Beautiful Mourning

Last month one of our customers bought in this beautiful Victorian Mourning ring to be resized, and we absolutely fell in love with it!

We'd thought we'd have a closer look at the origins Mourning Jewellery........

amy ring 2.jpg

For hundreds of years jewellery has been worn to commemorate the dead. These symbolic keepsakes evolved from a time when people didn’t have photographs to hold memories to their heart so a memento, in the form of jewellery, was worn during the mourning period.

Mourning jewellery originated as rings initially, then lockets securing a lock of hair of the dead, and cufflinks or pocket watches also became popular pieces. Most would commonly have the name of the descendant engraved somewhere, carved cameos or silhouettes were popular, as well as lilies of the valley which symbolises the tears of the Virgin Mary. Skulls and coffins were also featured but less so in British culture.

 1775-1800 gold locket with seed pearls and hair - V&A Museum 

1775-1800 gold locket with seed pearls and hair - V&A Museum 

The tradition had a boost in the 19th century when Queen Victoria, over the loss of her husband Prince Albert had much jewellery made in his honour and wore this and black clothing for decades after.  This Victorian era also saw a development in mass production which made it widely affordable.  The jewellery was usually paid for by the person who had died and the inheritance bequeathed unto the mourner.

 19th Century Jet Mourning Brooch - Detlef Thomas

19th Century Jet Mourning Brooch - Detlef Thomas

Most commonly the jewellery was black and made from jet, where affordable, but more commonly black enamel or vulcanite was the hallmark of most pieces, however different metals and gems had different meanings. White enamel was usually used to mark the death of an unmarried woman (virgin) and pearls would indicate the death of a child. Jewellery made in the latter stages of mourning were not always black and would be darker colours such as grey, blue and purple to accessories the wardrobe of someone in mourning, moving away from black into other colours

 
 Mourning brooch containing the hair of a deceased relative and enamel skeleton - Wellcome Images

Mourning brooch containing the hair of a deceased relative and enamel skeleton - Wellcome Images