Mourning jewelry has a long and often tragic history. The Victorians in particular were known for their fascination with memorializing the dead through jewelry crafted from materials such as jet, a hard, black, glassy mineral, and hair from the deceased. These pieces were not only a way to remember the dead, but also served to express the grief of the living. In a time where death was a much more common occurrence, wearing jewelry to remember the dead was an important part of mourning rituals. These pieces of jewelry often featured intricate details and were made from a variety of materials, from gold to silver to ivory and even human hair. The dark beauty of Victorian mourning jewelry makes it a fascinating topic to explore.
What is Victorian mourning jewelry?
Victorian mourning jewelry is a type of jewelry that was popular during the Victorian era (1837 – 1901). It was typically made from materials such as jet, a hard black glassy mineral, or human hair. These pieces of jewelry were usually worn to commemorate the death of a loved one, and they often featured intricate details such as flowers and other decorative designs. Victorian mourning jewelry could range from simple lockets with pictures of the deceased to elaborate brooches made from gold or silver. The purpose of these pieces was not only to remember the dead but also to show respect for them by wearing mourning attire. The Victorians were known for their fascination with memorializing the dead, and this trend extended to their jewelry-making as well. Many pieces of Victorian mourning jewelry feature symbols like skulls and crossbones, which symbolize mortality and serve as a reminder of death’s inevitability. Other popular motifs included weeping willows, which symbolized grief, and black enameled flowers, which signified eternal remembrance.
History of Victorian mourning jewelry
Victorian mourning jewelry originated in the mid 19th century and became popular as a way to remember and honor the dead. These pieces were often crafted from materials such as jet, a hard black mineral, or human hair from the deceased. They were intricately designed and featured symbols of death, such as skulls, snakes, and angels. Some of these pieces incorporated photographs of the deceased person or an inscription with their name or initials. Mourning jewelry was commonly worn by family members who had lost a loved one, but some people also purchased mourning jewelry to commemorate an event or mark a milestone in their life.
Materials used for making mourning jewelry
Victorian mourning jewelry was crafted from a variety of materials, including gold, silver, ivory and human hair. Gold and silver were the most popular metals used in these pieces, although some also featured ivory or other precious stones. Human hair was also a desired material for mourning jewelry as it had sentimental value and could be used to create intricate patterns or designs. The hair was often taken from the deceased themselves and sometimes even incorporated into a ring or necklace. Gems such as garnet, onyx, amethyst and turquoise were often used to embellish these pieces of jewelry in addition to engravings of crosses or initials.
The meaning and symbolism of mourning jewelry
Mourning jewelry served an important purpose in Victorian society, as it was a way to express the grief of the living and pay tribute to the deceased. The intricate designs and symbolism on these pieces of jewelry often held a special meaning for the wearer. For example, some mourning jewelry featured a lock of hair from the deceased or a miniature portrait, serving as a reminder of their loved one. Other motifs included angel wings or skulls, which were meant to symbolize mortality and eternity. Many of these pieces were handmade and could be very expensive. Wearing mourning jewelry was seen as an act of remembrance and respect for those who had passed away. Today, there is still a fascination with Victorian mourning jewelry, even if its original meaning has been lost over time. Jewelry made with jet or human hair can be found in antique shops or online stores, and many people wear them simply for their unique design qualities and dark beauty. While these pieces may no longer be mournful reminders of lost loved ones, they are still beautiful works of art that have stood the test of time.
Different types of Victorian mourning jewelry
Victorian mourning jewelry came in a variety of forms, from rings and bracelets to necklaces and brooches. Jet was the most popular material used, but other materials such as silver, ivory, gold, enamel and glass were also used. Additionally, many of these pieces featured intricate details such as locks of hair from the deceased or a portrait of the deceased on the back side of the piece. These pieces were often heavily embellished with pearls and gemstones to add a touch of glamour to honor their memory. The popularity of Victorian mourning jewelry has endured through time and is still relevant today. While it has lost its original purpose for being worn, it has gained new meaning for many people who appreciate its beauty and craftsmanship. Today, Victorian mourning jewelry is seen as an elegant way to memorialize a loved one or commemorate an important event.
Popular motifs used in mourning jewelry
The Victorians had a number of motifs that were commonly used in mourning jewelry. One popular motif was the “mourning clasp”, which was a clasped hand meant to represent the bond between the living and the dead. Another popular motif was a black enamel cross with a central diamond, representing the hope of resurrection. Other common motifs included weeping willows, snakes, skulls, and angels. These pieces were often made from jet or human hair to represent grief and loss. Even today, Victorian mourning jewelry is still a popular trend for those who want to remember their loved ones in a meaningful way.
How mourning jewelry was worn
Mourning jewelry was typically worn as a sign of grief for a lost loved one. Most commonly, it was pinned to the clothing in order to be visible and serve as a reminder of the deceased. It could also be worn around the neck or hung from the waist. Some pieces featured intricate designs with beads or semi-precious stones, while others were more minimalistic and featured only an engraved name or date. The type of mourning jewelry worn depended on how close the wearer was to the deceased; family members usually wore more ornate pieces, while acquaintances wore simpler ones.
Popular makers of mourning jewelry
The most popular makers of mourning jewelry during the Victorian era were jewelers such as William R. Warner, George Unite and George Edridge. These three men catered to wealthy families and created a wide variety of mourning jewelry that was often beautifully crafted and often adorned with symbols of death and grief. Many pieces featured intricate details such as inlayed hair, diamonds or rubies, miniature portraits, and lockets containing the deceased’s photo or a lock of their hair. Other pieces included large brooches featuring skulls and snakes, or intricate necklaces with pendants shaped like coffins or crosses.
Collecting and conserving mourning jewelry
Mourning jewelry is still popular today, with some pieces fetching high prices at auction. Many collectors are interested in preserving these beautiful artifacts of the past and celebrate their unique beauty. These pieces can also be used to teach us about history and the customs and culture of the time period they were made. In addition to mourning jewelry, there is also a growing interest in antique jewelry that has been passed down through generations. For those looking to start a collection of mourning jewelry or simply appreciate its timeless elegance, there are several ways to go about it. Online auction sites such as eBay offer a variety of pieces from different eras and you can also find antique pieces at flea markets or estate sales. Additionally, for those looking for something more modern, many contemporary designers have created stunning replicas of Victorian mourning jewelry that capture its beauty and mystery.
How mourning jewelry is relevant today
Today, Victorian mourning jewelry remains a popular style of jewelry. Its unique look is sought after by many who appreciate the craftsmanship as well as its historical significance. While no longer used to honor the dead in the same way it was during the Victorian era, modern pieces often serve as a tribute to lost loved ones and are worn with reverence and respect for the deceased. It’s also become more widely accepted as a fashion statement, with many people wearing these pieces simply because they like the look. Whether used to memorialize or just for style, modern mourning jewelry serves as a reminder that death is an inevitable part of life and that those we’ve lost should never be forgotten.