An 1876 Hair Ring

August 27, 2010

Heavy Hair Band

I’ve spent the last few Fridays looking at hair bands through the late 19th century, not only because they are prolific but incredibly fascinating.

Hair bands (rings with hair woven through a compartment in the shank) became popular from the 1870s.

Pieces in this form can be seen dating back to the 1790s, but from this time, their popularity grew immensely. The mourning industry was on the decline from the mid 1800s, but these pieces can be seen right up to the first quarter of the 20th Century. Not necessarily mourning rings, they were also popular love tokens.

From the 1870s, there was a great shift towards these being very common rings to produce. They are quite easily available around the world and were created by many of the popular jewellers of the time. Travelling loved ones may have received pieces like this, as well as early betrothals of love and also for mourning.

The pieces from around the 1860s and 70s tend to be a little heavier in their construction and it isn’t uncommon to find gold filled pieces. Later, rolled gold and Pinchbeck became the standard, as well as more open ridges where the hair sits (note how this one is enclosed).

There are examples of completely enclosed rings that open on a hinge to reveal hair, often there are pieces with two kinds of hair entwined and the motifs were selected by the person commissioning/purchasing them. Words could also be found covering the hair ridge, spelling ‘DEAREST’, ‘MOTHER’, ‘FATHER’, and other sentiments, including names.

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