What do you think about mourning jewelry? In the Netherlands, it becomes more and more popular to press the ashes of a loved one into a small diamond and set that in a jewel. Or use hair in mourning jewelry as a remembrance of the one who passes away.
We know the tradition of wearing the wedding ring of your deceased partner next to your own wedding ring, but using ashes or hair is a bit new in the Netherlands.
So curious as I am I start to search for other examples of mourning jewelry and it seems that this custom is rather old. Let me tell you what I found out.
Mourning jewelry during times
From the Middle Ages in Europe mourning jewelry is worn. Most of the time it is a piece of hair set into a pendant for a necklace or a memory ring when a king dies (King Charles I of England). But also Queen Victoria, Napoleon de Bonaparte, or Admiral Nelson owns memory mourning jewelry.
Queen makes mourning jewelry popular
Queen Victoria is one of the first persons in the Victorian Period that wears mourning jewelry made from hair. Hair is popular to use in mourning jewelry because it has chemicals that make it possible that hair does not decay and keeps its substance for ages and ages. And hair is so personal that keeping it in your mourning jewelry feels like the diseased person is always with you.
Making mourning jewelry with hair is a blessing in the sky for the old wig makers that don’t get any work after the popularity of wearing wigs declines. In the Victorian Period, you cannot be seen with a powdered wig, without looking ridiculous. While in the 17th and 18th centuries you really cannot leave your home without one. That is… when you are of ‘noble blood’.
… But only for the well to do class.
Hair artists and goldsmiths create little miracles with hair, gold, gemstones, and pearls. These pieces of jewelry are very expensive. Around the middle of the Victorian Period, some tutorials are available for the lesser gods around the goldsmiths. They make lesser expensive mourning jewelry that becomes available for the lower classes too.
Some of the hair jewelry is made from braids or pieces of hair the artists buy from poor women, but most of the used hair comes from family, friends, and the deceased persons themselves.
jewelry of hair becomes fashion.
In the 19th-century women start to make their own hair jewelry or mourning jewelry at home. In America, there is a magazine with patterns and guidelines on how to make a hair jewel. Most of the women can not afford expensive findings so they use wooden beads covered with hair and beaded on a string of hair.
There is a reason for the uprising of the home hair-making industry. Because you never know for sure whether the goldsmith really uses the hair from your loved one. And making it yourself is a better choice when you don’t trust someone to do it for you.
Russian mourning jewelry
On an exhibition in the Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam, there are a few pieces of this type of jewelry on display that are owned by Russian noblemen and the family of the Russian Tsar. Impressive brooches, necklaces, and even embroidered handkerchieves as mourning jewelry are seen there. Just have a look at the images in this blog post and I bet that you must admit that these hair jewels and mourning jewelry are exquisite.
Mourning jewelry is a very exceptional type of jewelry. This type of jewelry nowadays is not to be seen so much, or maybe you don’t know that a certain pendant is the former wedding ring of a husband. Still, a lady wants to look beautiful and to feel great. But do you know what kind of jewelry looks best on you? What type of necklace makes you look best. What earrings match perfectly with your eyes?
To make it short: do you know what jewelry accentuates your best features? I’ll bet you have so many questions about this subject. And FlorenceJewelshop published a practical PDF where you can find all the answers. And in case you cannot find your answer you can email me and I help you out (https://florencejewelshop.com/contact/)
The PDF is free of charge. Just let me know where I can send it to.
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