In Memory of Collecting

For those who live in the wonderful state of Victoria, Australia; that time is upon you to do your antiquing duty! Yes, it’s the biggest and the best antique fair nearest to Melbourne; a place where you can go to spend excessive amounts of money and hunt for mysterious treasure.

I’ll be on the floor Tweeting and generally having a great time, so stop by and say hello if you’re near and make sure to leave that mourning jewellery for me!

Ballarat Antique Fair 2010
Sat 10, Sun 11, Mon 12 of March
Badminton Centre, Dowling St, Wendouree, Vic, 3355
> Website

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Art of Mourning

December 11, 2011

In Memory of Collecting

Dear Mourners,

Since 2005, Art of Mourning has been your resource for memorial and sentimental jewels. As of today, Art of Mourning can now be found at:

www.artofmourning.com

This ‘blog’ will no longer be updated, rather, all updates will be found at http://www.artofmourning.com – which will keep you updated with everything related to memorial, mourning, sentimental jewels and art.

Please update your subscriptions and RSS feeds for the new site, I promise that there’s much more memorial madness to come!

The mourning era begins here!

Something That’s New…

December 5, 2011

Yes, I’m well on the way to building a new Art of Mourning that should be seen in the coming days. You’ll need to update your RSS subscriptions and bookmarks soon, however, you’ll see the inanimate become animate though letting theses pieces of jewellery live and breathe again! 2012 proves to be a very busy year, so be prepared for wonderment and excitement!

Gothic mourning ring

Adapting bands to mainstream styles in mourning jewellery is essential to their continued existence. As we’ve discovered with the Catherine Mary Walpole band, which adapted the bold, clean styling of the Neoclassical period and adapted a hairwork memento on top, this ring veers to the other end of the mainstream scale. With the Gothic Revival period taking dominance c.1820, rings such as this would become common and highly produced.

Produced in such numbers that there are degrees of quality in these particular bands. As often with changing styles in jewels, the earlier styles show a high level of quality; their breaking new fashion and worn as such. Bands, being a simple and clear dedication of mourning, were produced in numbers for funerals and given to friends and family, hence as the custom became more of a necessity, base metal pieces were handed out with simplistic construction methods. Indeed, the nature of the band with ‘in memory of’ and a simple inscription avoided too much customisation in construction.

Broken gothic mourning band ring

In this above piece, the shoulders with the floral edging so common in the Gothic Revival period are slid over an inner tube of the ring. Much of this has broken apart over the years, causing heavy loss to the brittle enamel.

Dedication: 2 June 1816 AET 59 / Catherine Mary Walpole mourning ring

Dedication: 2 June 1816 AET 59 / Catherine Mary Walpole

Mourning bands adapted styles with changing fashion, however, there is a uniformity to their prominence c.1680-1900 that is as steadfast as a wedding band.

By its very definition as a band, the ring lends itself to mainstream typefaces in design, the dedication surrounding the band (personalised with a name or standardised with a memento) distils the loved one by their very name to the artistic motif.

More unusual is when the band adapts additional elements, such as this piece, with the hairwork memento placed on top. Its positioning seems clumsy in application, but its nature is essential to amplify the personal nature of the piece.

Also of note is the use of the white enamel (virginity, purity), one could assume for a lady of this age denotes her unmarried status.

Courtesy: Barbara Robbins
9 July 1810 mouring ring 	J Brougham

Dedication: 9 July 1810 / J Brougham

One of the more fascinating aspects of ring design and motifs in the early 19th century is the increased use of gems and stones. What had previously been relegated to fine jewels was becoming ubiquitous and taking over as a symbolic motif in their own right.

Pearl mourning ring

Pearls are the most popular and common to find in rings (many bracelets were strung with pearls, but surviving pieces are harder to find). Jet and turquoise are two of the other most popular materials and are important for their use in mourning custom and symbolism.

1815 mourning ring

Second and third stage jewels took very well to the enhanced use of colour, as reflective surfaces and colour were permissible, so hairwork jewels flanked with stones were not only an essential part of mourning, but a beautiful way to reflect and respect the loved one.

3rd stage mourning ring

Turquoise and Hairwork

These became prevalent from around 1810 and lasted well into c.1850, where larger, bolder styles and black enamel facilitated the changing fashion.

We have taken a look at some of the more unusual design elements at the turn of the 19th century jewellery, each reflecting a society adapting to new methods and tools of construction, access to materials and fashion that began to demand jewellery as a social expectation, rather than social denominator. With this little ring, we can see the use of machine turning to the gold-work in order to create an exact pattern across its entire body.

Inside, however, the hairwork memento still remains. This style did not adapt easily to the application of gems and stones, due to its uniform design, but makes a grand statement in its gold-work.

However, this is a style derived from the mainstream oval/rectangular shape of ring design, as opposed to that style being derived from this. Furthermore, the contour of the band reflects the earlier late 18th century navette/round styles, in that it isn’t a shank meeting the bezel to flatten out underneath, but a clear, circular contour.

Dedication: Jan 14, 1801 / M. Harris (age 28)

Following on from our previous look at the wonderful open-shanks of the early 19th century, we have this ring, with its chalcedony interior and pearl surround.

As mentioned in the previous article, the style of the shank disappeared within a period of twenty years and the bezels became rectangular, but the general style and construction remained the same. Compare that with the ring below:

c.1815

And you can note the similarities. While this ring is more elaborate in its continuation of pearls along the shoulders, the general conceit of the ring is the same. Pearls, central area for hairwork or gem and dedication underneath.

This style remained popular until the mid-19th century and was used until the end of the 19th century in style, due to its ability to adapt and its sentimental simplicity. There was no need to change a style that was geared towards the personal sentiment of love, as the hairwork was placed in the centre and worn proudly outwards.

Do note that the use of other materials than hair in the dedication area of these pieces can often be later amendments. These rings are highly marketable when there is no clear indication of being for mourning or sentimentality (modern sellers often equate hair with death), so the hair and glass are easy to replace with a stone and when the surrounding pearls/turquoise/jet are still there, they are quite beautiful and command a good price.

Experimentation of styles at the end of the Neoclassical movement created some unusual and quite beautiful forms of mainstream design in jewellery that were discontinued by the coming Gothic Revival and seemingly original for their time. Often, designs used in jewellery have some continuity or pedigree for their form, which makes their adaptation of any mainstream artistic flourishes seem quite understandable.

Yet, the early 19th century was a time of discovery and change. Much of the techniques used in traditional jewellery construction were being overtaken with the growing industrial revolution, production was growing to new levels, access to inexpensive materials transcended status to the point of social necessity. Hence, there was more room for experimentation in jewellery fashion, styles could exist for a short period and quickly disappear.

These particular rings show a motif in the shoulders and shank which have some basis in the navette style, but turn this into a design which is much more organic to the contour of the finger. While the style of the open wire/fretwork is a new one, it still honours the symbolism typical of its time.

With this particular ring, the symbolism in the eternity symbol is used to expand the shoulders, enhancing its simple symbolism and the nature of the design itself. What is more striking is that the ring’s memento area is shaped as a diamond, crossing diagonally around the finger. This also reflects upon the changing nature of the sentimental style of the time as well; what could also be a larger, ivory memento with a portrait or mourning/sentimental depiction is now the simple hairwork of the loved one, outwardly displayed for all to see.

Dedication: 2 December 1800 / J.J

Following on with this style, the wire-work open-shank can be seen in many other pieces of the first-quarter 19th century, with more or less elaboration. Often, the bezel is oval shaped with hairwork inside. This was at a time when the ‘Georgian Eye’ portrait was reaching its crescendo, suggesting that the oval and the eye have an intrinsic link in the design motif. Either way, it was phased out to become a more traditional rectangle, but keeping the same hairwork/materials inside.

Further Reading:
> Gothic Revival in Culture and Jewellery: Part 1, c.1740-c.1850
> Gothic Revival in Culture and Jewellery: Part 2, c.1850-c.190
> Gothic Revival in Culture and Jewellery: Part 3, Breaking Perceptions

In Memory of Collecting

One of the things I love most, next to educating the world about the virtues of mourning jewellery, is informing people to go to your nearest antique fair and spend as much money as you possibly can! Being a lad who is situated in Melbourne, Australia, I have an obvious slant towards advertising the fairs nearest to me (if you have any nearby, let me know and I’ll post them on the blog).

This weekend is ‘The Way We Wear Fair’, which is one of the best, or dare I say, bespoke fairs that I go to. It caters to jewellery, clothes and antique/vintage fashion. Yes, I can almost guarantee that you’ll find some mourning/sentimental magic there.

So, if you live within a good drive of Williamstown, why not come along? I’ll be there, Tweeting from the floor, no doubt, and enjoying the moment. We can catch up and antique together if you like. See you tomorrow!

Admission Costs
Adults $12.00, Concession/Child $10.00 (10+), Family $30.00
Fair Hours
Saturday 19 November 10am-5pm , Sunday 20 November 10am-4pm
Venue
The Williamstown Town Hall, 104 Ferguson Street, Williamstown, Victoria
> Link to Website

19th century memento mori ring

The skull in depiction is a good way of understanding whether or not a mourning jewel is all it claims to be. As a collector, one has to be careful that there is no room for error when buying a piece, this is often overlooked, as many pieces can interest just due to their beauty and not their fact.

With this particular piece, one must make two assumptions; the skull is rendered contemporary for its time, but not as part of its original construction or that it is a much later addition to deceive or promote financial gain.

This is a difficult spot for the collector. Upon first examination, the ring looks remarkably correct in its style. The skull is an obvious anachronism, for it to be part of mainstream fashion when the ring is estimated to be constructed would make it an anomaly. However, the rest of the ring, with its black enamel shoulders and 1st quarter 19th century rectangular hair memento are seemingly correct.

Hence it comes down to the style of the skull being the only things we can take from it. Skull design in mourning jewels can be identified easily enough through matching detail with mainstream art and contemporary pieces. In this case, the skull is simply rendered, which does conform with earlier skulls, but isn’t definitive.

Highly detailed skulls, that you may see on modern rings would automatically default this piece to be a poor addition, but if this is modern or not can’t be discounted.

Perhaps one should question the taste in adding a skull to the remnants of a loved one, when this is the last element of the person that is left, especially in a time when the memento mori motifs were out of fashion.

Regardless, it is the curiosity in jewellery that makes it fun to discover. Each tells a tale, each resonates with personal history.

Further Reading:
> Spotting Forgeries, Fakes and the History of Reproductions

James Chifley Mourning Ring 1802

The ubiquitous early 19th century mourning band was born from a confluence of styles. As seen in the previous Gothic Revival articles, there was a shift back to the ecclesiastical in mainstream art, reacting to the opulence of the neoclassical era with the more primitive Gothic movement and a move away from the personal as the subject of worship.

By the early 19th century, the neoclassical shape of the navette and oval (which previously had mostly housed painted miniatures in the memento area of the ring) had reduced itself to the essence of the shape. Simple, geometric lines reflect a grand and simple statement. In this piece, we have the example of the black enamel being broken by the two white enamel lines. Simple, bold and proud design that, in effect, puts the tombstone around the wearer’s finger.

This was an evolution of a style that had adapted throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. The band itself is a highly malleable and simple design that can adapt very quickly to new art styles that flow in mainstream fashion.

Examples of this can be seen as the contemporary popular style of mourning band adapted the Gothic Revival motifs quite heavily, yet this skews closer to the 1820s in its simplicity.

Country: England
Year: 14 June, 1802
Dedication: James Chafy (Esq) (Age 71)
While we’re working behind the scenes rebuilding Art of Mourning, let’s reflect on this magnificent tale from the crypt:
Rose and Yellow Gold 'Cigar Band' Ring / 1810

Rose and yellow gold with enamel. It appears the hair is laid on card with letters printed on it and research found Alexander Scott was from Lancaster County, PA and held a seat in the Legislature between 1797-1800.

This ‘cigar band’ style of shape is not an American invention; very much the style of US jewellery had a precedence in Europe and just made variations of the theme. Let’s explore the nature of the band itself. One can find its style dating back to the navette shape of the 1780s, where the shank splays out towards the bezel and forms part of the ring itself. The way this conforms to the finger and holds the popular styled shape of the ring is important. The navette style was particularly popular during the 1780-1800 period and the thing to focus on is the shape itself and how the shank holds it.

Rose and Yellow Gold 'Cigar Band' Ring / 1810

As the style over these years began to accommodate the more neo-classical oval shape and materials began to take over the focal point of the navette (being the painted art), the shank accommodated the shape as well. So, this style isn’t related so much to the mourning band of yore, but was more of a way to accommodate shape.

The style as it developed accommodated a cheaper price point. Often one can find these pieces to have a base metal underneath or sometimes have hollow areas underneath the bezel itself. One could surmise that the American adaptation of this style very much satisfied a middle-class market that couldn’t afford the higher price margin for similar shaped bezels with higher detail to the shank.

Rose and Yellow Gold 'Cigar Band' Ring / 1810These are more prolific due to cheaper construction (but not in all cases). That said, the fine pieces with higher gold content and detail are perfect examples of their time, they simply followed a fashion and as with most US forms, found its origins in Europe which subsequently found its origins in earlier pieces that simply evolved to accommodate this fashion.

Look to the more oval, geometric, smaller and quite interesting methods of gold work that were experimented with during the first quarter 19th century (look to the rings first) to see how the style evolved.

Courtesy: Sarah Nehama
Country: United States of America
Year: 1810
Dedication: Alex(R) Scott OB 21 Mar 1810 AE 47

Keep Calm and Carry On

November 11, 2011

Attention Mourners! There will be some slight changes to Art of Mourning over the coming days, so don’t be alarmed if things disappear, reappear or change about.

We’ve got some big things coming! Get excited and let’s keep moving to bliss, keeping the memories alive.

 

By the mid-19th century, bracelets adapted along with the evolution of costume. Voluminous crinolines and wide sleeves accommodated wide-weaves of hairwork and lighter, bulkier materials such as Jet to be worn easily at the wrist.

By 1854, the Hallmarking Act allowed for the use of lower grade alloys in jewellery construction, leading to a higher level of production of lighter clasps and fixtures in bracelets, many of which are very common for the collector to find today. Light materials, such as hairwork, when produced with the rolled-gold or pressed fittings led to bulkier designs being easier to wear.

It should be noted for today’s collector that hairwork does not equate to ‘mourning’, but was a sentimental material used in mainstream fashion, a misconception that many sellers automatically affix to pieces being sold today.

Note the evolution of the bracelet style from the previous century of the clasps seen earlier. This still retains a larger shape, but has adopted the Victorian Rococo revival motifs.

Pearls and hairwork are often two of the most common materials used in stringing a bracelet  from the neoclassical era, much of the time these materials have been replaced since their creation, however, it is quite common to find the bracelet clasp on its own, such as this piece and the one posted recently.

Let’s reflect upon the symbolism for a moment. On direct appearance, we have the angel, the woman, the urn, plinth, cypress and the willow. All of these symbols are the ideal for their time and are the fundamental basis for mourning art, regardless of the quality. In this particular piece, it’s essential to first note the quality of the face to the woman and the angel. There is an inherent simplicity and generic nature to the features, with the simple line/dot work comprising the art. Much of the quality is within the shading of the sepia, with its rich earth-tones. Here, the fall and creases of her dress, as well as the willow framing the piece make up much of the detail.

One could assume that this piece began its life as a pre-produced miniature that was appropriated and customised by the wearer; the ‘To Bliss’ and ‘Affection Weeps / Heaven Rejoices’ sentiment are in different tones than the sepia itself, as well as the awkward contouring of the ‘To Bliss’ sentiment upon the scroll held by the angel. Compare this with this ‘Sacred to the Best of Friends’ piece and you’ll note the wide variation in detail. Certainly, the other piece benefits from being full colour, but fine sepia work with personalised detail was achievable and common.

What does denote high quality with this piece is the frame of pearls; an exotic and popular material for jewellery in the late 19th century (read more about that here) and a material that isn’t necessary to frame such a magnificent piece, but only adds to its aesthetic value.

Courtesy: Barbara Robbins
Dedication: Ann Read died 8th of March 1789 Aged 76

Mourning Bracelet Clasp

Bracelet clasps often showcase some of the most presentable and intricate sentimental art available from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This is related to their use in fashion and how they were presented outwardly, as well as their grand size. While rings tended to have different variations in their artistic depictions, from the ready-made and easily customised neoclassical ideal (which tend to be more naive), bracelet clasps generally hold a higher level of detail. As we’ll see in the coming weeks, I’ll show some interpretations of the bracelet clasp and how they were worn.

The clasp is special because of its inscription; “Angels Weep When Children Mourn”. This is not just exceptional artwork for its form, but also sentimental in its child dedication. Note the sepia art and how crisp it is. A piece like this is rare to be found in a bracelet clasp and even more so in its condition.

Courtesy: Barbara Robbins
Year: c. 1780-90
Dedication: Angels Weep When Children Mourn

Related Articles
Spotlight On: John Wood Dodge Miniature
One Family in a 19th Century Hairwork Bracelet
When Mourning Tokens Are Personal: Mourning Bracelet
Spotlight On: Hairwork Necklace and Locket

A piece with perfect enamel work is a rare treat to find. Too often, jewellery dealers and quick to repair enamel and clean gold work to a point where it is obvious.

Black enamel mourning ring 19th century 1830s

Even more obvious are repairs to enamel, as anything short of stripping a piece and beginning again will not be perfect and due to the cold process of amending a piece, it will never be perfect. A piece is better if the enamel is in its original condition and untouched.

Black enamel mourning ring 19th century 1830s

It is rare to see a piece that is as close to perfect as the day it was made – a piece as timeless as the literal tombstone used to commemorate the person. This is just one of those pieces – stunning enamel work, a sentiment that is perfect and an overall construction that resonates a special keepsake for the person it was dedicated to.

Note the band is without wear, the remarkable urn on the front and underneath the urn is the hair, or as band would say, the ‘Dear Remains’. This piece works in unison with itself; even the acanthus and floral Rococo Revival influence in the over-arching Gothic Revival style of the gold work that was so common during the 1810s-30s is here in its perfection. Use this piece as the cornerstone of other pieces for its time and reference it while looking through others in Art of Mourning.

Courtesy: Sarah Nehama
Year: 1818
Dedication: (inner) Wm. Armstrong Ob. 31st March 1818 at 55 (outer): Sacred Will I Keep Thy Dear Remains

Further Reading:
> Gothic Revival in Culture and Jewellery: Part 1, c.1740-c.1850
> Gothic Revival in Culture and Jewellery: Part 2, c.1850-c.190
> Gothic Revival in Culture and Jewellery: Part 3, Breaking Perceptions
> Rose and Yellow Gold ‘Cigar Band’ Ring / 1810
> When Mourning Tokens Are Personal: Mourning Bracelet
> Discovering New Styles In An Important Ring from 1836
> Bold, Simple, Clean – Design on a Mid Victorian Brooch

You’ll have to forgive this Jewellery Historian and Halloween fun. You know, when you deal with such a morbid subject 24/7, it makes Halloween quite a difficult subject to tackle, especially when one has to be respectful, so I decided to have a little fun with education.

No doubt, you’re all full from all that sugar, so let’s take a quiet moment to view this tremendous Regard pendant with chatelaine and necklace from Barbara Robbins.

Dating from the mid-19th century, note the symbolism in the design and hairwork. For those who aren’t familiar with the ‘regard’ motif, it’s the first letter from each of the stones present (ruby, emerald, garnet, amethyst, ruby, diamond).

If looking at such a magnificent piece doesn’t make you feel better, I don’t know what will!

After the previous looks at the Gothic Revival period and its affect on subsequent mourning jewellery, one of the things to consider is that while perception may lead to the Gothic Revival creating a period of jewellery design that was rather static, one must note that it only took the elements of the period, which were not unique to the period, but embellished, and used these concepts as a central motif.

Heavy black enamel was one of the most consistent styles that carried through. Black enamel had been considered a mourning motif for the previous 200 years, but when looking at Victorian style, note that the previous Neoclassical period was one of the strongest, unified mainstream styles ever to impact style on a fully Westernised scale. America, France and England adapted it in their own ways and it took over from a period where Rococo, Baroque and the memento mori symbolism had left off. Black enamel bands were popular since the 1500s and remained so throughout the 18th century, yet the adaptation through the Gothic Revival period and beyond produced rings like this to use the enamel as the bold mourning statement.

1850 Mourning Ring

The following ring comes from c.1850 and below, 1864, note the leap of the bold enamel to become prominent and also the change in font styling.

1864 Mourning Ring

Then let’s look at this piece from 1881, note again the enamel in play. This ring has adapted the Rococo Revival style and infused that within the black enamel on the shoulders. In terms of style, much of this can find its origins in the early 19th century, from the pearl-surrounded hair memento to the enamel itself..

1881 Mourning Ring

When it comes to styling, this particular brooch shows the Gothic lettering in full bloom. Yet the acanthus surround shows the 1860s influences, making the lettering a solid 30 years outside the idealised moment of the Gothic Revival. 30 years is a long time for any art style to be all-pervasive, but in mourning jewellery, the style makes the statement that could be understood 30 years before or after this piece was constructed. Its bold enamel, the hair memento leave no dispute as to what it is.

Mourning Brooch Gothic Revival

And then there are pieces like this from the late 19th century. Dating from 1885, this piece shows how the mourning style had become popular within the sentimental and non-death related styles of the same time. The culture had adapted well to the mainstream fashion of death and exploited it in other fashion designs.

late 19th Cenutyr Mourning Ring

When it comes to sentimental jewellery of the latter 19th century, styles had become bigger, alloys were typically in use and much of this was to accommodate fashion and the rise of photography in jewellery. Photography was a cheap means of obtaining a sentimental keepsake of a loved one and the technology was becoming more compact, enough to work perfectly in lockets. The latter 19th century, particularly post 1880, started to use silver as a popular material, yet base metals copied the look and feel of gold well enough, for mourning jewellery, Pinchbeck was quite common. In this, you can see the bold, enamel styles carry through with the statement of the Gothic Revival showing through. ‘In Memory Of’ and the standard statements were rendered in bold black enamel, often using the Gothic fonts and despite the inclusion of many mourning symbols, the adherence to the Christian paradigm in these jewels reflected the change bought about in the 1830s through the Gothic Revival.

So, there we have it. Three weeks of Gothic Revival exploration in culture and jewellery! I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it, as you never know what tomorrow will bring.

The Gothic Revival: Culture and Jewellery
Part 1, c.1740-c.1850
Part 2, c.1850-c.1900

With the seemingly ubiquitous and rather prominent rise of the Gothic Revival period, one must consider that the reaction to the Neoclassical period was.

Gothic Revival Brooch

Should we postulate that there was an internal fear of further revolutions? Or perhaps the Napoleonic Wars had provoked an era of stability that grew from a period considered to bring about the shift from god to the self which resulted in the destabilisation of government and monarchy, war, high mortality and also massive industry. If this thought is in any way certain, it was at least reflected in the reign of Queen Victoria, a reign which saw a return to Christian values, empire building and much greater stability. The affectations of fashion and culture play no small role in this stability.

Last week we looked at the Gothic Revival and its reaction to Neoclassicism as a conceited step to promoting medieval values. Through this, the jewellery worn for the purpose of mourning, a purpose that represented the family unit, created this art on the person. The very impression of the jewel worn at the neck, wrist or finger reflected the concepts of the church and monarchy from the outside in. The very ideals represented in the Church became part of the person.

These concepts, as seen last week through the emergence of the Gothic Revival style in the 1820s and 30s remained through the 1850s to 1900. For an time where the mortality rate was around 40 years old, several generations were influenced with the harder line of mourning, it was imbued within the cultural paradigm without a massive change of thought to create a stylistic change. Rather, the styles of the Gothic Revival period simply became adapted into the Rococo Revival period and many of the other art revival periods of the latter 19th century.

Look at the subsequent pieces. Note that the font changes, but the essential style remains the same.

Bold, black enamel, embellished floral designs and the hair memento. While there are a lot of pieces to challenge this paradigm, these were readily available through catalogues and relatively cheap. There was not enough of a social push to change this, until around 1900. What caused such a change? By the 1880s, there was greater social stability than the 1860s throughout America and Europe, various mineral finds and the establishment of heavy industry as a necessary means of living and mass production, greater communications and mass transit along with clear divisions and seeming political stability had caused even greater fluidity of art and culture between nations. The paradigm established by the Gothic Revival period was starting to give way to less rigid structures of society and art, with new cultural influences provoking those once locked into their social/cultural paradigm a way of looking outside for greater ideas and influences.

But were these concepts universal? Did poor jewellery suffer under the weight of high mortality and political/religious indoctrination? Let’s find out next week!

The Gothic Revival period of the early 19th century is an extremely pronounced period of obvious consequences in art and architecture, but also heavily affecting in morality and cultural lifestyle. It is a period that overlapped other forms of mainstream style to eventually become the dominant visual presence, particularly in memorial jewellery and had left its mark for the greater part of the 19th century.

Gothic Pie Crust Ring Mourning

Firstly, we must look at this emerging style to conflict directly with the ideals of the Neoclassical period. Thought the Neo-Gothic movement had begun c.1740, it took around sixty years for it to reach mainstream thought, a time when Neoclassicism was at its height.

Gothic Revival Locket

Much of this thought was a reaction to religious non-conformity in an effort to swing back to the ideals of the High Church and Anglo-Catholic self-belief. This was a time when heavy industry was on the rise and modern society (as we consider it today) was established, a time of radical change that challenged pre-existing ideals of society. Though there had been growing small scale social mobility from the late 17th century, the late 18th and early 19th centuries saw the middle classes having the opportunity to promote through society with the accumulation of wealth. Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, a designer, architect and convert to Catholicism, saw this industrial revolution as a corruption of the ideal medieval society. Through this, he used Gothic architecture as a way to combat classicism and the industrialisation of society, with Gothic architecture reflecting proper Christian values. Ideologically, Neoclassicism was adopted by liberalism; this reflecting the self, the pursuit of knowledge and the freedom of the monotheistic ecclesiastical system that had controlled Western society throughout the medieval period. Consider that Neoclassicism influenced thought during the same period as the American and French revolutions and it isn’t hard to see the parallels. The Gothic Revival would, in effect, push society into the paradigm of monarchy and conservatism, which would dominate heavily throughout the 19th century and establish many of the values that are still imbued within society today.

As we jewellery historians know, the best way to enact social change is through art and the stylistic affectations that surround us and influence our daily lives visually.

Gothic Revival Locket

Much of the latter 19th century pieces had their origin in this Gothic Revival period, the bold styles with black enamel as well as being larger accommodated the evolution of female fashion, which heavier crinolines and cuffs, seemed to be a perfect fit. Styles didn’t automatically become larger due to the Gothic Revival influence, much of the older styles adapted Rococo acanthus designs and incorporated Gothic fonts into the lettering of the dedication in the pieces, which emerged around the c.1800-1810. By the 1820s this style was influencing brooches, rings, pendants and lockets more and more, until the 1830s when it reached its height, particularly in terms of diversity. Through the 1840s it had become the standard and into the 1850s, there was the Hallmarking Act of 1854 that allowed the use of lower grade alloys. Reflecting this upon the larger styles of female dress, pieces could be larger and lighter to wear, yet still give all the bold, gold and black enamel prominence of the pieces themselves.

Gothic Revival Locket

Next, we’ll take a look at the Victorian society and how the Gothic Revival accommodated the culture and jewellery of the time.

Locket Courtesy: Marielle Soni

Roger Kelsall Mourning Ring- side view

His son John, I’m guessing, commissioned this mourning ring. His law career would have him fluent in Latin. He respects his father, loves him; he creates a memento to him. He wants to portray him as a great man, to have him remembered as a great man. He wants to elevate his father’s status to what he felt it should have been, and what Roger, as evidenced by his will and letters, was sure it was; enlightened, entitled, righteous, superior in mind, body, and spirit. Roger had felt his status would have been even higher, more noble, if not for the misfortunes that befell him, his King, and his great Country.

And yet, he was a broken man- broken in spirit, physically weakened and broken by the strenuous work that yielded him so little in the end, and broken financially- for a number of reasons, but laying blame almost fully on the Revolution. I quote from his will, which I have a copy of:

“…if my Estate should fall short and prove insufficient for this to me desirable purpose- my creditors as well as my son must impute it to no fault of mine, but to the inevitable misfortunes in which I have been involved in consequence of the late most accurs’d Rebellion. . .”

And now, we come back to the ring. A perfectly lovely ring in its simplicity, well-made, and with an admirable purpose behind it: for those who loved Roger Kelsall to honor and remember him by. It’s also piece of history, that is for sure. Of all the mourning pieces I have in which I’ve been able to find information relating to the person named there, this ring has yielded the most in the way of documents, letters, and related pictures. And yet, I don’t feel connected to Roger Kelsall at all. In fact, the more I find out about him, the less connected I feel, and to be honest, the less I like him. Here is a man who would treat a captive war prisoner badly, who would own hundreds of slaves and profit immensely off of their backbreaking labor, who would keep his own daughter and her mother enslaved, who would, after stating in his will that his creditors are not to blame him should his estate fall short of money, continue on to leave his “thirty-two Negroes” to his son and daughter. Thirty-two Negroes, and their “issue and increase” to his son and (white) daughter, and then to their heirs, “for ever, Amen, Amen”. No, I don’t think Roger Kelsall is an great man amongst men, strong of character and righteous, as the inscription would have us believe. No, I do not feel connected to Roger Kelsall.

Except for one thing.

In the end, he died.

And one day, I will die too.

Memento Mori

Related Articles:
> Roger Kelsall Mourning Ring, Part 1
> Roger Kelsall Mourning Ring, Part 2

John Kelsall, Jr.- Roger's son

Roger Kelsall’s father, John, of Scottish descent, came to the colonies from England and settled in South Carolina. He owned a large plantation near Beaufort. Roger and his younger brother, William, grew to be successful merchants like their father, and owned large plantations with numerous slaves to work them. Cotton is what Roger grew, even developing a special strain, called sea-island cotton which thrived on coastal lands, and commanded much higher prices than the inland variety. But due to conflicts with those fighting for their independence from the Crown, Roger Kelsall, a staunch Loyalist, moved from South Carolina to Georgia, where the English had a stronger hold. He settled in Sunbury around 1770, which quickly became, along with Savannah, a large and prosperous port city. Roger Kelsall, along with a Mr. James Spalding established a number of businesses there and was quite successful, becoming the leading Indian trade company from Georgia to East Florida. Though based in Sunbury, he also took 1,000 acres of land in British East Florida awarded by the Crown to its supporters, and established large plantations there. Despite all of this, he had to be always on alert, watching for the rebels. There were a number of skirmishes through the mid 1770s, with the British prevailing at times and the Americans at others, though the Americans never were able to completely wrest control of Georgia from the British. During this time, Roger served as a military colonel, and during one of the later conflicts, in 1779, Roger and another officer were captured at a plantation, but ultimately released in exchange for an American prisoner. The story goes that Kelsall was being escorted to the woods to be shot, when a local woman put up such a lament that the guard taking Colonel Kelsall agreed to let him go. But not before reminding him that several years earlier, their positions had been reversed, and Kelsall had treated his then-captive cruelly and with disrespect. Kelsall was then forced to admit that he had been less of a gentleman than the other man was.

The Loyalists continued to defend Sunbury from the Americans into the early 1780s, but their forces were spread thin around the area. Finally, after a few more conflicts of the same nature, by 1782, the British and their supporters had completely lost control of Sunbury and evacuated the town. The American Revolution was officially ended by a treaty with Great Britain in 1783. Roger Kelsall was forced to leave. He went to live and work exclusively in East Florida, where he’d still had property. But shortly thereafter, Florida reverted to Spanish rule and Roger once again packed up his remaining slaves and his cotton seed and sailed for the Bahamas. There, as in East Florida, the Crown had purchased most of the land there for those loyal to it to settle.

Roger Kelsall established himself in Nassau, and at an estate called Pinxton on Little Exuma, where he tried to grow cotton, but the soil was poor and rocky. He raked salt from a nearby lake in large enough quantities so that he could export it to Nova Scotia, Canada, and America. But it was not nearly as profitable as cotton had been, and Kelsall began to suffer financially.

Portia Kelsall

He was also alone; his wife had died over a decade ago, and his two children, John and Anne, had been sent to England to be educated. Roger took up with one of his slaves, Nelly, and she bore him a daughter, Portia. Apparently, at least for some time, Portia was accepted as one of the family by her half-siblings and cousins. But her mother was a hard drinker, and resentment of Nelly and her daughter by other family members made things very difficult. Because her mother was a slave, so Portia was also a slave. As the family fortunes dwindled, Portia faced a real threat of being sold. Though most of the family distanced themselves from her and her mother, her half-sister finally purchased her and her mother’s freedom in 1807. Not much is known about her after this time, but a portrait of Portia remains. A picture of it was sent to me by one of Kelsall’s descendants- someone I had contacted though a genealogy forum. Portia, in a simple dress and head wrap, stares out at us with large dark eyes from a shadowy canvas. Just a part of her face and upper body are illuminated. I find the picture strangely haunting.

Along with Portia’s portrait, came pictures of portraits of Roger Kelsall’s son, John, and John’s wife, Lucretia. John had earned his law degree from Cambridge and married the beautiful Lucretia Moultrie, daughter of John Moultrie, former lieutenant governor of East Florida. By contrast, their portraits, perhaps a marriage portrait set, are brighter, with both of them in the elegant clothes of aristocrats, though they each stare out at us as well. John and his sister Anne both settled in the Bahamas after their father’s death. Anne married a doctor and John became Vice-Admiralty Judge and Speaker of the Assembly before dying at an early age in 1803.

Lucretia Moultrie Kelsall

So, into this sparsely-populated, sea-based colonial island, came Roger Kelsall, having run from one place to the next, losing more of his wealth as he went, embittered by his losses, most likely with feelings of superiority toward the old inhabitants who were easy-going, and accustomed to quite a different life than Roger had, and than Roger wanted. Different too were the master-slave relationships here, and it was a place with a large free black population that outnumbered the whites. Here he was, with his driving ambition to remake his fortune and to assume positions of leadership within the community and perhaps within the government. Here he was, alone, with his cotton crops failing, clearing land for more planting that would also fail, and not knowing what else to do. And so he set sail one final time- this time back to England in 1786. I’ve not been able to uncover what he did while he was there. It seems he was exhausted and sick. He wrote his will on 29th of July, 1788. On 5th of December of that year, he died- 51 years after he was born.

It seems that we, as mortal beings, with hopes and dreams like any other human, find a connection with the past and with other human beings, when we learn about their lives, and sometimes their deaths, through researching the name that appears on a piece of mourning jewelry. Maybe it comforts us, knowing that we too must die one day, to have a piece of someone who once was (the hair), and tangible proof that that person who once was, was loved, respected, and remembered (the dedicated jewel); in short, to have those parts of them still remain, both physically and emotionally. This window that opens onto the past through discovering the life behind a name usually elicits for me feelings of a shared humanity, of a certain closeness, simply because that person too was a person who moved in the world, had connections to people and places, and to history, and ultimately was a fragile human being, because they died, and we too share the same fate, no matter who we are. It’s easy then to find some connection and even like that person, as little as we really know them, if only for the shared commonality of being human and being mortal. These are the feelings I’ve had with all of the mourning pieces I’ve researched and connected to a once-living being. That is, until I found this ring.

Here we have a simple, almost austere, mourning ring of the late 18thcentury. Its shape is an elongated oval,

Inscription in Latin

almost a navette. The shank is tapered, and of plain gold. A gold bezel, with just a touch of decoration to the edge, a band of black enamel, and a thin beaded border suffice to frame the simply woven hair memento; hair that’s almost lost its color, having more white than brown in it. This is a perfect example of a basic, typical mourning ring of its day. However, underneath, there is engraved, in elegant script, a dedication entirely in Latin. This is not the shortened Latin using obit (died) and aet (for aetat- at the age of) that we normally find on mourning rings, but a more complete dedication which states: Rogerus Kelsall diem obiit 5 Decembris ’88 circiter 51 annos natus. Translated this means: Roger Kelsall died on (the day of) 5 December ’88 (1788) approximately 51 years after he was born. So, why the more elaborate Latin? I have a few ideas, one based on an educated guess having to do with the person who probably had this ring commissioned (which I’ll get to later), and one simply because it lends the memorial a feeling of high respect; it imparts the sense that this was a great individual,both intellectually, morally, an even physically, by relating it to the Classical age of poets, philosophers, statesmen, great military commanders.

Well then, who was Roger Kelsall? There is quite a lot of information about him out there, much of it I have not yet delved into. In the next post, I will explore more about the man’s history.

While enjoying the romantic splendour of Bath in England I came across this most touching brooch with accompanying sampler.

Mr F Wilson

The brooch itself is large in scale, and classically High Victorian Gothic in style. Its decorative triangular border juxtaposed with smooth arches is visually dominating,  masculine and architectural. It is not a swivel brooch, but has glazed compartments for photos on both the front and rear.

Mrs F Wilson

The front image is that of a bearded man. Due to its dominant placement and the fact that it is more faded, it appears to be an earlier image to that of the woman. The gent is Mr Francis Wilson. The woman whose photo is in the back compartment is Mrs F Wilson. The image retains much of its (presumably) hand-applied colour, and she is possibly wearing this very brooch.

The wonderfully shaped domed box appears to be original. It has been embossed on the lid ‘Mrs F. Wilson August 18, 1858’.

A blue cloth purse accompanies the brooch and inside is a most delicate sampler, simply embroidered to read:

Ah! would to heaven I ne’er had seen,
Thy manly form, thy graceful mien,
Thine eyes of lovely blue,
For then my heart had never known
The pain it feels for thee alone,
The sighs that heave for you!
But why lament the pains I find,
Since Francis has a generous mind
From meaner passions free!
Oh! rather let me bless the day
My simple heart was led away,
A captive caught by thee!
F. Wilson. 1842

The delicate sampler with the cloth purse

From the material provided I believe the logical sequence of events here is that the sampler was produced in 1842 by Mrs F Wilson upon the death of her husband. The brooch bears Mr Wilson’s photograph, perhaps Mrs Wilson already had this made as a sentimental piece, and it became a memorial piece upon his death, but just as possibly was purchased and used as a memorial piece in 1842.

Embossed box

In 1858 Mrs F Wilson passed away. The date of her passing is embossed on the lid of the box, also at this time a third person (perhaps a son or daughter?) places a later photograph of Mrs Wilson into the brooch that she treasured so much, and transforms it into a memorial for two beloved people.

The piecing together of the turn of events certainly has room for reappraisal, however, the dealer in Bath did purchase it from a member of the Wilson family who confirmed the relationship. It also provides a strong basis from which to undertake further research.

More importantly, based on the poem alone, it depicts a story of enduring marital love between the kind, blue-eyed Francis and the talented, elegant Mrs F Wilson, which death itself can not end.

Molam De Love

John Barry Miniature Portrait 1785

An oval double portrait miniature attributed to British artist John Barry (active 1784-1827); one side has sepia miniature portrait on ivory of a gentleman (the father) wearing a powdered wig with a verre eglomise border.

John Barry Miniature Portrait 1785

Upon the other side a watercolour portrait on ivory of a young girl (the daughter) in a rose gold frame set upon a light brown hairwork base. Note the symbolism in the border and the costume of the subjects.

John Barry Miniature Portrait 1785

Courtesy: Sarah Nehama

Further Reading
> Symbolism Sunday Memorial
> Property of a Lady: 18th Century Costume, Mourning and Art in a Neoclassical Miniature
> For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow
>A Jean Petitot Louis XIV Enamel Pendant?

Often when appraising jewels, it’s easy to lose sight of their fashionable purpose, of promoting an aesthetic that is beautiful and enhances the nature of the wearer. This particular piece is easy to stand back from and simply admire.

Spanish sentimental pendant 1700

This particular piece is said to have its origins in Spain or northern Italy (possibly Milan), however, its composition is consistent with pieces on the Continent and in the UK for its time.

The regal nature of this piece, extenuated by the green and white enamel transcend the latter basis of symbolism and are used for the purpose of being opulent adornments to the hair memento underneath crystal.

Spanish 1700 Pendant Enamel

The fleur-de-lis pattern surrounding gives credence to the Continental flavour of the piece, but certainly the most extraordinary is the size, the use of the green enamel and the pearls which all indicate its source.

Courtesy: Sarah Nehama

Further Reading:
> Revisiting a Pearl and Blue Glass/Enamel Brooch: How Trade Opened Up New Possibilities in the 18th Century
> Louis XVI Royalist Supporter French Ring
> The Further the Distance the Tighter the Knot; Eternity and Romantic Symbolism on a French Sepia Miniature

Charles I Mourning Ring FrontThis piece dedicated to Charles I is a display of affection that would eventually generate the popularity of the mourning custom. Looking at the piece, Charles’ eyes are turned upwards, which confirms the piece was created after his death. Pieces of this quality are historically important for their relevance to English history and in mourning jewellery. Incredibly rare, other examples can be seen in the V&A Museum. Though there is repair work to the shank, the style of the ring is a good indication of the mid 17th Century.

Rings of the time, particularly after the death of Charles I in 1649, used much of the memento mori symbolism (more on that in another post), but the difference of putting the portrait of Charles I (above), or pieces with the initials CR, shows a distinct change of memento mori as a statement to one of reverence.Charles I Mourning Ring Back Note that Charles’ eyes are facing upwards, which denotes the death of the subject. Earlier portraits (during his lifetime) had the eyes facing forward. These eyes are looking to the heavens. Pieces like this were created during the royalist movement (and beyond) and would eventually spur on the English Restoration leading to the instalment of Charles II.

Charles I Mourning Ring Inside

The distribution of rings had been written into wills of the late 16th and early 17th Centuries. Most famously, William Shakespeare in 1616 declared that in his will that his daughter and wife should have rings stating “Love My Memory” . This custom, though used, was not as popular as the latter half of the 17th Century would prove, though is provides a good basis for what was to come. Posy rings, typically bands with inscriptions, were popular for sentimental purposes during the 17th Century.

Country: England
Year: c. 1649
Dedication: Charles I “prepared be to follow me”
Courtesy: Barbara Robbins

Further Reading
How Society Entered Mourning: c.1680-1700 Memento Mori Mourning Ring
> Spotlight On: Ribbon Slides
> Charles I Enamel Locket
> Charles II Silver Locket
> Queen Mary II Memento Mori Slide
> Revisiting A Charles II Pendant

I’ve written quite a bit about memento mori, it seems to be one of those subjects that is as fascinating as it is polarising. Why is that so? Well, there are so many different connotations involved with the symbolism and that seems to be the crossroads (pardon the veiled pun) of what defines these magical pieces.

If you look to my post from Saturday about the 18th Century Skull on Pendant, then you will see the other end of the scale, which is clearly not a representation of death, but rather the statement of living. However, today we look at the other end of the spectrum with this very rare and very high quality ring from the collection of Marielle Soni is most certainly constructed with the intent of death and mourning. To discern this, firstly let’s look at the time and place of when it was created and why this was so popular.

c.1680-1700 Memento Mori Mourning Ring

This piece was constructed c.1680-1700 and we have many ways to check the validity of this. Firstly, we have the shank itself and note the embellishments. Often, pieces like this have lost their enamel inlay and are quite worn down, but this one is a perfect representation of how it was from when it was constructed. Note the Baroque influence in the design and how this would influence pieces of contemporary and later times. Particularly, the society in which this ring was created was dealing with the new found stability in the government due to the Restoration and from this, industry was finding new ways to create a niche in producing items for a society that was becoming upwardly mobile in ways that had not been seen since the Roman era. Appropriating popular art styles, such as that of the all-pervasive Baroque, and using its influence in products was (and still is) only a logical step in simply selling an item.

c.1680-1700 Memento Mori Mourning Ring

And to follow on from this, we have the skull and crossbones underneath the faceted crystal, an obvious choice for popular symbolism that was now quite heavily associated with death and grief. Gone was the clear establishment of a class that could afford to flaunt its wealth, standard of living and changed were the classes below that could not afford to live in such an almost narcissistic paradigm. Wearing a jewel to show that you will be judged and to live life for all its benefits is quite a grand statement during times with high mortality rates and a more feudal-based system of government, but during the 1670s-80s, there’s a strong shift to higher industry, specialised work and education. Politically, England was recovering from a civil war and the reinstatement of the kingship in Charles II in 1660, the Great Plague of London in 1665 and the Great Fire of London in 1666. There was a high mortality rate and Charles II was only beginning the process of the Restoration. Hence, pieces like this could allow themselves to become more commonplace, the symbols of death could be appropriated for an industry that was reacting to the execution of a king and a subsequent civil war, it could pick up on the nuanced tokens of affection that became popular from this and it could produce a product that was relatively easier to produce and almost the same to sell.

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