It’s was a rough week at Diehl’s Jewelers last week. Last Monday, a young friend passed away and we had to put our hound, Aonghus, to sleep. Ninety-nine percent of our business is marking happy occasions, but every once in a while we have a sad one.
This week has me thinking about Memento Mori, remembrance jewelry. Since at least ancient Greek times people have marked the passing of a loved one with jewelry.
Early on this was usually in the form of a ring. Often there would be imagery like a cupid with an extinguished torch, skeletons, skulls, bones, and engraved or enameled initials and dates. Later on toward the 14th-18th centuries there would be images of urns or locks of hair in the designs. Often a person would commission a piece to be willed to a loved one upon their death. Sometimes a piece was made to memorialize the death of a child or loved one by the surviving spouse or parent.
During the late 1700’s and into the 1800’s brooches became much more popular, especially after 1862, when Queen Victoria had a portrait of Prince Albert put into a brooch. Often they would have a portrait or a woven lock of hair. Civil war soldiers would often leave behind a lock of hair in case they were killed.
Another type of mourning jewelry made popular during the time was items made of a black petrified wood called jet. These pieces were sometimes decorated with gold and pearls.
The popularity of mourning jewelry tapered off in the early 20th century as mortality rates dropped. Today jewelry worn in a person’s life is still willed to a loved one as a form of remembrance.
Mourning today has become much more private, but there are still little jewelry memorials. Some pieces we’ve done include making heart pendants or lariat necklaces out of wedding rings, lockets for pictures and locks of hair, or little bottle pendants for ashes.
Treasure your loved ones while they are alive, remember them in your heart when they pass, and live your life to the fullest.
For more information check out this article. http://www.pricescope.com/forum/jewelry-pieces/history-of-mourning-jewelry-t91486.html>