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:


FABULOUS FRAMED MEMORIAL ( Antique Victorian French Framed Hairwork Mourning Portrait ): This charming French woman appears to have passed away at a relatively young age. She was gone but obviously not forgotten. Family members had this Museum Quality Framed Memorial Portrait created as a beautiful memento of her. It contains her gold foil framed photograph, vines made of her hair with palette-worked leaves and four lovely dimensional palate-worked flowers, a loop of her hair loosely tied around the base of the vine – all surrounded by a long braid of her plaited brown hair with pale pink bows of ribbon at each end. Printed in French near the bottom is “Céfine Guitard”, “Deceased the 19 July 1897”. The background is a pale aqua milk glass and all is enclosed under domed glass. One rarely finds a Hairwork Memorial Framed Portrait of this quality. Don't pass it up!

Condition: Excellent. Photograph is faded but all the hairwork is pristine.
Size: Frame 11 1/2” high, 9 1/2” wide, 1 1/4” deep. Hairwork area 7 3/4” high, 6” wide.



RESURRECTION OF THE SOUL ( Antique Georgian Mourning Jewelry Pendant ): Our photos do not nearly do justice to this beautiful navette shaped Georgian Mourning Pendant. (c. 1780-90) In the first photo the lighting glare is on the sides and in the second at the top and bottom so between the two you can begin to appreciate the details. We see the grieving widow being comforted by an angel departing the obelisk tomb and pointing upward indicating she is taking the husband's soul to Heaven. The rays of sunlight mean he will be resurrected or renewed in Heaven. Part of what is hard to appreciate is the delicate details of the decoration of the 3-dimensional obelisk – tiny seed pearls, gold and silver studs and fine twisted gold wire. And the chip near the top is not just painted, it is an actual missing chip which can be seen where it fell to the ground below. The pendant is painted with sepia and watercolor. The trees and ground cover are enhanced with crushed hair from the deceased. The reverse has the gold initials “MA” and “CA” over brown palette-worked hair surrounded by black enamel. The pendant is set in decorated 14 KT rose gold and covered by domed glass. When you hold this pendant in your hand it takes your breath away!

Condition: Excellent. Two tiny silver studs missing and possibly two seed pearls. Chain not included.
Size: 2 1/4” high not including bale, 3” high with bale, 1 1/2” wide, 1/2” deep.



GEORGIAN SWIVEL RING ( Antique Georgian Mourning Jewelry Ring ): I have handled a number of Georgian Mourning Rings but this is the first I can remember that swivels. The front side contains woven brown hair in a glass covered enclosure surrounded by 14 perfect seed pearls representing tears of grief. The reverse is white enamel in a gold and black frame with “NOT LOST BUT GONE BEFORE” printed in gold. (c. 1810-20) It is contained and swivels within a plain 14KT gold band. I purchased this ring in this small black heart shaped ring box with a C clasp. The box is included.

Condition: Very good. The front side is perfect but there is a small chip in the left edge of the white enamel side revealing the gold beneath.
Size: Face 5/8” high, 7/16” wide, 3/16” deep. Band 3/16” wide. Ring size 4.



PARTY TIME! ( Mourning/Sentimental Hair and Carved Bone Pendant with Multi-strand Bone Bead Necklace ): Ladies! Have you ever seen a Mourning/Sentimental Jewelry item so ready and eager to decorate you for your next fancy-dress night out? Stunning on red or black. I have to confess this necklace is part old (c. 1870-80) and part new. (Perfect for a wedding gift.) The center area of the pendant – consisting of the palette-worked curl of brown hair with two seed pearls surrounded by delicately carved grape leaves, bunches of grapes and a fancy bow in an 18 KT gold setting – was originally an Antique Victorian Brooch. To turn it into something more glamorous that I could wear to parties, I had my talented jeweler add two rows of small bone beads to frame the pendant, along with several additional bone “grapes” (the new ones are slightly lighter in color) and a large gold and bone bale. The pendant hangs from a six strand bone bead necklace with a screw closure. Since this is only partly antique I have deeply discounted the price. But what a beauty!

Condition: Excellent. I think the tip of the top end of the ribbon bow is chipped.
Size: Pendant 2 1/2” high, 1 7/8” wide, 3/8” deep. Hair compartment 7/8” high, 1/2” wide. Necklace 17 1/2” long.



MINIATURE WORK OF ART (Antique Victorian Mourning Jewelry Hair Brooch / Pin ): Wow! This early Victorian Memorial Mourning Brooch is such a beautiful work of art and in such lovely condition that it is hard to believe it is nearly 170 years old! It is difficult to appreciate fully the work of the master artist who designed and constructed this dainty and delicate swirl of hair, dozens of palette-worked leaves on vines and small palate-worked flower – tied together by a band of three tiny seed pearls and curls of gold wire. They are in a glass covered enclosure and glued firmly on a milk glass background. The frame consists of an inner chased gold oval surrounded by black enamel decorated with large swirls of gold. Engraved on the reverse is “M.C.M” and “1849”. It has its original C clasp pinback. How fortunate M. C. M. is to have such a beautiful Memento Mori.

Condition: Excellent.
Size: Brooch 2” wide, 1 5/8” high, 3/8” deep. Hair compartment 1” wide, 3/4” high.



LOVES SYMBOLIC SERPENT ( Victorian Mourning/Sentimental Jewelry Hair Snake Brooch / Pin ): The serpent is probably the best known and most successful Victorian motif drawn from the animal world. Beloved by Queen Victoria, the snake symbolized love, eternity, rebirth, immortality and wisdom. Prince Albert designed Queen Victoria's betrothal ring in the form of a snake with its tail in its mouth, symbolic of everlasting love. This dainty table-worked blond hair looped snake was probably made as a sentimental gift. (c. 1840-70) It is unusual in that it is blond – rare among Victorian English women. There is a gold heart dangling from the serpent’s mouth with a cabochon garnet at its center. There is also a garnet “crown” on the snake's head and small garnet eyes. Garnets represented passion, fidelity and loyalty. They were commonly worn by widows. The head, tail and heart findings are all 14 KT gold. There is a C clasp and extended pin stem – all original.

Condition: Very good. Small stain on back of neck and mild wear on left edge above hinge.
Size: 1 3/4” wide, 1 5/8” high, 5/8” deep.



MEMORIAL OF SON ( Antique Mourning Jewelry Hairwork Watch Chain and Locket ): Our East Coast buyer purchased a number of hairwork watch chains at an estate sale some years ago. They have never been of much interest to me but in looking through them this one caught my eye because of the pristine condition of the complex table-worked hair. (The last 4 photos show close-ups of both sides of the hairwork.) In examining it further I discovered that the pendant hanging from it is a locket and contains the photo of a young boy. I was touched by my image of this father wearing his handsome watch chain as a remembrance of his young son who passed from this world all too soon. The hair work is what really makes it special. The findings are gold as is the small decorated locket. They are decorated with small red and white stones. The watch hook has a spring opening. Help this father carry on the memento mori of his young son.

Condition: Excellent. Locket closes firmly.
Size: Total length 12 1/2”, width of hair bands 3/4”. Locket 3/4” in diameter.



GOLDEN MEMORY ( Antique Georgian Mourning Jewelry Pendant and Chain ): This beautiful “IN MEMORY OF” (IMO) late Georgian Pendant (c. 1830-35) has an unusually fancy 15 KT gold setting. The central gold disk is surrounded by a circle of an intricately engraved wave pattern, then the black enamel band containing the gold decorative lettered IMO, then an engraved gold frame surrounded by “waves” of chased gold. The reverse contains a glass enclosed compartment containing brown palate-worked woven hair with a simpler engraved frame. What makes this IMO pendant different from most is that the word “Memory” is not at the top. I think it is rotated on purpose so that when picked up by the large decorative gold bale the words are properly oriented. The gold chain, which came with it, is unusually long. It has a spring ring closure and is included. Help carry this Golden Memory forward.

Condition: Excellent. Gold chain included.
Size: 1 1/4” in diameter, 3/16” deep. Chain 38” long.



ETERNAL LIFE ( Antique Victorian Mourning Jewelry Snake Pendant ): The Snake was probably the most common animal used as the motif in Victorian Jewelry. Queen Victoria popularized it as a symbol of Eternal Love, but it was also commonly used in Mourning Jewelry. In this large black Celluloid Pendant the snake represents Eternal Life and the hand points the way to Heaven – thus, Eternal Life in Heaven. (c. 1890-1900) Celluloid, invented in 1856, was the first of what we call “plastic”. It was rapidly picked up for use in jewelry because it could be easily molded. Attached to the decorative black Celluloid backing, this pendant has a rather modern look to it.

Condition: Excellent. Chain not included. The bale is new.
Size: 3 1/8” long, 2 1/4” wide, 1/2” deep.



THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL ( Antique Victorian Mourning Jewelry Hair Pendant ): Judging from their hair jewelry most Victorians were brunettes, making blond hair pieces more rare and desirable. (c. 1850-80) This is an exceptional blond hair pendant executed in a crisp palette-worked design of swirls and curls, gold wire twists and three seed pearls on a background of milk glass. The pendant is oval shaped, covered with glass and encased in 9 KT gold. Grand in size, glorious in execution this blond hair pendant is probably a sentimental piece worn proudly by an adoring woman. The delicate pattern of the fine hair could possibly be that of a child. There is a ring at the top to hold a chain. The reverse glass covered black fabric chamber is empty. The beauty and harmony of this blond pendant is graceful and feminine. It carries with it 150 years of history – a spectacular addition to any collection. I promise that you will be noticed wearing this eye-dazzling pendant!

Condition: Excellent. The chain is not included.
Size: 2” long, 1 5/8” wide, 3/8” deep.



HAIR HOOPS ( Antique Victorian Mourning / Sentimental Jewelry Hair Earrings ): A change of pace for today! I am offering you this very fine pair of hair covered hoop earrings. (c. 1840) These hoops are quite dainty with 9 KT gold accents and a twisted gold wire half circle for further embellishment. These pierced earrings may well have been a sentimental token of love or affection. (Possibly made in India where this hoop design was popular. A soldier stationed there could have sent them back home.) See close-up photos for unusual closure – a tiny hook that fits in a tiny gold loop. You press on the side of the gold wire a the top to open and close. Make room in your collection for these unusual delicate delights. A contemporary look with an antique heritage!

Condition: Excellent. Handle the hair carefully.
Size: Hoop is 1 1/4” in diameter. Hair covered wire is 1/8” wide.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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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