Wearing Their Memories: The Evolution of Mourning Jewelry

Mourning jewelry is a type of jewelry that was traditionally made to commemorate the death of a loved one and worn in remembrance of them. Let’s explore the history of mourning jewelry and its significance in modern times. 

History of Mourning Jewelry 

locket mourning jewelry
A mourning jewel commissioned by Prince Albert for Queen Victoria. Source.

Mourning jewelry started during the Georgian era, which was from the early 1700s to the 1830s. When King Charles I of England was executed, his supporters wore jewelry with his image carved into a type of crystal called Stuart crystal.

In the beginning, mourning jewelry often had pictures of death like skulls and coffins. This was to remind people that everyone would eventually die, and was known as memento mori. But over time, the jewelry started focusing more on remembering the person who had died. It often included words, images, and flowers related to the person.

The trend really took off when wealthy people started ordering custom pieces of mourning jewelry when someone they cared about died, and no one else pushed the trend forward than Queen Victoria. When her husband Prince Albert died in 1861, Queen Victoria entered a period of mourning that lasted for the remaining 40 years of her life, which is quite unusual. This mourning was reflected not just in her attire but also in her jewelry choices.

Queen Victoria is known to have worn a mourning ring in remembrance of her beloved Albert. The ring contained a photograph of Prince Albert and a lock of his hair. She favored jewelry made from jet, a black stone that became closely associated with mourning jewelry during her reign. It was commonly used in many pieces of jewelry she wore during her mourning period, including brooches, necklaces, and earrings.

Types of Mourning Jewelry 

There are several types of mourning jewelry to commemorate a lost love. Here are some of them: 

1. Mourning Brooches 

Mourning brooches typically have a section for a lock of hair or a unique symbol. They were among the most popular types of old mourning jewelry and came in a wide range of materials. Check out some mourning brooches for your collection: 

heart mourning brooch
Victorian mourning hand and heart locket by Mrs Pollys Lucite. See it here. 

Made with resin, this Victorian-inspired hand brooch is designed with cream color and small flowers. Flowers held in the hand represented friendship and love. A forget-me-not is associated with mourning and memory, while the heart-shaped locket can be used to put a small picture of special someone as a remembrance. 

mourning brooch
Antique Victorian Woven Hair and Black Enamel Mourning Brooch by Birney Creek. See it here.

This exquisite piece of Victorian mourning jewelry is a brooch pin. Its front is made of black enamel and has an oval glass bezel at the center, with elegantly plaited human hair in light and dark tones. 

2. Mourning Bracelets 

There are several mourning bracelet types, from bangles to woven hair chains, beaded bracelets, and so on. Some have hair lockets as part of the design, while others can be customized with ashes. Check out these different styles of mourning bracelets to commemorate your loved one: 

mourning bracelet
‘Until We Meet Again’ Morse Code Mourning Bracelet by Malabagz. See it here.

For those who have lost a loved one, this Morse code bracelet conceals a consoling hidden message. It can be a lovely gift that serves as a solace-filled tribute to the people we want to remember forever. Made with Miyuki beads of the finest quality, this bracelet assures a long-time reminder of consolation and hope. 

infinity mourning bracelet
Infinity Mourning Bracelet by Suzie QUrns. See it here.

Beautifully made from premium black chromed stainless steel, this infinity mourning bracelet urn is built to last a lifetime and beyond. The kit includes a funnel and glue to keep the ashes sealed in the band and a manual on how to properly do it. This bracelet is truly personalized and will keep a lost loved one close to you. 

3. Mourning Lockets 

One of the most popular types of Victorian mourning jewelry is the locket. They frequently have hair in them, but not always. In addition to being typically engraved, they occasionally include a picture of the deceased. 

Check out these mourning lockets that you might want to customize for remembering a loved one: 

mourning locket
Antique Victorian Mourning Locket by Hanseatic Jewels. See it here.

This Victorian gold-filled and onyx mourning locket is a time treasure piece. An inset shield is engraved with the letters ‘EF’, and the locket itself has a space for a lock of hair or a special memento of someone dear to you. 

gold mourning locket
Victorian Watch Style Mourning Locket by Hanseatic Jewels. See it here.

Similar to a pocket watch, this lovely Victorian mourning locket is circular and detailed, with five drops extending from a collar-like design. This simple antique piece is perfect for storing a lock of hair of a loved one to remember them even after time goes by. 

4. Mourning Pendants and Crosses 

Several different designs and shapes are available for mourning pendants, but crosses were particularly well-liked. Some crosses were composed of human hair, while others were made of metal that had been jetted or enameled. 

Check out some unique mourning pendants that you might like to add to your jewelry collection: 

mourning pendant
Cremation Ash Mourning Pendant by The Steel Shop. See it here.

This shiny gold cremation jewelry is a fashionable and elegant piece to wear while remembering a loved one. You can even personalize this pendant by engraving a name, symbol, or word to describe the person to be remembered. 

cross mourning pendant
Gothic-Style Cross Mourning Pendant by Order of Saints. See it here.

The mourning cross pendant’s base metal is a matte, pale-ish pewter finish. It features jet rhinestones arranged in a pointed cross form, making it perfect for a vintage and dark style. 

5. Mourning Hair Jewelry 

Jewelry made from the hair of a loved one was quite popular in the Victorian era. The Victorians thought that because hair held a portion of a person’s essence, it possessed a sacred aspect. It also represented immortality because it had some impermanence. 

Check out these jewelry pieces that are perfect if you want a piece personalized with hair: 

Hair Keepsake Mourning Ring
Hair Keepsake Mourning Ring by Ashley Lozano Jewelry. See it here.

This mourning ring can be personalized with a few strands of hair of a loved one or pet you want to hold dear forever. It is handcrafted to perfection and designed on a classic round center stone. Different colors can be used as the gem’s background to add a touch of personal style. 

circle mourning locket
Geometric Hair Lock Pendant by Petal Pollen Jewellery. See it here.

This beautiful hair lock pendant necklace is a perfect keepsake of memories. Any chosen item could be preserved, including a few strands of hair or flower bits. It could be designed in a circle or teardrop frame by resin. If you don’t want mourning jewelry to be too dark or vintage, this lovely piece is just perfect. 

Mourning Jewelry Today 

The Victorian era popularized mourning jewelry, but more lately, modern and contemporary mourning pieces have grown in popularity. Mourning jewelry provides a chance to wear your story, particularly in such a period when life stories are important, and people are sharing their personal experiences in public. 

Even though the idea of mourning jewelry may appear strange to individuals nowadays, it still exists in some forms. For instance, some people keep a loved one’s ashes near them by wearing cremation jewelry. Times may have changed, but remembering a loss remains significant. And so versions of mourning jewelry continue to be popular.

Wrapping Up 

Most mourning jewelry designs are dramatic, usually with elaborate paintings and patterns set against a background of pitch-black. Still, it can be of any design that you find meaningful. What matter the most is that it represents the personal connection between the wearer and their deceased loved one. 

Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years in the jewelry niche. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education. She has always been interested in expression through fashion and accessories, and her extensive experience in the field has made her a respected voice in jewelry trends and education. As the chief editor of Jewelry Shopping Guide, she not only leads the content strategy but also shares her insights through engaging articles. Her passion for storytelling is reflected in every piece she curates, exploring the intricate relationship between jewelry and personal identity.

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