I considered jewelry a form of expression. Either to express ” I love you”, a certain celebration like a birthday or a birth of a child. Jewelry has been a popularity item to give as a gift and as a status symbol. Little did I realized that jewelry can also mean a symbol of death.
Over a decade a ago I was taking an American history course and the teacher was covering a small chapter on Victorian Mourning Rituals. (Which I am not going to lie I really wanted him to go more into detail than only one class!) He mentioned that Victorians had a huge fascination with death and how they grieved was an interesting process. Death was a common factor during the Victorian period and it was very rare for someone to live past the age of 45. This was mostly due to Europe being in constant war and if there was lucky enough to survive war then many diseases such as smallpox, cholera, and scarlet fever would mostly take them in.
However one person in particular during this time made grieving a fashion statement.
Queen Victoria was the Queen of Ireland and the United Kingdom from 1837-1876 and had one great love in her life; her husband Prince Albert . So when he passed away in 1861 she went into a long state of depression for almost four decades until her own death. During her long state of mourning she wore nothing but black dresses and tiny pieces of jewelry with small paintings of Prince Albert on them.
Queen Victoria was so well respected among her court and also was a public figure she quietly turned her visible grief into a fashion statement until her death in 1876. Anyone with any kind of nobility started commissioning artists to painted tiny pictures on rings, earrings, lockets, bracelets and necklaces of there dearly parted.
Lockets were sometimes had a dual use of having the parted person on one side and a lock of hair on the other side. Also Hair pins with love ones lock of hair was very popular. Many Victorians believed that keeping a locket of hair from a deceased loved one meant that the spirit of that person was still a part of them and also meant that a piece of them was immortal if contained in a piece. Certain metals and materials and metals that were used in this fashion statement were onyx, pearls, black enamel, bog oak and dark tortoise shell. Some metals had certain themes for example if white enamel was used it means that that person was grieving a death of a child or an unmarried women.
So much death facing many Victorians of that era having these pieces of jewelry brought them some comfort. And many of them especially women wore these pieces like badges of honor. Even though that person is physically past and gone. The spirit an memory will forever be remember on a piece of jewelry.
Until next time!