Those who collect Victorian jewelry may be familiar with the term "photographic jewelry." This type of jewelry contains a photographic image in place of a cameo or gemstone. It first became popular in the nineteenth century when photography was first developed. Since the first photographs were relatively expensive to produce, this type of jewelry became a fitting adornment for those of relatively well off means.
photo credit: ebay seller goingtolasvegas2007
Actual photos from this period were fairly precious items, since the ability to be photographed wasn't something that happened every day the way it is today when any one who has a digital camera can take instant photos.
The jewelry made from these early photos was made into brooches, cufflinks, pendant necklaces and the ever popular Victorian fob. The photos were often mounted in non gold and non silver settings under celluloid or glass covers for protection. Subjects could be anything, but collectors seem to enjoy pieces with photos of women and children as well as military figures.
Anything special added to the piece, such as a date or sentimental engraving, will make the piece more valuable. Pieces with the addition of locks of hair are especially collectible.
There were several types of photographic jewelry but one of the most popular types is called "daguerrotype." This style, invented in 1839, is one of the earliest photographic processes and the photo was produced on iodine-sensitised silver in mercury vapour for a particularly beautiful image. Other processes include ambrotypes (images on glass), tintypes (on tin) and paper types (images on paper). The brooch shown here is a tintype style most likely dating from the late 1800s to about 1900.
Dating photographic jewelry is done by determining the type of photographic image used. Value of the pieces can vary greatly from relatively inexpensive to very highly value. All pieces from this period are collectible, with cuff links being the most affordable at about $25-$50 or so. A really special find for a collector of this medium would be a daguerrotype ring, which could fetch over $1000 in a specialist auction of Victorian photographic jewelry.
For a look at a large range of Victorian photographic jewelry, please visit Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry.