For Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

August 4, 2011

Unlike the precious metals and expensive craftsmanship of previous decades the late Victorian era saw an industry of mass produced mourning paraphernalia, including jewellery that mimicked the stringent and ever-popular jet and gold requirements.

However, I don’t see this as lamentable – I do not mourn for the exquisite unattainable items that only the aristocrats and noble classes could afford.   No, they were not at risk of obsolescence. In fact, I find it satisfying to see brooches such as this one that informs me there was an avenue for the not so well-heeled to participate in the social ritual of Victorian mourning. In fact, I am confident there must be a catalogue or advertisement of such designs from the period and if you know of one please contact me!

In Memory of My Dear Child - note the obelisk and distorted tree; a reference to the classic mourning miniature scenes of the 18thC

This piece is a generic design that I have spotted a number of times. It is made simply of moulded black plastic to mimic jet, with gold coloured pigment highlighting the text and image detail, plus base metal (gold-toned of course) twist rope frame and pin. Apart from this sentiment: ‘In Memory of a Dear Child’, I have also seen other declarations such as ‘In Memory of a Dear Sister’, and dedications to Mothers, Brothers and so on. One example is reproduced in Maureen DeLorme’s book Mourning Art and Jewelry (Schiffer, 2004) describing it as french jet and brass. The piece pictured above, however, is definitely a cheaper plastic or resin material.

As society changed throughout the nineteenth century – economically, technologically and politically – so too, did the opportunities and practices for a broad range of people. The wearer of this brooch may not have been a wealthy woman, but she participated in the social custom of mourning that Queen Victoria made so popular. Her grief here, represented so humbly, is emblematic of significant social change.

Vale lost children – the poor, the rich, the loved and the forgotten – all equal in birth and death.

– Marielle Soni

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