Victorian Mourning Jewelry

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Maureen DeLorme's book, Mourning Art & Jewelry, published April, 2004. This stunning book is the only complete work on Mourning customs and jewelry. Many pieces from my personal collection are featured. (See Reference Books under "Links" for more information.)
Item: Description: Victorian Mourning  Jewelry Victorian Mourning Jewelry Victorian  Price:


A LIFE REMEMBERED ( Antique Georgian Mourning Jewelry Watercolor Pendant ): This exceptional Georgian Mourning Pendant is a one-of-a-kind work of art painted in watercolor on a grained surface. (c. 1780-1810) It is rich inmemento mori symbolism, featuring a kaleidoscope of little scenes from a true love and life remembered. The exact meaning may only be known to the original wearer, but we can speculate. Encircled by a 14 KT gold frame we have a large, colorful central shield-shaped tableau depicting a woman laying a wreath over two doves on a tomb. The birds represent the human soul. They are being covered by the wreath, a symbol of the victory of the deceased over death and of his redemption. Around the perimeter are three similar scenes painted in sepia: one of the woman laying a vine at the tomb, next the woman smiling and laying a wreath over a flaming heart (symbolic of marital love and passion) and finally a very unusual scene similar to the former – except the scene is black, indicative of mourning a death. Interspersed with these are tiny triangles of landscapes, one with a horse and rider. (Could it be the death occurred in a riding accident? We can only guess.) The reverse is also very interesting. On a background of blue silk lies a thin copper oval, decorated with a fabric cross. This pendant's bright and vivid colors remain to tell the story – a fascinating puzzle. It is from my personal collection so now I am also a part of its history. Continue its “life remembered” in your collection.

Condition: Excellent.
Size: Pendant is 2 5/8” in diameter, 1/4” deep.



ANGEL OF DEATH ( Antique Georgian Mourning Jewelry Figural & Pearl Ring ): It's so hard to part with this superb ring that has been a loving part of my private collection for many years. “A rare anachronistic memorial piece is seen in this outstanding grained material and pearl 18 KT gold memorial ring, which contains some of the memento mori symbols more typical of the Stuart period: the “Angel of Death” with his scythe and hourglass are all symbols from ars moriendi (the art of dying) of the Middle Ages. Here the “Angel of Death” or Grim Reaper as he is more commonly known today, places a wreath of flowers over an obelisk tomb, an unusual action itself for a figure whose role has always been that of a dreaded harbinger foreshadowing death, not as a sympathetic mourner. The ring is inscribed “Henriette Louise, Gebid 12th April: 1761, Gestid 5th Juny 1793” and this ring is probably Alsatian in origin, due to the duel French and German inscription.” (Quoted from the book “Mourning Art & Jewelry” by Maureen DeLorme, pg. 73.) It is hard to show in the photos but the tomb and figure are 3-dimensional. They are placed on a background of Henriette's brown hair. A rare treasure I hope that some special collector will want to own. The pearl “tears” are my own tears as I prepare to part with this incredibly beautiful ring.

Condition: Excellent.
Size: Face 1 1/2” high, 5/8” wide. Band narrows to 1/16” in back. Ring size 6 3/4.



DEATH WATCH ( Antique Victorian Mourning Jewelry Watch Pendant ): I have worn this pendant for about 30 years and it has served well as a decorative piece of Victorian Jewelry even to those who did realize that the “brown design” was really hair! (c. 1870-80) A thick and substantial two-sided mourning piece, this beautifully executed pendant was made to resemble a “watch”, a death symbol dating back to the Middle Ages in Western culture denoting the brevity of life. The watch has glass covered compartments both front and back. The front encloses a crisp palette-work design of hair curls and plumes, while the reverse reveals a photo of young boy. Executed in 14 KT gold, the glass circles are set in a splendid surround of cut out curled scrolls that rise and fall providing an excellent and unusual design element. I had the 14 KT bale set with pearls (representing tears) added to the watch setting some years ago. It now hangs better and will accommodate a good sized chain to match the size of of the watch pendant. A touching tribute to a beloved loss. A true pledge of remembrance that calls from the past.

Condition: Excellent. Two tiny gold loops in hair compartment are loose.
Size: Including bale 3 1/4” high. Watch circumference 2 1/8”, depth 1/2”.



THE LOSS OF AN INNOCENT ( Antique Victorian Mourning Jewelry Enamel Brooch / Pin ): This lovely Victorian Brooch is so attractive that it can easily be worn in this era of black and white fashion. Oval in shape, the 10 KT gold work is accented with black and white enamel featuring the words “IN MEMORY OF”. (c. 1860) Since the use of white enamel is associated with children, the very pale and fine hair curls on the back indicate that this is indeed a treasured token of a lost new born. At its center an oval of jet holds a star with a single pearl – a tear of remembrance. The brooch is nice sized and domed in shape. Each “petal” sloops downward to give it a wonderful deep presence. The back has a glass covered compartment containing a baby blond hair plume with tiny seed pearls and golden wires. Probably English in origin, there is a C clasp closure and a loop that once contained a safety chain. A tangible treasured eternal memorial from the past to carry forward in time.

Condition: Excellent. White spots on enamel are reflections. A tiny, barely visible, chip in the “MO” panel. Tiny chip in edge of front glass cover at 11:30.
Size: 1 1/4” high, 1 3/4” wide, 1/2” deep.



CROSSES & LOSES ( Antique Victorian Mourning Jewelry Gold Crosses & Hair Earrings ): With the swell of spiritual fervor influencing the Victorian view of life, the inevitability of death and the philosophy of dust to dust, only one's hair would last beyond the grave. Keeping a memorial made of hair was the natural extension of the act of caring. These 14 KT gold and hair earrings are an extraordinary find! In mint condition these cross earrings are from the early (Romantic) Victorian period. (c. 1840-60) Fine gold wire has been wrapped around tubular worked hair creating a “bubble” effect. The black oval centers display a textured gold circle and a slightly raised gold cross. The iconic cross symbolizes everlasting salvation, love and glory. The gold circle behind the cross represents eternity. A small hair orb dangles from the bottom of each earring. These little beauties have gold kidney wire closures for pierced ears. From my personal collection, these are one of the most unusual pair of earrings exhibiting a delicacy and refinement that is so remarkable that the most sophisticated collector will recognize these romantic cross earrings as representing the essence of the 19th Century.

Condition: Excellent/Mint.
Size: From top of ear to bottom of dangle 1 3/4”. Hair oval alone 1” high, 3/4” wide, 1/4” deep.



A TREASURED KEEPSAKE ( Antique Victorian Jewelry Carved Necklace with Hair Pendant / Brooch ): It is very rare to find a full length necklace incorporating hair as part of the tribute. Here is one of those rare pieces. An absolutely spectacular Victorian delicately hand carved necklace with a floral decorated pendant. It dates to circa 1880 and showcases plaited brownish-gray hair (more gray than in photos) in the center of the pendant. The frame is intricately carved with Forget-Me-Not's and Lilies-of-the-Valley nestled among an array of leaves. You can see the fine grain of the frame on the back of the pendant along with a plate with a C clasp pin closure. There is a hand carved chain necklace of the same grained material consisting of plaques and rings, secured with a hook closure in back. The floral and hair pendant attaches to the necklace using a swivel hook with a spring closure. It can be separated from the necklace and worn as a brooch. An outstanding piece of mourning history, this necklace displays the skill and artistry of a master carver – probably French. This is a jewelry piece that will never go out of style and looks great with all colors. What a bargain price!

Condition: Wonderful. There is one tiny leaf tip missing (see photo) but not noticeable because the carving is asymmetrical.
Size: The pendant is 2” high and 5/8” wide. The chain is 24” long.



BLACK AS JET ( Antique Victorian Mourning Jewelry Jet Earrings ): Considering that many Victorian women wore black for most of their lives, it is not surprising that they would want to enhance their “toilet” with a bit of fashionable elegance. Hand carved from the very finest Jet – Whitby – these reverse image earrings are a wonderful find. (c. 1840-50) Jet is a form of fossilized coal that is light weight, shiny or matte, and became the perfect stone to reflect the deepest grief. These dainty and feminine hand carved Jet pierced earrings display a mixture of Oak Leaves, Acorns and Acorn Caps. Oak Leaves and Acorns are traditional symbols of stability, strength, honor and power. The empty caps indicate loss. The shepherd’s hook ear wires are also black for mourning. Jet has become alarmingly difficult to find as foreign collectors have snapped up Jet pieces. An elegant example of the allure of Jet – black, flashing and alive, these “earbobs” shimmer and glint as they dance next to your face.

Condition: Excellent.
Size: Jet motif is 1 1/8” long, 5/8” wide.



THE ANGEL SLEEPS ( Antique Victorian Mourning Jewelry Deceased Baby Portrait Miniature ): This loving and delicate portrait miniature is one of my personal favorites . (c. 1870-80) There is a wistful beauty about this little angel that is very unusual. Usually mourning portraits of babies elicit sadness but this one seems very peaceful and at rest. Only a truly outstanding miniaturist could have done this wonderful hand painted likeness of this sweet infant on porcelain. (There is no signature, nor is there any on the back of the porcelain oval.) The gray background perfectly suits the lace garments. The skin tones of the face and hands still seem to breathe life into this endless sleep. The tiny delicate lips are soft pink. Mounted in a brass frame covered with celluloid, the oil painted miniature is encased in its original worn burgundy case. I hate to part with this very special piece but it is time to find a new loving home for “the last sleep” of this angel. A special addition to any serious mourning collection.

Condition: Portrait is excellent. The case is lovingly worn from time and handling. The clasp is tight.
Size: Miniature is 3” high, 2 1/4” wide. Case is 3 1/2” high, 2 7/8” wide, 1/2” deep.



HAIR THE ESSENCE OF THE SOUL ( Antique Victorian Mourning Jewelry Hair Earrings ): I am offering you this very fine pair of table worked hair earrings. (c. 1850-70) These earrings, with 9 KT gold findings, seem to represent acorns surrounded by finely worked tubular hair. These could be memorial earrings or gifts of sentimental remembrance. Acorns usually mean power and tribute, or these may be a token of nature so beloved by the Victorians. Each earring has a cluster of three table worked hair acorns topped by a golden leaf. These beauties are suspended from a hair acorn with a floral shaped center and retain their original kidney wire closures. Special hairwork earrings like these are rare and becoming harder to find without damage. These are superb examples of the love and the care taken with delicate treasures of a live well lived. What a treat to own these special “ear bobs”.

Condition: Excellent. All original, handle with care as they have survived for over 150 years.
Size: From top of hook 1 7/8” long. Dangle 1 1/8” long, 7/8” wide, 1/4” deep.



FROM CRADLE TO GRAVE ( Antique Victorian Jewelry Bone Cross Pendant ): One of the marvels of antique jewelry is the layers of symbols incorporated in each piece. This superior Victorian Bone Cross, with a hand carved Cherub head at its center, was often used as a “cradle cross”. (c. 1869-1890) Hung above a baby's cradle, it provided protection against evil and blessings from above. A charming idea that could be used today. The little Cherub has tiny curls of hair and perfect, detailed feathered wings. The cross is solid rounded bone, not hollow or flat. It has been hand carved to show thorns. Outstanding in its entirety, this good sized cross is the perfect size to wear on a chain. When a young child died – all to frequently – it could be placed in the coffin to assure eternal rest. The soft radiance and patina of this antique cross can not be matched. (You can see the distinct grain on the three rounded ends of the cross.) Since this piece came from my personal collection I had a 14 KT gold bale added. I wore it on two strands of small ivory beads and it always brought me compliments. Mix the color of bone with jet and you can be stepping out of today's fashion magazines. A Heavenly piece of jewelry to wear, own and display!

Condition: Excellent.
Size: Cross is 4” high (not including bale), 2” wide, 1/2” deep. Cherub head is 3/4” high, 1 1/8” wide, 3/8” deep.



GRACEFUL HAIR PLUME ( Antique Georgian Bone Hair Decorated Patch Box Pendant ): Originally this circular bone pendant was a Georgian (c. 1790-1800) patch box used by ladies to keep tiny decorative fabric cut-out designs that they would apply to their face and bosom to highlight a good feature or cover a blemish. It was the fashion to wear a heart, rose, star or even a carriage with horses – that was a big patch! I believe that this was a sentimental gift, not a mourning piece. A graceful plume of brown hair curls softly under the glass with the initials “DEB”. Since this box comes from my private collection it has a gold band to keep the box closed and a bale with a tiny bone bead to make it a charming pendant. I wore this pendant often and people were always fascinated with the idea of wearing patches. When I was young I would wear a black or red velvet hear on my cheek for “special occasions”. What ever happened to special occasions? Be a confidant woman or collector knowing that no one else has what you have. Own this very special piece of hair art.

Condition: Excellent.
Size: Pendant is 1 5/8” in diameter, 5/8” deep, hangs 2 3/8” with bale. Covered plume of hair 1” diameter.



FANCIFUL EAR BOBS ( Antique Victorian Mourning Jewelry Hair Earrings ): These dangling earrings may well have been a sentimental token of friendship or affection since they lack the severe simplicity of mourning pieces. This pair of lacy and delicate dark brown Victorian table-worked earrings is a lovely example of mourning/sentimental jewelry. (c. 1850-70) The four tubular oblong hair dangles have 9 KT gold caps at both the top and bottom. They are suspended from two hair orbs similarly capped. The gold shepard's hooks are original. What a treat to have these fanciful “ear bobs” dance near your face with every move of your head. Make room in your collection for these playful, yet delicate, outstanding Antique Hair Earrings.

Condition: Excellent. The oblong dangles are slightly flattened, probably due to being stored in too small a box. The orbs are fully rounded.
Size: The earring hang 2 5/8” long, about 7/8” wide.





HAND OF LOVE ( Victorian Antique Vulcanite Hand Brooch / Pin ): Hands holding flowers and wreaths were common motifs in jewelry, lithography and cemetery iconography. This Antique Mourning Brooch, made of Vulcanite, shows a hand holding a branch of yew leaves and a wreath of roses. (c. 1880) The Yew tree symbolizes sadness and immortality, the wreath of roses tell us of love and death and symbolizes victory of the deceased and redemption. A lot of messages in one hand!! The ruffled cuff is a nice detail. Hand Brooches are nice to have since they are so sturdy. We don't have to guess at the date of this Antique Hand Brooch. The metal plate on the back bears an English Registry Mark for May 18, 1880. It has its original pin back C clasp closure. A brooch like this one appears on Page 114 of Maureen DeLorme’s fabulous book “Mourning Art & Jewelry”. I wear several of these hand brooches at a time – often in combinations of black and ivory. Reach out your hand for this sweet and timeless expression of love and loss.

Condition: Excellent.
Size: 2 3/4” wide, 1 1/8” high, 3/8” deep.



SIBLING MEMORIAL ( Victorian Mourning Jewelry Swivel Hair Brooch ): Engraved around the edge:

“S. A. Hockin, obt. May 29, 1854 & his Sister”
“T. E. Petty, obt. April 4th, 1856”

I have handled a number of inscribed mourning pieces but this is the first I can remember memorializing a brother and sister. Having a brother I love dearly, I find that touching. This is not only a large and lovely swivel brooch, the palette-worked blond and light brown hair design on milk glass is in spectacular condition. Time and temperatures often gradually weaken the old glue's grip on the hair, gold wire and seed pearls so that many such pieces you will see have moving parts. Not so for this brooch – all are firmly in place. The front contains a single Prince of Wales curl and swirls of light brown hair (brother?) and an unusual lovely feather and long swirl of blond hair (sister?). All stem from a gold cuff containing 3 seed pearls with a gold bow at one end and a curlicue of gold wire extending from the other. The reverse is covered with tightly woven brown hair with a gold-leaf “chain” around the edge. Both surfaces are covered with protective, slight domed beveled glass. The brooch is in a gold-filled (gold over brass) setting made up of entwined gold “branches” in a broken branch pattern with with four applied engraved gold leaves. There is a replacement pin back with a tubular hinge and early style safety clasp. A spectacular addition to any collection. You will by noticed wearing this eye-dazzling brooch!

Condition: Excellent. Part of the gold leaf on the left is missing, but hardly noticeable.
Size: Total 3” high, 2 1/2” wide, 3/8” deep. Hair compartment 2” high, 1 3/4” wide.



MAJESTIC MUSEUM QUALITY JET ( Victorian Jewelry Whitby Jet Brooch / Pin ): This outstanding Victorian Whitby Jet Brooch is stunning in size and decorative appeal. (c. 1860-80) The very finest jet ever discovered came from the cliffs around Whitby, England. Jet jewelry and small jet carvings were coveted souvenirs of a visit to this seaside town. The intensity of the black color made jet the perfect stone to reflect the deepest grief of Queen Victoria following the death of her beloved Albert. Quite grand in scale, this breath-taking brooch is superb in every respect. The top layer of the pin is an exquisitely carved “lover's knot” set on a platform high above the base. The oval platform is almost architectural in appearance – made up of waves of jet, multiple decorative perforations and buttons of jet at each end. This kind of carving could only be done by a master and given the amount of jet used it was surely intended for a wealthy client. Fifteen years ago I used to see large pieces like this and thought “how expensive!” Now rarely seen, most such pieces have gone into museums or private collections. This brooch came to me from an estate. It can be worn up and down or sideways. The extended pin stem fastens with a C clasp closure. I would advise wearing this on a jacket or coat – heavy fabric would suit it best. Jet is always majestic, elegant and sophisticated. Fit for a modern day queen!

Condition: Excellent.
Size: Huge – 2 3/4” long, 1 1/2” high, 1 1/2” deep.


DELICATE DANCING HAIR DROPS ( Victorian Mourning Jewelry Hair Earrings ): This pair of lacy and delicate brown Victorian table-worked earrings is a lovely example of mourning / sentimental jewelry. (c. 1850-70) These dangling earrings may well have been a sentimental token of love and affection since they lack the severe simplicity of mourning pieces. The three tubular hair dangles have 14KT gold caps at both the top and bottom. They are suspended from a circular golden wire cage that contains a single round drop. The shepard’s hook ear wires are original. When you hold them up – or better yet – wear them, you can truly appreciate what an art form this passion for intimate and personal jewelry had become to the Victorians. The rage from mourning and sentimental had risen dramatically after 1850 (the sad loss of Victoria’s husband, Albert) and was considered by many to be a superior choice to the wearing of metallic jewelry. What a treat to have these “ear bobs” dance near your face with every movement. Move over Scarlett O’Hara and make room for the delicacy and refinement of these outstanding Antique Hair Earrings.

Condition: Excellent. Firm with no fraying, dangles retain their original shape. One of the ear wires is slightly bent.
Size: 2” long, 1 1/4" wide, 3/8” deep.

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