to wear any rings on her wedding day other than the engagement ring and of course the wedding ring, any other pieces of jewellery are widely encouraged and have become part of the traditional bridal costume.
We all know the familiar tale ‘Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue’ and this is very often interpreted into jewellery, one of these usually being a piece of jewellery worn by the bride on the day. ‘Something old’ is said to represent the bride's link to her family and the past, while ‘something new’ represents good fortune and success in the future. A great way to interpret this is into a new piece of antique or vintage jewellery, which can be passed on for generations to come. The Hanoverian Tiara for example, made in 1919, was given to Queen Mary as a wedding gift from Queen Victoria, and went on to be worn as the ‘something borrowed’ for the weddings of Queen Elizabeth and Princess Anne.
‘Something borrowed’ usually comes from a happily married woman and is thought to lend some of her good fortune and joy to the new bride. Duchess of Cambridge wore on her wedding day a diamond tiara, which was given to the Queen on her 18th birthday by the Queen Mother, and diamond earrings gifted by her parents.
Historically, tiaras were often given to the bride by the groom. Today they continue to be a popular feature of bridal attire as they epitomise majesty, romance and glamour. Most tiaras are convertible and can also be worn as a necklace, making them a very versatile piece of jewellery which can be worn again and again.
The "something blue" in a bridal ensemble symbolizes purity, fidelity, and love and often a sapphire is chosen for its intense blue colour. In the symbolic language of jewels, a sapphire represents marital happiness. An aquamarine can also be chosen to represent marital harmony and is said to ensure a long and happy marriage.
Queen Victoria, known for her lead in fashion, decided on a white dress which she wore with a grand diamond necklace with matching earrings, and a sapphire brooch given to her by Prince Albert. In the Victorian era, etiquette dictated that diamonds were not to be worn by girls until they were married, so thus diamond jewellery was a very important part of the bridal attire.
Diamonds and pearls are still widely established as the most popular bridal jewels today, as they look stunning with the traditional white wedding dress and also carry a symbolic meaning. Diamonds represent unity, eternity and constancy, while pearls suggest purity, innocence and faith. When Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, who later became the queen mother, married the Duke of York in 1923, she wore a very elegant drop-waisted dress with a two strand pearl necklace. Queen Elizabeth also opted for pearls in 1947, wearing her mother’s wedding necklace of two strands.
Whether you opt for a graceful pearl necklace along with a sapphire brooch or go for an elegant diamond tiara, there are many traditional and symbolic connotations associated with bridal jewellery. Jewellery is not just reserved for the bride, however. Jewellery and in particular brooches are often chosen as gifts for the bridesmaids. We have specially selected a collection of beautiful jewels which would make the perfect finishing touch for your big day.
For details on the exhibition ‘Wedding Dresses 1775-2014’ at the V&A Museum, click here. http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/exhibitions/wedding-dress-1775-2014/