The State of Victoria Gold Jewellery Collection consists of 388 items, ranging in date from about 1790 to 1980. It encompasses over 130 years of Victorian history and explores themes and stories of migration, the gold rush, colonisation, federation, WWI and WWII, design, the Great Depression, women's rights, industry, and the environment. It covers the breadth of the state, with items of jewellery made and worn across Greater Melbourne and Victoria's major regional centres including Ballarat, Geelong, Sale, Bendigo, and Wangaratta, as well as smaller towns including Jeparit, Daylesford, Rochester, Beechworth, Clunes, Beulah and Woorak.
'Every one has left town to go to the diggings there is not a man or boy to be seen in town even the gents at the Bank are 'off to the diggings'.
Extract from letter by Rebecca Sarah Greaves, Plenty River, Victoria, 25 November 1851.
The gold rushes lured over half a million people to Victoria as they sought their fortunes on goldfields across the colony from Castlemaine and Bendigo in the central region, Ballarat in the west, to Beechworth and the Ovens Valley in the north, and Walhalla in the east. Gold fundamentally altered Victorian society, politics, the economy and environment, turning a frontier colony at the edge of the world into a major global hub, with a sparkling metropolis that was the equal of any European city and several substantial and well-developed regional cities. However, the discovery of gold did not result in a glittering future for everyone. For First Peoples the discovery and extensive mining of gold by European colonists and settlers turned Country upside down causing significant disruption and devastation with the effects still being felt and seen today. While the influx of migrants led to tensions between ethnic and religious groups. The State of Victoria Gold Jewellery Collection is one of the most significant public collections of Victorian goldfields jewellery. Composed of nearly 400 pieces of jewellery sourced and smithed from across the state, the collection covers over 130 years of pivotal moments in Victorian history interwoven with stories of everyday life. Incorporating both the humblest of jewels and grand 'statement' pieces the collection encompasses an extraordinary variety of styles and periods including Georgian, Victorian, Colonial, Art Nouveau, Federation, Edwardian, Art Deco and Contemporary. It includes items by a wide variety of Melbourne and Victorian jewellers and jewellery purveyors including: Lamborn & Wagner, Rosenthal, Aronson & Co, Thomas Gaunt, William Turner, John Nemecek, George Bell, John Rowland, F. Hutton, Dunklings, Henry Newman, K.J.McLean, T. Willis & Co, Joseph Lawrence, David Jones, Peter Tully, Drummonds, Hardy Bros, G. M. Palfrey, Rodd, and Kozminsky.