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

There are so many ways with which to understand a jewel and place it in its context. Let’s look again at this brooch and see what we can find…

I’ve often made mention that one of the most prolific periods for jewellery experimentation in design came about during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This isn’t to discredit earlier or more modern periods, but there are simply moments in history when socially, culturally, financially and politically, a particular movement flourishes. It is during this time that a confluence of factors caused the outcome of experimentation and styles in jewellery, or at least, a mainstream cultural identity, be it Prussian, British, American or Italian, emerged with styles that started are clearly recognisable. Much of this has to do with higher production levels, greater social access to wealth/cultural mobility and advanced transit and communications, which not only broke down established borders, but upheld cultural uniqueness within different geographic parameters. Such as Continental travel had opened up for a society that now could focus on recreation and through this simple means, culture started to transcend borders that were traditionally drawn politically and culturally.

Blue Pearl Brooch

Forgive the long winded preamble, but now we can look at this wonderful brooch and how its style fits directly into these paradigms. The first thing to note is the excellent use of the variety of pearls, which for this style, as you will see in further examples, simply shows two things has occurred;

  1. There was a greater access to pearls through higher trade routes to the East (China and Japan) for potential use as a material and
  2. Styles has started to embrace material over classical depictions, a shift away from the obvious Neoclassical ideal.

The brooch is set on blue, foil-backed glass, in the same style as contemporary miniature portraits, so the method still remains adapted and not wholly unique to this particular style of brooch. For this manner of construction, often the most common type was to set the pearls on ‘a base of mother-of-pearl, gesso or plaster laid onto a background of blue enamel or blue glass and set under a domed glass cover.’

As for the style itself, using pearls on blue glass or enamel to depict Neoclassical scenes and symbolism was quite popular throughout the Continent and England. Particularly, this style can be found in pieces ranging from c.1790-1820 from the northern region of France and what is today Germany. Allegorical scenes, often transcending the ecclesiastical undercurrent of many painted Neoclassical scenes, are quite prevalent, focusing directly on the personal love sentiment instead. This is due to regional style, contemporary culture and religious influence in the art directly.

This style of pearls on blue glass or enamel is used heavily in sentimental jewels and can be seen in these further examples from the British Museum:


“Oval gold brooch with seed-pearls, in the form of a winged cupid with a lamb, on a base of mother-of-pearl, gesso or plaster; laid onto a background of blue enamel or blue glass and set under a domed glass cover in a gold mount within a pearl border. Inscribed in French.”


“Marquise-shaped pendant with seed-pearls, in the form of sheep and lambs under a tree, on a base of mother-of-pearl, gesso or plaster laid onto a background of blue enamel or blue glass and set under a domed glass cover in a gold mount with blue and white enamel and a tooled gold border. Compartment on reverse with plaited hair under glass.”


“Gold finger-ring with seed-pearls, in the form of a spray of flowers, on a base of mother-of-pearl, gesso or plaster; laid onto a background of blue enamel or blue glass under a domed glass cover in a gold mounted oval-shaped bezel with a pearl border.”


“Marquise-shaped pendant with seed-pearls, in the form of two birds carrying a knotted ribbon, flowers and wheat-ears, on a base of mother-of-pearl, gesso or plaster, laid onto a background of blue enamel or blue glass and set under a domed glass cover in a silver mount with a gold backing, with a border of pastes set in silver and a tooled gold inner rim.”

Blue Pearl Brooch

Upon the back of this brooch, we have a magnificent inscription that is quite personal for a dedication:

‘This Brooch was occasionally
worn for more than 40 years by James Saunders Esq who died on the
24th September, 1831 in the 79th year of his Age’

To state that a jewel was worn be a gentleman is firstly unusual (rather than directly dedicated to) and then there is the statement of the brooch being ‘occasionally worn’. From here, we move into supposition about the wearer. Why did he wear it? Was this a dedication for someone else or a personal sentiment? Who received the brooch after his passing to inscribe this upon it? Some wonderful questions that may never be answered, but fascinating ones all the same.

I have a few examples of this style in my collection, so when I finally get them out and properly photographed, I’ll continue the look at the pearl/blue phenomenon!

Courtesy: Penny Rushby-Smith

Nothing is quite so sad for me as to see an antiques dealer retire or go out of business. In this particular case, it was the former and I had to rescue all the jewellery I could from the Melbourne institution herself, Irene Chapman. Below is a lovely red enamel, pearl, 2 colour hairwork brooch, let’s take a look:

Red Enamel Navette Pearl Brooch

Red Enamel Navette Pearl Brooch

Red Enamel Navette Pearl Brooch

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

Condition isn’t an issue with me when I see something that has obvious beauty and quality. If I were collecting for money, then I would be concerned (a wise collector once told me never to buy anything with chipped enamel), but I’m here to teach, educate and curate. This one has broken glass at the back, but I don’t think you’ll complain once you see the sepia front with willow and urn.

To see more on this particular style, I’ll point you in the direction of this article.

Update: There’s some good discussion going on at the Art of Mourning Facebook Group – join in if you’re not a member and bring your friends!

Urn Brooch with Damage / c.1810

Urn Brooch with Damage / c.1810

Urn Brooch with Damage / c.1810

This lovely Navette beauty found its home in 1811, but was quite probably constructed earlier. It’s a wonderful piece that makes one consider just how many interpretations of the urn/willow combination there were.

Further Reading:
> Symbolism Sunday, The Urn
> Symbolism Sunday, The Willow

Willow and Urn Pin 1811

Willow and Urn Pin 1811

Double Portrait Miniature Brooch

The serpent! What a wonderful motif, I think I can safely say that I consider it one of my favourite symbols and I think I’m in good company there.

We have a remarkable brooch here, it contains so much rich symbolism that you can’t look at any part of it and not be in awe of its sentimental function. Why is this so?

Double Portrait Miniature Brooch

Well, for starters, we have the serpent, a symbol which represents eternity, often to ‘love another for eternity’ (if the piece is dedicated to someone or from someone), also rebirth and immortality. In this context, the serpent is swallowing its tail clearly shows the ‘eternity’, as it forever creates a never ending circuit around the brooch. This is a very poignant thing to note when faced with the miniatures inside.

Double Portrait Miniature Brooch

Here, we have dual portraits of the same lady painted upon ivory, something which is very rare and quite unusual. We have to be careful here that they are exactly the same woman and not sisters, so without a solid dedication, we can only suggest that it is based on countenance, but it would not stretch the imagination to suggest so.

Double Portrait Miniature Brooch

What aids the context of the singular in the portrait is the hairwork itself, a single type, we can assume. For when this brooch was produced (c.1850-60), it uses the painting on ivory method that was relegated for those who could afford it and steers the piece into the realm of artistic interpretation, rather than the literal photograph that was becoming more and more ubiquitous for its time and used in jewels for sentimental reasons. Note also the romantic depiction of the subject; this isn’t a portrait that is directly there to capture the bare fact of the subject, but it is a portrait which elevates the subject into the mythic projections of love. This can be seen in the gentle pose of her, the open, supple mouth ruddy cheeks and large, auburn eyes – all of these things are idealistic. The subject is depicted on a dark background and from the costume in the profile, we can see another link to the anachronistic and idealised romantic fashion; this certainly isn’t a portrait meant for literal consumption in a formal society.

Double Portrait Miniature Brooch

What are we left with, apart from many questions? The same thing we’re always left with when looking at these jewels; love.

Time and time again, there’s one constant about the Neoclassical era and that is; all the sentiments are beautiful. No matter how run down I feel from looking at these jewels all the time, all I need to do is sit back and reflect upon something beautiful like this and all the love comes rushing back again. So, consider this Hayden’s therapy session and let’s get intimate with this wonderful piece from the collection of Sarah Nehama.

Jonathan Dere 1796 Brooch

The dedication is to a man named Jonathan Dere, an English lawyer who took part in New Jersey, assisting in the development of American independence. From the documents gathered about Dere, the desirability of this piece and also its sentiment speak quite a lot louder to us viewing it today. Upon the face of it, the sepia is painted on ivory depicting a young man in mourning nexy to the urn on plinth. Upon the stone is;

‘TO ME HE WILL NEVER DIE’
Born 1738
Died 1796

And immediately we are taken into the heart of the piece. This was an immediate piece with a very personal statement and it brings the subject to light. By the use of the word ‘me’, it defies the convention of placing the subject in the third person, such as ‘Though Lost to Sight, To Memory Dear’ and does away with the formality of a dedication like ‘Sacred Will I Keep Thy Dear Remains’. It makes a statement about the wearer in that the memory of the deceased will never die and it is in ‘him’. This is a sentiment that resonates today and is still typical in modern vernacular. That makes it also speak a little louder to us today, we can feel the proximity of the grief.

Note how the mourner is wearing a black sash, which during the 18th century was worn by the ‘less important’, however in this case, it relates to the age of the mourner, not being any less important, but quite young.

There is then the quality of the painting itself. Note the delicate stance of the mourner, with his leg bent, leaning against the urn and the sad expression. One of the most important things to note here is that the mourner is actually interacting with the urn itself. In the same way that the depiction of a dog waiting at the tomb shows fidelity, this mourner shows the proximity of his relationship with the deceased by touching the remains themselves and an eternal fidelity by waiting at the urn. And to this mourner, ‘he will never die’ and by looking at this scene, I have no doubt of that.

Jonathan Dere 1796 Brooch

Another thing to note, which I will follow up in future articles, is that this a male piece. It doesn’t follow the Neoclassical standard of having the idealised woman as the centre of the grief, but it does put the character into the piece and then it makes it even more personal that it was for a man himself. Male pieces are very uncommon, which isn’t necessarily a reaction to the convention of the idealised woman, but simply the nature of the jewels themselves and how they were worn and carried.

For more on the unfortunate Mr Dere, please look over these documents below.

1.Jonathan Dere 17962.

Jonathan Dere 1796

3.Jonathan Dere 1796

Courtesy: Sarah Nehama

Soul Brooch, 1806

April 26, 2011

Here is an incredibly beautiful little brooch and not only exemplifies the style of the turn of the 19th century, but also is a wonderfully personal sentiment of mourning.

Firstly, let’s look at the shape. This piece is square, but also has a contour to its surface, sloping downwards from east to west. It’s remarkable that the bevelled glass follows this line so well, as this curve is quite difficult to fit. Obviously, the setting helps this, but it’s still quite intricate in its simplicity.

Take into account that this piece was made in 1805, a time when only five years previous, the Neoclassical style was in full bloom and a scene with the mourning woman next to a tomb, surrounded by the weeping widow was commonplace. This piece shows that very strong transition to present the hair as the memento. The use of enamel and its reliance as the artistic theme is quite bold, with this clean, straight edge and geometric shape becoming one of the true styles of the early 19th century (especially during the Regency). Use of stones was becoming more popular and simple shapes, such as ovals and rectangles, look for more on this in a future post.

But what are the two most wonderful things about it? Firstly, the impossibly personal sentiment on the front. ‘His hair / wove here / his memory / in my soul’ – what a beautiful statement of love? And a very genuine one, as this was not a common memorial dedication, it’s not generic, it’s speaking directly from the person who commissioned it. To go with this, the white enamel is the second most wonderful thing about it. The poor lad who died was aged only 19 (in an era of high mortality, this isn’t terribly young), but the white enamel speaks of his being unmarried/purity/virginity.

White enamel on a piece usually commands a greater premium, these pieces are harder to come by and the messages are often more unique to the wearer. It’s not a general rule, but if you have white enamel, you can often suggest that the piece is of a touch higher quality than the mass produced black enamel pieces of its contemporary time. Certainly not a rule to abide by as gospel, I’ve seen many reasonable, but not great, white enamelled pieces, but for a person who is more in tune with the sentiment over the construction, they do speak volumes.

Courtesy: Sarah Nehama

Country: USA

Year: 1806

Judging from the title of this little piece, you’d think the article was based upon hairstyles of the Neoclassical era, but I’d like to focus on the jewellery aspect of it for a bit.

mourning ringOf the many different methods of constructing Neoclassical scenes in jewellery, forming a scene from hair itself is one of the most original and unique. Often, hair was ground into sepia paint and used in the typical scenes of the time, in other occasions, the hair was woven, glued and created part of an urn or created a high-relief or three-dimensional level to a scene, be it in a tree, plinth or tomb. But more interestingly is this particular style.

Ribbon Slide Crystal Mourning Memento MoriSilk is embroidered with hair, creating the depiction of the mourning or sentimental scene itself. What is wonderful about this style is how it has survived and how intricate it was. Indeed, this style had its roots in the 17th century, but not to the delicate extent of this. Embroidering fabric with hairwork, usually in initials or just integrating a hair weave into the material itself with gold initial cypher on top or an enamel/metal mourning/sentimental symbol.

Embroidered Hair Mourning Ring 1780

Even more interesting is that the construction itself could be performed by professionals and practiced in the home as well, making a wonderful variation between the higher-end quality pieces and those that veer into folk art. Usually the higher-end of the scale would emulate the classic mourning/sentimental sentiments and symbols with sheafs, flowers, urns, ribbons and the like, but more unusual examples are often the singular pieces, which didn’t need to hit a commercial prerogative. These, such as the one pictured, can be as strange as to emulate moss agate with hairwork. As stated by Ward, Cherry et al, it was ‘time-consuming work (which) was designed to occupy over-abundant leisure’.

So, there is a rather wonderful little curiosity from a magnificent era. I’ll be focusing on some of the more specialised techniques in jewellery as time goes on, so keep your eyes open for more!

Courtesy: British Museum

I’ve often made mention that one of the most prolific periods for jewellery experimentation in design came about during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This isn’t to discredit earlier or more modern periods, but there are simply moments in history when socially, culturally, financially and politically, a particular movement flourishes. It is during this time that a confluence of factors caused the outcome of experimentation and styles in jewellery, or at least, a mainstream cultural identity, be it Prussian, British, American or Italian, emerged with styles that started are clearly recognisable. Much of this has to do with higher production levels, greater social access to wealth/cultural mobility and advanced transit and communications, which not only broke down established borders, but upheld cultural uniqueness within different geographic parameters. Such as Continental travel had opened up for a society that now could focus on recreation and through this simple means, culture started to transcend borders that were traditionally drawn politically and culturally.

Blue Pearl Brooch

Forgive the long winded preamble, but now we can look at this wonderful brooch and how its style fits directly into these paradigms. The first thing to note is the excellent use of the variety of pearls, which for this style, as you will see in further examples, simply shows two things has occurred;

  1. There was a greater access to pearls through higher trade routes to the East (China and Japan) for potential use as a material and
  2. Styles has started to embrace material over classical depictions, a shift away from the obvious Neoclassical ideal.

The brooch is set on blue, foil-backed glass, in the same style as contemporary miniature portraits, so the method still remains adapted and not wholly unique to this particular style of brooch. For this manner of construction, often the most common type was to set the pearls on ‘a base of mother-of-pearl, gesso or plaster laid onto a background of blue enamel or blue glass and set under a domed glass cover.’

As for the style itself, using pearls on blue glass or enamel to depict Neoclassical scenes and symbolism was quite popular throughout the Continent and England. Particularly, this style can be found in pieces ranging from c.1790-1820 from the northern region of France and what is today Germany. Allegorical scenes, often transcending the ecclesiastical undercurrent of many painted Neoclassical scenes, are quite prevalent, focusing directly on the personal love sentiment instead. This is due to regional style, contemporary culture and religious influence in the art directly.

This style of pearls on blue glass or enamel is used heavily in sentimental jewels and can be seen in these further examples from the British Museum:


“Oval gold brooch with seed-pearls, in the form of a winged cupid with a lamb, on a base of mother-of-pearl, gesso or plaster; laid onto a background of blue enamel or blue glass and set under a domed glass cover in a gold mount within a pearl border. Inscribed in French.”


“Marquise-shaped pendant with seed-pearls, in the form of sheep and lambs under a tree, on a base of mother-of-pearl, gesso or plaster laid onto a background of blue enamel or blue glass and set under a domed glass cover in a gold mount with blue and white enamel and a tooled gold border. Compartment on reverse with plaited hair under glass.”


“Gold finger-ring with seed-pearls, in the form of a spray of flowers, on a base of mother-of-pearl, gesso or plaster; laid onto a background of blue enamel or blue glass under a domed glass cover in a gold mounted oval-shaped bezel with a pearl border.”


“Marquise-shaped pendant with seed-pearls, in the form of two birds carrying a knotted ribbon, flowers and wheat-ears, on a base of mother-of-pearl, gesso or plaster, laid onto a background of blue enamel or blue glass and set under a domed glass cover in a silver mount with a gold backing, with a border of pastes set in silver and a tooled gold inner rim.”

Blue Pearl Brooch

Upon the back of this brooch, we have a magnificent inscription that is quite personal for a dedication:

‘This Brooch was occasionally
worn for more than 40 years by James Saunders Esq who died on the
24th September, 1831 in the 79th year of his Age’

To state that a jewel was worn be a gentleman is firstly unusual (rather than directly dedicated to) and then there is the statement of the brooch being ‘occasionally worn’. From here, we move into supposition about the wearer. Why did he wear it? Was this a dedication for someone else or a personal sentiment? Who received the brooch after his passing to inscribe this upon it? Some wonderful questions that may never be answered, but fascinating ones all the same.

I have a few examples of this style in my collection, so when I finally get them out and properly photographed, I’ll continue the look at the pearl/blue phenomenon!

Courtesy: Penny Rushby-Smith

Time and time again, there’s one constant about the Neoclassical era and that is; all the sentiments are beautiful. No matter how run down I feel from looking at these jewels all the time, all I need to do is sit back and reflect upon something beautiful like this and all the love comes rushing back again. So, consider this Hayden’s therapy session and let’s get intimate with this wonderful piece from the collection of Sarah Nehama.

Jonathan Dere 1796 Brooch

The dedication is to a man named Jonathan Dere, an English lawyer who took part in New Jersey, assisting in the development of American independence. From the documents gathered about Dere, the desirability of this piece and also its sentiment speak quite a lot louder to us viewing it today. Upon the face of it, the sepia is painted on ivory depicting a young man in mourning nexy to the urn on plinth. Upon the stone is;

‘TO ME HE WILL NEVER DIE’
Born 1738
Died 1796

And immediately we are taken into the heart of the piece. This was an immediate piece with a very personal statement and it brings the subject to light. By the use of the word ‘me’, it defies the convention of placing the subject in the third person, such as ‘Though Lost to Sight, To Memory Dear’ and does away with the formality of a dedication like ‘Sacred Will I Keep Thy Dear Remains’. It makes a statement about the wearer in that the memory of the deceased will never die and it is in ‘him’. This is a sentiment that resonates today and is still typical in modern vernacular. That makes it also speak a little louder to us today, we can feel the proximity of the grief.

Note how the mourner is wearing a black sash, which during the 18th century was worn by the ‘less important’, however in this case, it relates to the age of the mourner, not being any less important, but quite young.

There is then the quality of the painting itself. Note the delicate stance of the mourner, with his leg bent, leaning against the urn and the sad expression. One of the most important things to note here is that the mourner is actually interacting with the urn itself. In the same way that the depiction of a dog waiting at the tomb shows fidelity, this mourner shows the proximity of his relationship with the deceased by touching the remains themselves and an eternal fidelity by waiting at the urn. And to this mourner, ‘he will never die’ and by looking at this scene, I have no doubt of that.

Jonathan Dere 1796 Brooch

Another thing to note, which I will follow up in future articles, is that this a male piece. It doesn’t follow the Neoclassical standard of having the idealised woman as the centre of the grief, but it does put the character into the piece and then it makes it even more personal that it was for a man himself. Male pieces are very uncommon, which isn’t necessarily a reaction to the convention of the idealised woman, but simply the nature of the jewels themselves and how they were worn and carried.

For more on the unfortunate Mr Dere, please look over these documents below.

1.Jonathan Dere 17962.

Jonathan Dere 1796

3.Jonathan Dere 1796

Courtesy: Sarah Nehama


Testing for 14K yellow gold and at the elegant size of 2” x 1”. This brooch comes from the Philadelphia area; Walnut street is still in existence, but 266 does not exist now.

As a piece constructed in 1850, this shows modesty and elegance in an oval shape reminiscent of the 1820s. For a time when brooches were becoming bigger and surroundings more elaborate, this keeps the oval shape and charm of its materials (hair/gold). As seen last week, the 1850s showed a period of design in jewellery that was in flux, coming to grips with the evolving fashion and adoption of new styles. There seems to be a level of fluidity to the period of 1820-1850, obviously with huge social changes reflecting back upon fashion of the time. Through two monarchs, increased social mobility, Empire building and increased transit, communication and lifestyle was advancing faster than ever before.

In this brooch, the gold finely encapsulates the dual-weave hairwork, creating a luscious balance of colour and entwined sentiment. The detail of the inscription is very fine as well, pushing this into the realm of fine jewellery and a powerful personal statement.

Courtesy: Sarah Nehama
Dedication: “My Sister and My Darling April 21 & 22 nd 1850 266 Walnut Street.”
In Memory Of Mid Victorian Brooch

'In Memory Of' in Black Enamel, The New Direction

Before (and somewhat during) the heavy influence of the heavy Neo-Rococo designs that worked so well with memorial and sentimental symbolism in jewellery, the heavy, clean lines of the Empire Style (seen previously during the Neoclassical movement of the first quarter 19th century), had an influence on jewellery of the mid 19th century era, straightening out the embellished Neo-Gothic designs and producing something quite bold and powerful, such as this brooch.

With a simple insert of banded sardonyx and the clean lines giving way to break the brooch into quarters of ‘IN’, ‘MEM’, ‘ORY’, ‘OF’ trailing around its oval shape, the piece is on the verge of a movement that would see brooch styles grow very large. This piece, however is around 3.5cm in width, not very large and shows how the simplicity of mourning jewellery in stark symbolism was overtaking the gold embellishments of Neo-Gothic period and the opulent artistic allusions and scenarios of the Neoclassical era.

With such high mortality rates and a royal family that was imposing classic Christian family values upon the household, mourning was losing the surrounding pomp that had been popular fifty years earlier. Symbolism was sharp and bold (such as snakes, forget-me-nots and many other symbols still popular in funerary art today), with the construction of the pieces being large, bold and simple with a typical mourning statement on top or wrapped around a piece.

Don’t forget to head over and join the Art of Mourning Facebook Group if you want to have a chat with other collectors or see some more lovely items! Tomorrow, you might get to see something equally as lovely and then there’s Sunday… I wonder what symbolism will be on display then?

Further Brooches

A Sentimental Brooch For a Mother and Daughter, c.1860

Join Me with a Look at a 19th Century Sentimental Cameo Brooch of Artemis Featuring Hairwork

Spotlight On: Soul Brooch

Spotlight On: Snake Brooch

Spotlight On: 1788 Sarah Honlett Brooch

Dedication: To D.H.R from her affectionate mother.

Often a piece comes along that you feel in your heart is special and was kept untouched and loved for a reason. This brooch is one of those, not only for its pristine condition, but for the glorious sentiment between a mother and daughter.

This piece specifically states that it is a love token, an affectionate gift from the lady’s mother and we can take a lot in just from looking at it.

 

1860 Sentimental Brooch

Dedication and More Hair

 

It is a quite heavy piece and solid, with feathered tableworked hair with three pearls on milk glass on the front, with a simple twist of hair under glass on the reverse. We could assume that the mother’s hair is on top and the daughter’s underneath, but this is merely speculation without any absolute fact. One of the dangers of analysing a piece is becoming emotionally attached to it and making grand statements, when there is no basis for it. In the gold work, we can see subtle heart and clover motifs worked into the Rococo lines, yet nothing overpowers the large hair memento inside.

By the 1860s, brooches worn at the neck were becoming larger in fashion, so this piece is quite obvious and proud for its time. There’s no enamel of which to speak, so the gold design itself does the talking for it. Post 1861, the focus on sentimental jewels had grown far larger than it was even previously (if you’ve been reading this site, they had been quite popular with a large industry for the previous 250 years), however, post Albert’s death and Victoria’s adoption of perpetual mourning, combined with the introduction of the allowance of cheaper alloys in jewellery from 1854, the vales of sentiment focused upon the woman in the Victorian household was not only mandatory, but it was financially possible to buy the paraphernalia.

On the face of it, this Pinchbeck brooch shows a significant amount of damage and its physical price would not be very great (I don’t really like talking about prices as they are transient and mostly in the eye of the beholder). We have the oxidisation to the top of the piece, a layer of high gloss enamel that shows signs of very rudimentary repair and water damage to the hair inside the memento. The piece is light and hollow, with the damage to the exterior frame showing being knocked and bent, with even one of the flourishes missing from the bottom of the frame itself and enamelled over.

On the face of it, a collector would look the other way, but underneath it all, one must wonder why they are collectors. Is it to buy every/any piece that comes along in order to expand a collection and does that provide gratification?

For me, I find infinite delight in this for many reasons, its age and damage tell a story – the person who wore it did so with love. One can only assume that from the damage, other than a century of careless or apathetic behaviour from future generations, the piece was worn for the sentiment it was designed for. It was worn, rather than kept hidden from site and displayed the love token with intent.

It is a wonderful little time capsule for that reason, but also I just love the artistic and design of it.

The Neo-Rococo Victorian design that frames the piece is bold and marries together the earlier tight floral style that surrounds the hair itself, showing a transition of the old to the new. It really is a transitional piece, the large size (around 6cm across), shows the growth of brooches from the 1840s to the 1860s, as their prominence around the neck became larger for the latter stages of mourning and rings became smaller. So, it tells a story, this piece. It tells a story of its history and any further than that is merely subjective, but the fact is there.

So, did I buy it to take space? No, I bought it because it’s a link in a chain and one that will continue on for long after I’m gone.

And you, dear reader, do you collect for sentimental reasons or for quality reasons? Post in the comments or discuss over in the Facebook group!

From the collection of the family of Diana Forsyth comes this wonderful (and pristine) cameo brooch. In a change of pace today, I’m inviting you to join me on a spontaneous evaluation of the piece, rather than spending hours researching, then displaying the knowledge. You’re going for a little walk through my mind, (beware) so let’s begin to have a look at it…

Diana Forsyth Family Brooch - Artemis Cameo mid 19th Century with Hairwork
One can’t look at this piece and not be stopped in one’s tracks without noting the beautifully carved shell cameo of the Hellenistic Goddess Artemis. How do we know it’s Artemis? Firstly, the bow and arrow are the most obvious symbols related to her, as she was the Hellenistic goddess of the hunt, childbirth, virginity and nature/wilderness. She also has the crescent moon above her head, which depicts her during later times where she was associated with Selene (Greek moon goddess / Titaness), but she was also associated with subsequent goddesses.

From the style of the hair, nose and costume, you can see the obvious attention to the Greek Neoclassical Revival detail that was become ingrained in the mid-Victorian mind, stemming from a culture that had survived and learned from the previous influx of of the Neoclassical movement beginning in 1760. Basically, this cameo is aware of its history, however, there are also the contemporary flourishes of the necklace and the earrings which make it easier to date.

As to its age, I would suggest around 1850-1860 would be quite a prime period for this piece to have been created.

Diana Forsyth Family Brooch - Artemis Cameo mid 19th Century with Hairwork

The cameo is set perfectly in the brooch itself; note how the setting forms around the cameo and doesn’t alter shape for the cameo, as many carved shell cameos look crooked or ‘chipped’ in their settings, when the settings were often constructed to accommodate what there was of the cameo itself. This piece does show high quality.

In the setting, you can see the floral and acanthus Victorian Rococo Revival flourishes creeping in, something which would become more prominent as the 19th century wore on, these designs often took over and become the major motif of brooch settings themselves.

Diana Forsyth Family Brooch - Artemis Cameo mid 19th Century with Hairwork

To the reverse, we have all the business. Set on milk glass, this table-worked hair is feathered into the floral ‘Albert Curl’ with two colours. This hair is obviously treated and shows an expert hand at work. On top of the hair, we have the gold wire cipher creating the twisted motifs and culminating in the depiction of the wheat sheaf and the clover. Firstly, we have the clover, which is very small, but there and symbolises good luck. If it were of the four leafed variety, then it is used in sentimental works as a token of affection or ‘be mine’, but here we have three. Then we have the wheat, which is ‘resurrection’ or ‘fertility’. We also have the pearls forming the ‘ribbon’ holding the ‘flowers’ of the hair together, which often represents tears, but in this case defaults back to its art meaning of purity, spiritual transformation, charity, honesty, wisdom and integrity. The pearl was also a lunar symbol for water and the woman, so when combined with the lunar symbol of Artemis, we have greater connection between the hair and the cameo, rather than the choice of Artemis (which the person who commissioned it would certainly have done), becomes clear.

What does it all mean? Put them with Artemis on the front and you have some striking symbolism that quite rightly would have been worn by a lady as a token of love and affection, possibly given by a man (with the combination of the two hair types) or very close family member, such as a mother to encourage fertility, strength, purity/virginity and good luck. All rather proud symbols for a lady making her way in the world, I should think.

Don’t forget to watch ABC’s The Collectors at 8pm on Friday night (will be posted on iView later), but in the meantime enjoy this little repost from earlier in the year. AOM has a larger readership, so now is a good time to bring back some information for those that haven’t been through the archives:

Recently, I’ve been thinking of the previous time that Halley’s Comet passed us all by (9 February 1986 for all you kids out there) and this reminded me of that fascinating style of jewellery known as the Halley’s Comet pin or brooch.

On 16 November 1835, Halley’s Comet passed by an caused a phenomenon in jewelley. Just like the Georgian Eye, it captivated people and spurred on a style of sweeping back jewellery that still has elements used today.

Often, hair was used in the centrepiece as a love token or memento, but more commonly, emeralds, diamonds, paste or other gems were used to create the centre of the comet and accentuate its tail in gold work (often with another gem in the back).

You can spot the older pieces by the 1830s elaboration to the gold work (usually in the tail), with later pieces being less embellished and more streamlined. This continued until pins started to take on more of a straight bar shape.

Here is an incredibly beautiful little brooch and not only exemplifies the style of the turn of the 19th century, but also is a wonderfully personal sentiment of mourning.

Firstly, let’s look at the shape. This piece is square, but also has a contour to its surface, sloping downwards from east to west. It’s remarkable that the bevelled glass follows this line so well, as this curve is quite difficult to fit. Obviously, the setting helps this, but it’s still quite intricate in its simplicity.

Take into account that this piece was made in 1805, a time when only five years previous, the Neoclassical style was in full bloom and a scene with the mourning woman next to a tomb, surrounded by the weeping widow was commonplace. This piece shows that very strong transition to present the hair as the memento. The use of enamel and its reliance as the artistic theme is quite bold, with this clean, straight edge and geometric shape becoming one of the true styles of the early 19th century (especially during the Regency). Use of stones was becoming more popular and simple shapes, such as ovals and rectangles, look for more on this in a future post.

But what are the two most wonderful things about it? Firstly, the impossibly personal sentiment on the front. ‘His hair / wove here / his memory / in my soul’ – what a beautiful statement of love? And a very genuine one, as this was not a common memorial dedication, it’s not generic, it’s speaking directly from the person who commissioned it. To go with this, the white enamel is the second most wonderful thing about it. The poor lad who died was aged only 19 (in an era of high mortality, this isn’t terribly young), but the white enamel speaks of his being unmarried/purity/virginity.

White enamel on a piece usually commands a greater premium, these pieces are harder to come by and the messages are often more unique to the wearer. It’s not a general rule, but if you have white enamel, you can often suggest that the piece is of a touch higher quality than the mass produced black enamel pieces of its contemporary time. Certainly not a rule to abide by as gospel, I’ve seen many reasonable, but not great, white enamelled pieces, but for a person who is more in tune with the sentiment over the construction, they do speak volumes.

Courtesy: Sarah Nehama
Country: USA
Year: 1806

The snake motif was a popular symbol of eternal love, as it showed the snake ingesting its own tail, therefore representing eternity.

Much thought has been given to Queen Victoria for popularising the snakes (as given to her by Prince Alfred), however, this motif pre-dated her usage by over fifty years.

This snake with its foiled garnets and green paste eyes is a supreme representation of the serpent motif and defies the common construction of the time. For its construction (c.1820), This piece should show a more rectangular shape, however, as like eye portrait jewels, it retains its own shape to conform to its style.

This makes the snake rounder and more organic in its shape. The 1904 date is discredited very strongly, and there is no constructional, artistic or popular credence given to it being contemporary for this time. Obviously, the date is added later to the piece.

Faith, hope and charity are of the most typical symbols during the 19th century; their nondescript sentimentality and adherence to religious motifs make them popular sentimental tokens throughout jewellery and art.

This piece shows just how they evolved during the 18th century and how well they could be combined with other motifs. Specifically, the symbol of the anchor (hope) is held by the mourning female (or the idealised depiction of woman) in neoclassical dress pointing towards the heavens.

The willow frames the piece delicately. Interestingly, faith is combined within the anchor of the cross, but also mixed with neoclassical symbolism, which is a conflict of ideology, as neoclassicism uses pre-Christ thought. However, the time and the place where this was created with of course ecclesiastical in nature, regardless of popular thought or art. Adversely, it may be seen to be an anchor without the cross.

The age of the subject shouldn’t be discredited, either. Sarah was 14 upon her death, so there is the element of innocence within the symbolism. Rather than the heavy grieving of the female subject, there’s the taciturn calmness and almost a pleasant expression of peace of the subject’s face as she points towards the heavens. One could suggest that the age of the subject was too mature to show the widow/mother figure in sad grieving and too young to show relationship connections other than immediate family (neither husband nor child), hence there is a serene gentleness in the method of presented grief.

Christian symbolism is rife within neoclassical art, whether later contemporary thought applied a set of ideals towards this or it was the intention of the original artist is ambiguous and hard to discern. What is to be remembered is that romanticism and neoclassicism as art forms were fashion; social convention and thought in traditional religious activity was unchanged and evolved. For more on the different nature of symbolism, check the Symbolism section of Art of Mourning.

Country: England
Year: 15th March 1788
Dedication: Sarah Honlett Age 14

As the 19th Century approached, styles altered greatly, with the size of the previous pieces growing smaller and the importance of symbolism being held in the materials used and not in paintings on ivory or vellum.

Stages of mourning, the move away from romanticism and the techniques of jewellery construction made pieces more accessible to the greater public with more mobility in price and with different levels of grandeur.

This piece, shows the signs of the transition of the neoclassical period in the late 18th to early 19th centuries. Stemming from around 1820, this piece shows how the oval shape in neoclassical jewellery had evolved into a smaller, rounder design. Compare this with the larger navette shapes (which would often hold large mementoes, such as miniatures), the oval shrank down to accommodate simple hairwork mementoes.

Much jewellery of this time began to reduce in size and followed form, circular or geometric patterns and clean enamel lines were quite prevalent during the Regency period. Style constantly evolved, rather than halt altogether.

An important thing to note on this piece is that it shows evidence of a marriage between items. The prongs with the paste doesn’t blend perfectly with the interior brooch, hence it may have been re-appropriated as a latter-stage mourning piece. The hair and the original brooch appear to be largely untouched, rather than the hair memento replaced (which is much more common).

Recently, I’ve been thinking of the previous time that Halley’s Comet passed us all by (9 February 1986 for all you kids out there) and this reminded me of that fascinating style of jewellery known as the Halley’s Comet pin or brooch.

On 16 November 1835, Halley’s Comet passed by an caused a phenomenon in jewelley. Just like the Georgian Eye, it captivated people and spurred on a style of sweeping back jewellery that still has elements used today.

Often, hair was used in the centerpiece as a love token or memento, but more commonly, emeralds, diamonds, paste or other gems were used to create the center of the comet and accentuate its tail in goldwork (often with another gem in the back).

You can spot the older pieces by the 1830s elaboration to the goldwork (usually in the tail), with later pieces being less embellished and more streamlined. This continued until pins started to take on more of a straight bar shape.

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