When Mourning Tokens Are Personal: Mourning Bracelet

March 1, 2011

Civil War Bracelet

Bracelets, like any other form of jewellery, can be highly personalised, be it with hairwork or gold.

This piece comes with the story of being commissioned by a woman outside of Baltimore, MD to memorialise each of her seven relatives lost during the civil war. Also, the acorn motif (for power, authority or victory – often used for military tombs, but still a quite common symbol for the time), is quite lovely.

The seven panels have initials for each person lost, with the EH on the clasp being her own initials. While fitting in with the style of the time, this piece would have had its origins in a jeweller’s catalogue with the option for tailoring it to the patron.

This level of personalising in a piece is very rare and quite sought after, as they are usually one of a kind. Enamel work in this time was quite prolific and the style of this piece with the late Victorian floral work make it a prime example of mainstream jewellery, as well as memorial jewellery.

Found as a charm on fob chains and bracelets, the acorn is often seen an ancillary motif in jewellery, balancing other symbols or complimenting a mourning sentiment, but more rarely being the prominent, singular motif used for a piece.

Often seen on military tombs, the acorn can stand for power, authority or victory, however it is also a statement of longevity, strong new growth and new life. This is something which is linked with its association with the oak and its nature of power. From the acorn, a mighty oak grows and its the germination of this idea which provides the strength in the concept of life and the acknowledgement of strength in life. One cannot denote the use of the acorn as a symbol, its ubiquitous nature in jewellery symbolism (you’ll notice it in Rococo flourished borders, cemetery decoration, furniture, architecture, etc) make it one of the symbols which relates directly to the person and conceptually to the global concept of sentimentality.

Note the medieval/early Renaissance style to the construction of this bracelet. This is directly influenced by the Gothic Revival period that helped provide much of the context of the 19th century. Very rarely do pieces this late in the 19th century reflect the high quality and earnest nature of the period itself. For more references to this, look to medieval/early modern portraiture and the use of this style in necklaces in those particular portraits. This piece reflects the nature of the Gothic Revival in its complete essence; the bold lettering, the shield motif for each letter and its stark contrast which defines its bold statement of purpose and mortality.

For more on this read…

Gothic Revival in Culture and Jewellery: Part 1, c.1740-c.1850

Gothic Revival in Culture and Jewellery: Part 2, c.1850-c.1900

Gothic Revival in Culture and Jewellery: Part 3, Breaking Perceptions

Courtesy: Sarah Nehama

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