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: Price:


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.





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.





HOPE FROM HEAVEN ( Georgian Mourning Jewelry Locket / Pendant ): A haunting and prevalent image from the late 18th & early 19th Centuries is that of a woman with an anchor. Dressed in idealized attire of the Grecian style, far from pathetic, she is a female Atlas, bearing a world of grief on her slim shoulders. In this polychrome painted Georgian Locket the woman is leaning on a blue anchor and points up to heaven. (c. 1790) In the background a ship at sea bravely sports a long red pennant and a blue banner waving from the masts tops, along with a large red flag flying from the aft pole. Though nautical in theme, the loss of this loved one may have been from a number of causes. The anchor theme always represents “Hope and Salvation”. Standing on a rocky promontory, this image appears to be beseeching heaven above to return her loved one from the dangers of the sea. I love her little bright yellow shoes and deep blue cloak. The color is so bright that it could have been painted yesterday. This Georgian Antique Locket / Pendant is set in 15KT gold with the original glass covers on both sides. The locket opens from the back and presently has a background of fabric. You could put a photo or a lock of hair under the back cover. The bale swivels from side to side. (The chain is not included.) Most Georgian polychrome painted pieces are pins, so it is refreshing to have a pendant in sturdy, wearable condition. This Antique Mourning Locket / Pendant is a tangible touchstone from the past – an age where grief and remembrance were an integral part of life.

Condition: Excellent. Over 200 years have produced some surface scratches and two spots of flaked polychrome at 6 & 8 o’clock. The price reflects these tiny imperfections.
Size: Locket and bale 1 7/8” high, 1 1/4” wide, 1/4” deep.




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.




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.





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.






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.

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BLACK BRANCHES OF GRIEF ( Victorian Mourning Jewelry Jet Brooch ): Jet, as a material with memorial symbolism and one having the power to ward off evil, dates back to the 7th Century. “Tis black and shining, smooth and even light.” The intensity of the black color made jet the perfect stone to reflect the deepest grief. This stunning hand carved Whitby Jet Victorian Mourning Brooch (c. 1850) brings together all of the most prominent symbols of grief. The finest Whitby Jet has been carved in the “broken branch” foliage theme that was favored by the Victorians. There are six tiny pearl “tears” resting on the jet leaves. The central glass oval contains a lock of pale blond hair set in an engraved low carat gold frame. With its C clasp closure and extended pin stem, this is a brooch that delivers the essence of fine Mourning Jewelry that was – and still is – so highly prized.

Condition: Excellent. Note: Some of the pearls are probably replacements that match the originals. The tip of one leaf was chipped long ago.
Size: 2” wide, 1 1/2” high, 5/8” deep. Hair compartment is 3/4” wide, 5/8” high.




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.



MEMORIAL FLAMES ( Antique Georgian Enamel Mourning Jewelry Brooch / Pin ): I have never seen another mourning piece as unique as this one. (c. 1800-1830) The enameling on this plaque is just superb. The deep blue frame practically glows with ornamentation. The central delicate enamel scene depicts a young blond woman dressed in a pale green, pink and yellow gossamer dress. She is holding a golden urn that probably contains the ashes of a loved one. Next to her is a memorial column decorated with a swag of pink roses and topped by a smoking flame. What is the story being told here? The enamel work is as dazzling and colorful as the day it was made. The enamel plaque is set in a highly ornamented brass frame about 1/4” wide. A C clasp pin back appears to be part of the frame – married in antiquity. I do not know if this was originally made to be set in a picture frame or possibly a box top. What I do know is that it is extremely lovely!

Condition: Excellent.
Size: 2 7/8” high, 2 1/8” wide including the frame.



FLORAL FANTASY ( Antique Victorian Hair Mourning Jewelry Brooch / Pin ): This sumptuous Mid-Victorian Floral Hair Brooch is dazzling in a very special way (c. 1860-80) A truly exceptional brooch (possibly French), grand in scale and craftsmanship, it features a slightly oval ivory colored background that has been literally covered with flowers of every shape and size. Roses, daisies, buttercups, pansies, forget-me-nots, star flowers and an array of large and small leaves and stems spread out in a multi-layered profusion of floral fantasy! The brunette palette-worked hair has been done in the cut-work method in which the hair is spread over glue covered paper then cut out and layered into shapes of flower petals, leaves and stems. Look closely and you will see that the blossoms are actually 3-dimensional . The embellished golden setting is equally elaborate and dimensional. The glass covered back contains a hand tied curl of blond or gray hair – probably of the woman memorialized. The brooch has the original C clasp and extended pin back, also a tiny ring to hold a safety chain. This brooch is a miniature masterpiece of delicate work that speaks to the heart. “Of all keepsakes, memorials, relics – most dearly, most devotedly do I love a little lock of hair. All else is gone to nothing.”

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



RINGS ON YOUR FINGERS ( Antique Georgian Mourning Jewelry Ring with Hair ): I seldom see Mourning Rings that are in perfect condition and this one is so rare that I had to share it with you. Tokens of hair are intimate and personal: “If I should from this world depart / You could still remember me.” This exceptional 1793 Georgian Ring is executed in sepia and watercolor on ivory, along with dissolved hair-work. The ring is inscribed “Sara Braikenridge 1793” on the reverse and the initials “S.B.” appear on the plinth. Above the mourner (Sara's mother?) at the tomb is a fancy “bow” made of Sara's hair. The groundwork at the base of the tomb is also done in Sara's hair which has been finely chopped and placed into the scene in the palette-worked method. The setting and ring band are 14KT gold in a graceful oval shape. Ring size is 7 ¼. A tangible touchstone from the past – an age when grief and remembrances were a part of life. A trophy awaiting some lucky collector! Pictured on pg. 73 of Maureen DeLorme's book “Mourning Art & Jewelry”.

Condition: Excellent.
Size: The oval is 1 1/4” high, 3/4” wide. Ring size is 7 ¼.



THE WINDOW OF THE SOUL ( Antique Georgian Jewelry Lover's Eye Portrait Miniature Pendant / Brooch ): Eyes have long been thought of as the “windows of the soul”, alternately revealing and concealing one's deepest thoughts and feelings. A “Lover's Eye” miniature is a painting of the giver's eye presented to a loved one. The notion accompanying their short-lived fad (c. 1790-1830) was that the eye would be recognizable only to the recipient and usually worn hidden from view. One popular theory as to the origin of the Eye Portrait has its roots from the late 18th Century when the flamboyant, style-setting Prince of Wales was refused permission by his father, King George III, and by British law to wed the widowed (and Catholic) Mrs. Maria Fitzherbert. The widow avoided the Prince's proposal by escaping to Europe. In order to keep his romance with her a secret from the disapproving court, an Eye Miniature was conceived. Apparently the gift of his gaze did the trick and they were secretly (and illegally) married. In turn the bride had her eye painted in order that she might covertly present it to the Prince. Soon nobility followed the Prince's lead and the trend spread to the continent taking Europe by storm. The Prince, turned King George IV, was found to be wearing Mrs. Fitzherbert's intimate eye miniature when he died. These eye miniatures were an extremely intense manifestation of an already emotionally charged art. Some eye miniatures were expressions of love and loss, which later grew to include friendship and portraits of children. Queen Victoria revived the genre by giving portraits of her eye to favored relatives and advisors. I purchased this Georgian piece over 40 years ago and have always been struck by the bold gaze of a woman's very blue right eye. The marquise shaped rose gold setting is framed by black dot paste stones. The reverse is delicately engraved and contains a hair memento of the loved one under glass. The safety 14 KT clasp pin back is a replacement or possibly an addition. The ring and safety chain at the top appear to be original. The brooch may be worn as a pendant by threading a chain or ribbon through the ring. These very personal love tokens from 200 years ago are very rare and highly prized. I know that I have loved this one!

Condition: Excellent. The original safety chain is still in place. Some wear to engraving on back and a tiny chip at the base of glass cover. Neck chain not included.
Size: 1 3/4” high, 1 1/8” wide. Eye wafer 1 3/8” high, 3/4” wide.



IN HEAVEN & IN MY HEART ( Antique Georgian Sepia Mourning Jewelry Pair of Pearl Bracelets ): As may of you may have noticed, I am in the process of offering my exceptional personal collection of Mourning Jewelry to caring collectors who will become caretakers of my treasured pieces. It is a form of mourning in itself as I have loved and taken pride in the ownership of such meaningful mementos. This French “book piece” is a very rare matching set of Georgian sepia bracelets. The pair have exceptional 18th Century (c. 1770-90) sepia, watercolor and hairwork clasps with pearl bracelets of wonderful quality and the subject mater is so touching. Each navette shaped clasp depicts a different mourning scene hand painted with tender delicacy and accented with hair. In one clasp the mourning woman is represented as a shepherdess with two lambs. A popular theme in 18th Century pastoral paintings, lambs were a common symbol for a child's death – gentleness, purity and innocence as well as sacrificial love as personified in Christ. Just to keep the mourning women busy, she is also seen searching for her beloved and is writing his name. In the other clasp she is placing a funeral wreath on a tree in his memory. The six rows of pearls are replacements for the original eight rows of smaller pearls. Tongue and groove closures lock the clasps in place. In my possession for 20 years, these rare and outstanding bracelets are pictured in Maureen DeLorme's informative book “Mourning Art and Jewelry”, page 82. These rare sepia and pearl bracelets would be a timeless centerpiece to add to any collection.

Condition: Very good. The shepherdess clasp has a crack in the surface of the painting, some wear on back of clasp. Other clasp has a small flaw at bottom of the glass cover. The rarity of these 225+ year old pieces makes the slight flaws acceptable.
Size: Clasps are 3/4” wide, 1 1/4” long. Total bracelet length 7 1/4”, 1” wide.



THE ROSE AND THE DOVE ( Antique Victorian Mourning Jewelry Memorial Painting Pendant ): This painted Victorian Mourning Picture/Pendant is so exquisite that to part with it has been a very difficult decision. Being both a piece of memorial art and a pendant makes it doubly desirable. (c. 1860-80) Possibly originally inset into a box or used as a portable memorial, this romantic image is rich in symbolism. At the center the plinth features an urn with an eternal flame burning at its top. Notice the clock at the center of the plinth – the inevitable passage of time – symbolizes the shortness of life. Two kissing doves who seem to be parting – on the right the white male dove is bright but his female companion appears to be fading in color and clarity as she departs. This represents the soul. The darkening blue sky is clouded and the two green trees are leaning, no longer upright. Yet there are abundant pink roses, romantic but they are a symbol of love and death, a common motif in mourning paintings. There is such an air of sweetness in this rare mourning portrait of parting. It is painted on slate. The frame is rose gold and I have had three fully dimensional roses with leaves added to the top so that they could conceal a pendant loop. Perhaps no collector will snap this up and I won't have to part with it! “Parting is such sweet sorrow.”

Condition: Excellent.
Size: 2 1/2” in diameter, 1/8” deep. Roses are 1 1/2” long, 1/4” deep.



THE DEAR REMAINS OF MOTHER ( Antique Georgian Mourning Jewelry Sepia & Hair Pendant / Pin ): This spectacular English Georgian mourning pendant/pin is almost beyond description in the quality of the workmanship, detailing beauty, symbolism and hair work. (c. 1790-1830) A story of sadness is evident in this touching sepia on porcelain pendant. The scene depicts a grief stricken woman in classical dress seated next to a tomb with an urn. An exquisite Weeping Willow Tree hangs gently over the mournful scene. The image is unusually crisp and clear. The sides of the 14 KT rose gold oval pendant are engraved with a chain link motif. On the reverse side you will see gray hair beautifully woven. The center holds a rose gold framed inset which reads : “The Dear Remains off the Best and most Beloved of Mothers.” I have added a Victorian Watch Pin of rose gold and black enamel to the pendant ring so this memorial can be worn as a pin as well as a pendant. This is another personal piece from my 45 years of collecting Mourning Jewelry. It is a tangible touchstone from the past – an age where grief and remembrances were an integral part of life.

Condition: Excellent. Some fine surface scratches to the glass, common on pieces that were worn.
Size: Oval is 2” long, 1 1/2” wide, 1/8” deep. Watch pin is 5/8” high, 1 1/2” wide. Total length for both pieces is 3 1/2”.


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