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!

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

Hon Alice Nugent in a 1730 Mourning Locket

When presented with a beautiful piece like this, one can’t help but emote. There are so many reasons why this pendant enters into the higher echelon of beauty that requires one to stop and consider it from every angle. Not only is it a beautiful time capsule for Alice herself, but it is also a perfect example of its culture and heritage. To take this into account, we have to look at its shape, its hairwork and its design motifs.

Hon Alice Nugent in a 1730 Mourning Locket

For starters, this piece was created in 1730, a period of relative stability in comparison to the previous century of British civil war and restoration, indeed, this period shows the culmination of the results of the restoration, with greater focus on the parliament and a society experiencing the early stages of cultural mobility. How is this relevant to the piece? This particular style carries over much of what came before, an interpretation of styles from the mid-17th century and is forging its links to the styles of pre-Neoclassicism of the mid-18th century, so it truly bares the height of its fashion for this time.

Hon Alice Nugent in a 1730 Mourning Locket

Let’s look at the ribbon motif. This was a popular design in mourning and sentimental jewels, with this period of the Baroque/Rococo transition influencing jewellery designs with style carried over from Europe. The ribbon and bow served its function for many purposes; it was a functional design motif, as can be seen with the inscription of the name/dedication on the ribbon, such as that of a banner, it is an elegant style that carries through the mainstream fashion into the jewel, it frames the piece nicely and the symbolism involved of eternity and proximity are closely related to it. Immediately, the sentiment towards the person it is dedicated to shines through.

Hon Alice Nugent in a 1730 Mourning Locket

The black enamel is another motif that was popularised and cemented into the mainstream of mourning jewellery, we can draw our conclusions that Alice was not young/unmarried from this (aged 80, as you can see). Stylistically, it’s appropriate and conveys the messaging on the ribbon.

Hon Alice Nugent in a 1730 Mourning Locket

Its shape, close to that of a heart, is another important factor. The heart is an eternal symbol of love and one commonly used in jewellery and art. Most typically, the “Georgian Heart” is referred to as its peak in sentimental jewellery design, but the motif obviously is one of the most famous and used symbols today. However, this style is a precursor to that of the Georgian Heart, with this symbol being used commonly very close to this piece’s construction:

And to show the ribbon in as a dedicated motif:

Also, the ribbon as a bow:

Internally, we have the hairwork, which I think is even more remarkable. The eternity twist of the hair is very common for this time, as it was a popular motif and worked well (symbolically) with the ribbon motif. It was an easy weave and when placed between the transparent halves of the glass or crystal, we have that transparency of affection towards the wearer shining through the hairwork. Truly, there is no closer the loved one could be placed towards the heart.

Below is a ring with very similar style and construction – note the transparency for the hair and the ribbon:

Chas Fraser / OB: 16 April 1746 / Born: May 23/ 1725 Mourning Ring

1725

And another with the ribbon motif:

1770

Many more examples of these can be found at Art of Mourning in the Pendants section or the Rings section!

Dedication: The Hon Alice Nugent Died / Aged 80 20 Decr 1730
Courtesy: Sarah Nehama (Alice piece) and Barbara Robbins

This mourning locket and chain are an excellent match, but are actually two separate pieces.

The fittings only compliment the hairwork of the chain itself and do not become the prominent focal point. The tight hairwave ensures that there’s a sturdiness to the chain and the weave is comfortable for the wearer.

Necklaces like this are common throughout most of the 19th century, though as discussed in the past, there is a large variation can be found in the style of the hair weave and occasionally the gold fittings. Pieces like this can be dated quite well through looking in original catalogues of the time, pieces like this were quite common from the 1870s.

Further Reading
> A History of Hairwork (Series)
> Bending Your Brain with a Victorian Hairwork Fob Chain
> Hello ‘Mother’! A Hinged Hairwork Band
> One Family in a 19th Century Hairwork Bracelet

Necklaces of course weren’t relegated to hair, and the pieces that weren’t display a union between the chain itself and the pendant it is attached to.

This ‘regard’ necklace and pendant from Barbara Robbins is an exquisite example of its form. From the hairwork under glass to the organic design of the gold work. Though clearly of its time, the organic design is shows an almost nouveau prototype in its nature patterns, right down to the gold hearts with flower designs that contain the stones. Much of this has to do with the transient art styles of the mid 19th century. The Neo-Rococo Romantic period is in full bloom with this piece, from the floral decorations of the gold to the basic sentiment of the stones.

The chain and heart design are a perfect union in this piece, delicate and never over balanced in their weight. It should also be noted that on the back of each heart where the stones sit are glass panels with hair inside. There is more than one type of hair on display in this piece, with the table-worked feathered hair on milk glass showing at least two colours and then the magnificent hair behind each of the regard mementoes.

Further Reading

> The Late 19th Century and Buckle Rings

> An 1876 Hair Ring

> A Late 19th Century Hairwork Ring

> 1888 Sentimental Hair Band in Original Heart-Shaped Box

> An Early Hair Ring: 1860 ‘My David’

> 3 Members of a Family Mourning Ring with Diamond and Blue Enamel

Those of you who know me a bit by now are aware of the pleasure I get from researching the person(s) commemorated on a piece of mourning jewelry. I’m by no means a genealogist, nor an historic researcher, but I suppose I can be persistent and patient when the need arises. When I’ve got a lovely piece of mourning jewelry in my hand, with the hair of a person long dead, and their name inscribed there too, the desire to know something about that individual, to put some shape to their life, is what challenges me to begin seeing what I can find out.

I purchased this gold pendant several years ago from an English dealer. She knew only what you can read here, in gold letters picked out in black enamel around the oval hair compartment: Robt Pouncy OB 27 Nov 1793 AE 37.

I began with a simple Google search. Usually I’ll try a few different approaches until I come up with a good lead. I may try, in this case for example- “Robert Pouncy died 27 Nov 1793”, or I may try to figure out the birth year (which is easy to do within a year or so when you have the age and date of death) and then plug that in as well. Or, I may try one of the genealogical sites that have free, basic information available. If I’m pretty sure the person was English, as I was in this case, I might go onto some archival sites for the UK that have birth, baptismal, death, or burial records. Luckily, church and county records in England are quite good, and go pretty far back. The only question is whether they have been put online. Another avenue to try is to find a genealogy forum for the family name and contact someone from there. I did that in this case, and heard back from a distant relative of Capt. Pouncy who was aware of him and from his own extensive research was able to tell me the names of his parents. If memory serves me though, the first item I found which led me to others, was a guide to documents held at the British Library in the Asia, Pacific, and Africa Collections. This guide had a list of contents of the journals, logbooks, and ledgers from a merchant ship, the Sulivan (var. Sullivan), operating under charter to the British East India Company (known as an East Indiaman) in the late 18th century, and a summary of basic information contained within, including the notation that a Captain Robert Pouncy had commandeered her on 3 voyages to India and China. In fact, this paper gave the dates of those three voyages, from departure from England, the ports of call along the way, the return date, and the return port city. From this I learned that the last voyage Capt. Pouncy made returned him to England in August of 1793. The locket tells us that he died only 3 months later, in November. How did he die? I have yet to find out, but my inclination is, he caught some dread disease on his last voyage, and it did him in. After all, he was only 37 when he died.

Also online, I was able to find two notices in London newspapers regarding court cases between Capt. Pouncy and one or more sailors who were contesting some punishment he had meted out to them while at sea (Capt. Pouncy prevailed).

With the names of his parents from the genealogist, I did more online searches and found that Robert Pouncy was born in Dorchester, Dorset, England. It seems he later moved to London; he was married there in 1785 to Ann Chassereau. They had two daughters- Anne (born 1788), and Sophia (born 17??). Mrs. Pouncy undoubtedly saw little of her husband in their short life together, as he set off on his first voyage only 4 months after their wedding, and didn’t return until July of 1787. Each subsequent trip took him away from home for approximately the same length of time. His daughters probably barely knew him. Finally, I found that his will is in the National Archives of England, and for a reasonable fee, I was able to obtain a copy of it. It was written just one day before he died, and makes mention that he is sick and weak (but of sound mind). Thus, he knew his time was up.

As I mentioned, the logbooks, journals, pay books, and ledgers for the Sulivan are housed in the British Library, and more information pertaining to vessels of the British East India Company are in the National Archives Maritime Collection. The Harry Ransom Center at the U of Texas also has one of Robert Pouncy’s logbooks in its collection. How it ended up there, I have no idea. I could order a digital copy of the logbook, or select pages from it, but it’s rather pricey, and I’d rather go read it and the ones in London in person. I imagine in there I might find a clue to the cause of Capt. Pouncy’s death, information on the goods carried back to England, and details of the voyages. In addition, I’d really like to find a portrait of Captain Pouncy, showing him with his fine dark brown hair. With persistence, and in good time, I hope to accomplish all of these things.

Mourning Locket for Commander Robert Pouncy

Harriet Whitbread Pendant

Barbara Robbins is a wonderful seller and has a remarkable collection, what makes her pieces so special is that she cares about the history behind each:

Harriet Whitbread Pendant

“This is a large witch’s heart, measuring 1 and 1/4 inches North to South, not counting the bale, and an inch East to West. On one side we have the human hair of the beloved, and the words, set in gold around the heart read “Set me as a seal upon thing heart.” Please excuse the greenish cast of the gold on the blue enamel.   On the other side of the heart are the words: “Harriot Whitbread, Born 17th October 1733, Married 7th July 1757, died 22nd April, Easter Day, 1764. Around the side of the heart are the names of all Harriot’s children and their birthdates. They are: Harriot, born 5th April, 1758, Emma. Maria. Eliz 12 Sept, 1761, Samuel 18 Jan 1764. You may know that the Whitbread family started a well known brewery in the UK.”

Sleep in Jesus Locket / In Memory Of Black Enamel

Gold back and front memorial lockets with various designs were ubiquitous mourning jewellery items in Victorian England and the United States. Here we have a 9 carat gold mourning locket with intricate engraving on the back and front, bold black enamel Christian cross motif metamorphosing into stylised ivy and the familiar ‘In Memory Of’. These types of lockets could be purchased from jewellery stores with photos, hair and other personal dedications added later. The locket is of its time, reflecting the fashion of the day and steeped in Christian belief and symbolism, but let us open it up and see what more we can learn.

Sleep in Jesus Locket / In Memory Of Black Enamel

The original glass on both sides is intact. The Left side has reverse,  hand-painted text reading: ‘Hannah Taylor born June 23 1872 died July 30 1876’. The naive quality of the writing reveals to us that this was undertaken in the home as opposed to a professional jeweller / engraver. On the right side purple silk is visible; a square piece of paper has been sewn on to it. The paper reads ‘Sleep in Jesus’ and this appears to have been mass printed – possibly a church or local paper or perhaps businesses offered such paper dedications for home memorials.  Atop the paper, most beautifully sewn, are separated curls of delicate brown hair – that of the cherished 4-year-old Hannah.

Sleep in Jesus Locket / In Memory Of Black Enamel

This locket represents a meaningful glimpse into the world of the unknown Taylors. Why did they need to paint the dedication themselves – was it desire or necessity? This locket was purchased from the US, is that where it originated from? Were these people from a remote rural area who ordered in the locket, but with no services, or perhaps no further money, for a professional to create the dedication? Can you imagine the feelings of love and loss while touching & sewing the hair, all that remains on this earth of your beloved child?

One thing we can be sure of as there are so many clues – their Christian belief in life after death.

“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” – I Thessalonians 4:14.

Sleep – the ideal death, a Victorian obsession with death, to sleep and pass peacefully – to live in God. Sleep is a euphemism for death which we are all still very familiar with. The use of the text ‘Sleep in Jesus’ is most telling, one can assume the mother (logically the one who crafted the dedications?) is aware of I Thessalonians and she believes that her child will also go to God, sleeping in this life but alive in Heaven; hopefully gaining much needed comfort in this belief.

However, she may also be familiar with this phrase  through popular hymns, notably ‘I know of a sleep in Jesus’ name’ by M.B. Landstad (1802-1880) of Norway but published in official Evangelical Lutheran Hymnal books in the US. Also, ‘Asleep in Jesus! Blessed sleep!’ by Margaret Mackay of England, but printed in the Protestant Episcopal Church Hymnal of the US in 1871.

Now, let us re-introduce the ivy and the cross from the front of the locket. Ivy, in the Victorian era, symbolised fidelity and undying love, it was also associated with femininity. Traditionally (pre-Christianity), ivy symbolised rebirth and eternal life due to its evergreen properties. Here, we have the Christian cross, the most potent symbol of resurrection and eternal life, combined with ivy – a strong image of enduring love and spiritual life after death.  In addition, we have ‘Sleep in Jesus’; the message is clear.

A mother’s loss unfathomable to bear, but perhaps made easier by touching, keeping and cherishing the tiny locks of hair, which is all that remained with her worn atop her heart; and the belief that Hannah now sleeps peacefully in Jesus where once again they may meet.

“Asleep in Jesus! Far from thee
Thy kindred and their graves may be;
But there is still a blessed sleep,
From which none ever wakes to weep.’ – Mrs Mackay, from US Hymnal 1871.

R.I.P. Hannah Taylor and those who loved her!

        Marielle Soni, 19th July 2011

Here’s one that has survived well! Barbara, let’s take a look:

1815 Georgian Eye Miniature Pearl

Here is a very nice eye pendant, on card, with pearls.  The back is engraved

Lucy Scott
OB 3rd of Jan
1815 AET 77

For more on eye portraits, have a read of this article on the Georgian Eye.

1815 Georgian Eye Miniature Pearl

Suffer a Jet Locket!

July 18, 2011

For more on Jet and its similar materials, have a look at these articles and for something beautiful, read the below from Barbara Robbins!

jet cameo pendant 1879

“I love this one because someone has clearly had a jet case made for the family sepia memorial, and for a current family member at the same time. I tried very very hard to get good photos with no glare , but sometimes, when these items have glass, it is almost impossible.  I’ve taken two of the sepia, or rather I’m sending 2, because I took about 20.  You can choose which you think is the better of the two.
Anyway, one side has the initials  “CGU, 1879”.  The other side of the locket, I guess the front, has the earlier sepia brooch under glass so that it shows through.  That pendant reads “On Thee the Memory Delights to Dwell.”  Then, one can open the locket and find wonderful hairwork on one side (I suspect that belongs to the 1879 death) and the back of the brooch, all under glass.  The back of the brooch reads “Anneu Rogers.”  That seems a strange name, so if you can make it out to be any different, do so, but there is so much glare on the back.  It could be ANNW, but that’s just as strange, so take your pick.  It goes on to say “Departed the 16th June , in her 55th year, 1787.  Maybe that name is Anna.  Think I’ll call it that, because that makes more sense, but that last letter surely looks like a w, but maybe that’s because it’s curling into the R, so let’s assume she’s Anna.  Anyway, this is one of my favs”

jet cameo pendant 1879

jet cameo pendant 1879

jet cameo pendant 1879

Charles I Enamel Locket

July 15, 2011

Charles I Enamel Locket

Collecting is all about historical archiving, keeping these pieces safe for the future and letting as many people learn about them as possible. In this case, I think Barbara Robbins has a wonderful and important piece on display that we can all learn from:

“Here is a locket of Charles 1st I bought in the last year.  The photo shows a little glare on the blue enamel, but the enamel is pristine… the pearl was a later addition, and remember, the white spots on the enamel are not damage, but glare.”

Charles I Enamel LocketCharles I Enamel Locket

Jean Petitot Louis XIV Enamel Pendant

I’ll let the brilliant Barbara Robbins speak a little about this beautiful piece:

“Here is an enamelled portrait miniature of Louis XIV, the Sun King. I bought it from Michele, and of course, she said it was in the style of Jean Petitot, but my friend, Simon Millard, was with me at the time, and he immediately spied it and he thinks it is a Petitot. Jean Petitot was one of the main enamelers of royalty (1607-1691).  Anyway, if this is a Petitot, of course a later frame has been made specifically for it, and of course, we do know that was sometimes the case.  The frame is what I love. I love the “bow” motif with the ruby, and the white enamel reads “Amez oui vous Aime,” or “I love those who have loved me.”  I imagine the back contained  a crystal and maybe some hair, but sadly that is gone. I believe, on my next visit, I will ask Michele to have her jeweler to cut some glass for the back.”

Jean Petitot Louis XIV Enamel Pendant

This wonderful piece could tell a few stories, I’m sure. From the always incredible Barbara Robbins is this smashing piece (and if you want to see more from the era, why not check out this?)!

Charles II Silver Locket

Charles II Silver Locket

Charles II Silver Locket

Four Treasure Sentimental Locket 1830

I love lockets, next to rings, they’re one of the most popular items of mourning/sentimental jewellery. Why is this so? They defy fashion, they’re worn over the heart and they can be as obvious as you want them to be. Also, the secretive nature of them denotes that their use is private, unless it’s emblazoned with a large motif, it could be for friendship, mourning or love sentiment.

I found this in London and fell in love with it. There’s another identical one in Kenwood House on display with hairwork in the frames, dating from c.1830:

Four Treasure Sentimental Locket 1830

Four Treasure Sentimental Locket 1830

Clara Pendant

One of the more fascinating aspects of being a mourning and sentimental jewellery collector is that we’re blessed with having inscriptions and dedications in the pieces we collect. Unlike many other forms of jewellery, which may be discovered through manufacturer, style or material, we have an instant connection with the people who wore these pieces. This proximity makes collecting mourning and sentimental items closer to art collecting in sentimental intent.

Clara Pendant Back

This is why it’s wonderful when a collector discovers genealogy of a family through pieces. I’ve spent many hours trawling through census documents on the hunt for full family detail over pieces, and today’s research performed on a very wonderful locket is superb.

Clara Pendant Top

Of course, photography still exists in lockets and pendants today, making it one of the most resilient forms of change ever applied to memorial jewellery. The change that came about in jewellery to adapt to this new technology changed the face of sentimental jewellery and is arguably the single most popular surviving aspect of sentimental jewels today. Photographs are cheap, easily accessible (especially with the advent of digital printing) and where hairwork, or wearing the hair of a loved one, has become distant in many Western cultures, wearing the photograph of a loved one is quite common.

Clara Top

This particular piece shows exceptional engraving and a perfect balance between the photograph on the front and the hairwork on the back. Being a pendant, this takes its precedence from the turn of the century pendants with the open face and hairwork on reverse.

Clara Name Pendant

Research

This particular piece has a significant history. Owner and collector Sarah Nehama has researched the history of this piece and below is the product of this effort:
1. A copy of the death certificate for Clara Wilkinson. Cause of death listed as phthysis pulmonalis, or tuberculosis.
2. Page one of the Franklin family genealogy showing the relation to Benjamin Franklin through Clara’s maternal line.
3. Page two of the Franklin family genealogy showing the relation to Benjamin Franklin through Clara’s maternal line.
4. Page three of the Franklin family genealogy showing the relation to Benjamin Franklin through Clara’s maternal line.
5. Four pages of Franklin family genealogy showing the relation to Benjamin Franklin through Clara’s maternal line.
6. A postcard from 1880 showing the entrance to the Old Granary Burial Ground in Boston, site of Benjamin Franklin’s parents tomb.
7. A postcard from 1906 showing the tomb of Josiah and Abiah Franklin, parents of B. Franklin in the Old Granary Burial Ground.
8. Detail of of Melksham, Wiltshire, England, pertaining to Matthew Wilkinson, Clara’s father.
9. A picture of a stained glass window from All Saint’s Parish Church, West Lavington, Wiltshire, UK, commemorating Clara’s parents. Her father was the vicar of this church when Clara died.
10. Stained glass window from All Saint’s Parish Church, West Lavington, Wiltshire, UK,.

Dedication: Clara Wilkinson
Year: June 2nd 1851 – June 28th 1867
Courtesy: Sarah Nehama

Often when critiquing a Neoclassical piece with art, you’ll often find me reference the quality of the painting itself. Be it colour or sepia, there’s often a wide degree of variation between pieces in how they are depicted.

Watercolour Pendant 19th Century Ship

Much of the variation comes form the instant nature of the art itself. Remember that memorial and sentimental art is very immediate. If a lover is parting on short notice and a token of regard and affection has to be bought or commissioned without pre-planning, then the jewel is born of necessity. If there is a financial issue that causes the person purchasing the piece to have to choose an item of lesser quality or even if the person wishes to embed their own art into a piece (such as their own placement of hairwork in a locket, photograph, personal memento), then it’s not so much about the level of the execution, but comes back to the personal nature of what the piece is for. Yes, these pieces can be naive, but they can also be unique and beautiful individuals, pieces that have no precedence and never will again. It captures the moment between people, that instant affection inside a jewel.

Which leads us to this piece. This particular painting is obviously very instant. Detail to the piece is quite low considering the complexity of the depiction and yet the hairwork on the reverse is quite delicate, with the Albert curl and gold wire cipher. This is set in a low-grade pendant and underneath glass, so what can we make of it?

Firstly, the symbolism is rather simple and direct. There’s little other allusion to context outside of the ship sailing into the distance and the Neoclassical female pointing to it sailing away. The cliff, tree and surrounds merely act as scenery, rather than enhancing the piece with further sentiments. Note the figure of the female herself. Her hair is set in a more contemporary style for the time, rather than harkening back to the Ancient Grecian idealised style, though her dress is classical in intent, but the flowing lines and folds of the dress are lost to simple strokes of the artist. The face is rather simple, the eyes are simple black dotes, as is the nose, yet the artist has taken care to shade the piece and give her more contrast than the art is perhaps worthy of. Then there is the ship sailing away, note the inclusion of the flags and their colour.

Watercolour Pendant 19th Century Ship

The hairwork makes this piece easier to date and gives the naïve painting context. With its curl and attention to detail in the table-working, this piece stems from around the 1820s, a time when the Neoclassical style of large miniature paintings had been on the decline, with smaller, angular jewels and sharp, clean lines in enamel and stones/pearls surrounding hair mementos taking their place. Hence the instant nature of the painting or the lack of style can be understood as either being a primitive interpretation of the earlier styles, rushed for necessity, a personal sentimental gift or a pre-designed and cheaply bought token of affection.

Travelling miniaturists sold pre-designed miniatures to a public for lower prices and would customise scenes to either incorporate a loved one (say, a soldier’s face may be inserted into a piece during the Napoleonic Wars). If one were to consider this as well as the instant nature of the piece, the symbolism with the ship and the time it was created, then one may consider it to be stemming from the Wars of the time, however, this of course is supposition and the only truth can be told by the person who commissioned it.

Either way, the facts remain that it is indeed a curiosity, still wonderful to look at and entertaining to consider!

For a collector of the memorial and sentimental, it’s quite common to find white, black and blue enamels, but when you find a contrasting colour, you have to take notice.

With this very early 19th century pendant, the gorgeous red guilloche enamel surrounds the hair memento and is generously surrounded with paste. In this case, the sentiment is purely love, red meaning passion. If you were to look at the hair inside, notice the elegant ribbon bow entwining the simple palette worked hair, almost as if it had been cropped off the head of the lover and simply placed inside (while obviously there’s a bit more work involved than that).

Due to the use of this for its sentiment and the tight weave of the hairwork in the back, this piece matches closely with other French pieces of the time, so it wouldn’t be difficult to make this assumption.

1836 LocketCourtesy: Monique Charvet
Dedication: obt July 14th 1836 / Giles C Dana & Ruth Ann Dana

This particular style is quite typical of the 1830s and 40s, basically coinciding with the transition of the Neoclassical movement to the Neo-Gothic style that was prevalent at the time, you can often find pieces like this with the Neo-Gothic lettering of ‘In Memory Of’ or other sentiments surrounding where the black enamel is on this piece. The surrounding floral work to the gold is very popular in the 1830s and can be found in rings, lockets and other peripherals in jewellery. This style actually dates back to around 1811, but didn’t really gain traction until later. Some call it a ‘pie crust’ surround, but I don’t like that term, as I find it denigrates the floral patterns and the stylistic transition in art. For more on that, check Art of Mourning in rings and lockets for the 1830 period, also, I’ve got some posts on the blog about it as well, so have a search.

They can be quite small as well, I’ve seen variations down to 1cm (with a small twist of hair in the back) in diameter and increase up to about 5cm. Due to the rise in photography post 1840, you’ll find a lot of locket variations from about 1845-50 with early photography inside. This style was popular enough that it was often made in both low and high gold content, so it’s best to get it tested if you care about that sort of thing.

1836 Locket

It’s obviously a mourning piece, from the black enamel to the charming dedication. The wonderful dual hair is much more rare for a piece like this and to find it possibly re-purposed for another family member or dedicated to the passed individual with the living one having their hair or dedication inside isn’t unheard of, but it’s much more uncommon than finding the singular dedication. To me personally, I find that dual dedications are more precious than any diamond, as it is much more personal for the family and that love is what it’s all about for me.

The hair itself is a bold and basic weave with the twist, which I think makes it a little more personal, as professionally table-worked hair can often put the sentimentality in the back seat, as it were, so this is a really nice and seemingly instant (as the hair would have been cropped without pre-planning for it to be made), so the dedication and the piece would have been commissioned close to the passing of the loved one. As such, the piece itself would have been manufactured first and purchased/tailored to the person who commissioned it, rather than being a one-off made for the occasion. Once again, very sentimental.

So, when you see a piece like this without the black enamel or dedication, they were sold as love tokens as well, they’re not all mourning (which is a great problem when people discuss/sell these pieces with hair, they always skew to the morbid), though this one is quite obviously morning. It was a popular style and one must question what the purpose of the piece was for at all times and how it would have been worn. Also, the style was popular in the UK, to some degree on the Continent (France, Germany and Eastern Europe) and also in the US.

Charles II PendantNot a mourning piece, but certainly sentimental, this portrait of Charles II is a symbol of dedication to the crown. The symbolism is wearing a locket over the heart makes this piece important in its sentimentality, as it isn’t simply a portrait of Charles II.

This could be displayed or hidden beneath clothes, as the surroundings permitted. Match the quality of the piece to the ring of Charles I and see the similarities between the two, specifically in the style of the portrait. Both of these pieces, though from different times, were created for the same purpose in their devotion, and both are ideal examples of their time.

The exquisite example below from 1703 has gold wire cipher, hair and silk underneath the Stuart crystal. The motifs of the cherubs and the skull and crossbones are common for this time, as well as the shape of the heart pendant.

Often when critiquing a Neoclassical piece with art, you’ll often find me reference the quality of the painting itself. Be it colour or sepia, there’s often a wide degree of variation between pieces in how they are depicted.

Watercolour Pendant 19th Century Ship

Much of the variation comes form the instant nature of the art itself. Remember that memorial and sentimental art is very immediate. If a lover is parting on short notice and a token of regard and affection has to be bought or commissioned without pre-planning, then the jewel is born of necessity. If there is a financial issue that causes the person purchasing the piece to have to choose an item of lesser quality or even if the person wishes to embed their own art into a piece (such as their own placement of hairwork in a locket, photograph, personal memento), then it’s not so much about the level of the execution, but comes back to the personal nature of what the piece is for. Yes, these pieces can be naive, but they can also be unique and beautiful individuals, pieces that have no precedence and never will again. It captures the moment between people, that instant affection inside a jewel.

Which leads us to this piece. This particular painting is obviously very instant. Detail to the piece is quite low considering the complexity of the depiction and yet the hairwork on the reverse is quite delicate, with the Albert curl and gold wire cipher. This is set in a low-grade pendant and underneath glass, so what can we make of it?

Firstly, the symbolism is rather simple and direct. There’s little other allusion to context outside of the ship sailing into the distance and the Neoclassical female pointing to it sailing away. The cliff, tree and surrounds merely act as scenery, rather than enhancing the piece with further sentiments. Note the figure of the female herself. Her hair is set in a more contemporary style for the time, rather than harkening back to the Ancient Grecian idealised style, though her dress is classical in intent, but the flowing lines and folds of the dress are lost to simple strokes of the artist. The face is rather simple, the eyes are simple black dotes, as is the nose, yet the artist has taken care to shade the piece and give her more contrast than the art is perhaps worthy of. Then there is the ship sailing away, note the inclusion of the flags and their colour.

Watercolour Pendant 19th Century Ship

The hairwork makes this piece easier to date and gives the naïve painting context. With its curl and attention to detail in the table-working, this piece stems from around the 1820s, a time when the Neoclassical style of large miniature paintings had been on the decline, with smaller, angular jewels and sharp, clean lines in enamel and stones/pearls surrounding hair mementos taking their place. Hence the instant nature of the painting or the lack of style can be understood as either being a primitive interpretation of the earlier styles, rushed for necessity, a personal sentimental gift or a pre-designed and cheaply bought token of affection.

Travelling miniaturists sold pre-designed miniatures to a public for lower prices and would customise scenes to either incorporate a loved one (say, a soldier’s face may be inserted into a piece during the Napoleonic Wars). If one were to consider this as well as the instant nature of the piece, the symbolism with the ship and the time it was created, then one may consider it to be stemming from the Wars of the time, however, this of course is supposition and the only truth can be told by the person who commissioned it.

Either way, the facts remain that it is indeed a curiosity, still wonderful to look at and entertaining to consider!

Clara Pendant

One of the more fascinating aspects of being a mourning and sentimental jewellery collector is that we’re blessed with having inscriptions and dedications in the pieces we collect. Unlike many other forms of jewellery, which may be discovered through manufacturer, style or material, we have an instant connection with the people who wore these pieces. This proximity makes collecting mourning and sentimental items closer to art collecting in sentimental intent.

Clara Pendant Back

This is why it’s wonderful when a collector discovers genealogy of a family through pieces. I’ve spent many hours trawling through census documents on the hunt for full family detail over pieces, and today’s research performed on a very wonderful locket is superb.

Clara Pendant Top

Of course, photography still exists in lockets and pendants today, making it one of the most resilient forms of change ever applied to memorial jewellery. The change that came about in jewellery to adapt to this new technology changed the face of sentimental jewellery and is arguably the single most popular surviving aspect of sentimental jewels today. Photographs are cheap, easily accessible (especially with the advent of digital printing) and where hairwork, or wearing the hair of a loved one, has become distant in many Western cultures, wearing the photograph of a loved one is quite common.

Clara Top

This particular piece shows exceptional engraving and a perfect balance between the photograph on the front and the hairwork on the back. Being a pendant, this takes its precedence from the turn of the century pendants with the open face and hairwork on reverse.

Clara Name Pendant

Research

This particular piece has a significant history. Owner and collector Sarah Nehama has researched the history of this piece and below is the product of this effort:
1. A copy of the death certificate for Clara Wilkinson. Cause of death listed as phthysis pulmonalis, or tuberculosis.
2. Page one of the Franklin family genealogy showing the relation to Benjamin Franklin through Clara’s maternal line.
3. Page two of the Franklin family genealogy showing the relation to Benjamin Franklin through Clara’s maternal line.
4. Page three of the Franklin family genealogy showing the relation to Benjamin Franklin through Clara’s maternal line.
5. Four pages of Franklin family genealogy showing the relation to Benjamin Franklin through Clara’s maternal line.
6. A postcard from 1880 showing the entrance to the Old Granary Burial Ground in Boston, site of Benjamin Franklin’s parents tomb.
7. A postcard from 1906 showing the tomb of Josiah and Abiah Franklin, parents of B. Franklin in the Old Granary Burial Ground.
8. Detail of of Melksham, Wiltshire, England, pertaining to Matthew Wilkinson, Clara’s father.
9. A picture of a stained glass window from All Saint’s Parish Church, West Lavington, Wiltshire, UK, commemorating Clara’s parents. Her father was the vicar of this church when Clara died.
10. Stained glass window from All Saint’s Parish Church, West Lavington, Wiltshire, UK,.

Dedication: Clara Wilkinson
Year: June 2nd 1851 – June 28th 1867
Courtesy: Sarah Nehama

I was going to write about more about memento mori today, but with presenting such lovely and emotionally charged pieces like this, I think it’s time to cleanse the palate with this refreshingly beautiful sentimental Neoclassical piece with sepia on ivory.

Le Plus Loin Le Plus Serre Mourning Pendant

Symbolism and beauty are two words to describe this French piece. The two birds (winged souls) tying together the knot of eternity and love as the ship is sailing away from the castle on top of a cliff face. The boat can be taken as a literal interpretation of sentimental distance, or as the passage of a soul towards the afterlife, however as the boat shows its passage towards the horizon, then one can expect that the symbolism falls into the latter. When combined with the eternity knot, the sentiment of love shows a love forever unbroken despite any figurative distance.

On the reverse, we have the very thick weave of the hairwork in a lattice, which is a style typical of many French pieces, as well as contemporary styles of the c.1780s – particularly in miniatures and large pendants. Of course, much of this is reliant on the hair available, as the industry wasn’t at its scale of the mid 19th century where hair was important and used in great quantities, hence often the hairwork used was at the mercy of what could be obtained.

French mourning pendant

When looking at a piece like this, one must consider the quality of the sepia art. Note how sharp and certain the lines are, there’s little area in the depiction for mistakes or parts where the attention to detail is lacking. The whole canvas of the ivory has been considered as to how to paint this piece, as is often the case with French pieces.

Along the Continent, the mourning industry wasn’t as ubiquitous; the higher the Catholic influences, the difference in the displays of mourning and the very different customs must be understood. Hence why when a French piece comes along, the general quality tends of often be higher, the same with much of the German pieces. There was a higher demand in England for mourning jewels to facilitate social convention, hence a greater output and much more variance between quality and style. One can discover an English piece with amazing quality or very naive quality.

So, note the waves and their individual undulating lines, note the attention to the brushwork where they grow thick to very fine, note how they change direction to show the coarseness of waves. Then the tree and how it interacts with the banner; note how the banner is curved along with the contour of the piece and the tree is nestled in quite comfortably underneath. From this, the individual leaves and branch are shaded, on a piece with gradients of one colour, this shows very high skill and planning.

I think the only the scale of the birds to the castle and and attempt at the rendering of the cliff face are the only parts which weigh this piece down (this from the cross-hatching of the cliff’s shading), but understandably the birds are primary focus to the symbolism with the knot, so the necessarily is understood.

That should be enough for today! Oh, look at that… Tomorrow is Sunday… I wonder what tomorrow’s lesson will be? Get ready for Symbolism Sunday, which may have something to do with the number 3!

Courtesy:Barbara Robbins
Country: France
Year: c. 1780-90
Dedication: “Le Plus Loin Le Plus Serre” – “The further the distance the tighter the knot.”

Besty Robinson Obt 3rd Octr 1809 Pendant Sepia Hairwork

Firstly, let’s look at the context of this piece. During the first quarter of the 19th century, the world was dealing with some of the most rapid social change with a scale unlike any seen previously. There is the emergence of the independence of the United States in 1776, colonial Australia, the French Revolution and the continuing Napoleonic Wars, new discoveries and uses for steam power in transportation and electricity began to influence rapid transit, industry was on the rise and of course, then there was fashion and art. Fashion became more and more elaborate to match a society that was relishing their individuality and status. Dandyism was popular with young men and ladies reflected the popular neoclassical styles that had been heavily influenced art, creating the ‘Empire silhouette’ and losing much of the heaviness and pomp that had surrounded costume in previous generations.

So, how does this reflect upon this pendant? Firstly, let’s look at the sentiment itself:

‘IN MEMORY OF
Besty Robinson
Obt 3rd Octr 1809
AE 28 Yrd’s
Affectionate Wife,
Mother and
Friend’

Sentiments like this, worn so prominently on the person, were simply not typical previous to the neoclassical movement. As this movement developed, with the increasing focus on the person as the important individual, rather than the purpose of the family as a group or the church as an idyllic standard of living, the nature of the individual became paramount and beautiful. Love became something to be worn prominently, as fashion. This is previous to the Victorian installation of the family as virtuous unit under the crown and god and it’s amazing to see what the difference of thirty years can make. In difference, this is almost hedonistic and rampant narcissism through the standard of living culture.

But, there it is, a very large, very personal sentiment that still resonates today as being an incredibly loving memorial to one’s partner. ‘Mother and Friend’ are also two very important sentiments with this piece. Speaking from the perspective of the husband, the term ‘mother’ is almost superfluous (unless the deceased passed quite early in the relationship without having child), as the expectation of the lady as a mother, at the very least, the latter 19th century ideal of the female as the matriarch of the family is a given.

‘Friend’ is the most touching sentiment here, I think. Beyond all else, wife or a partner should also be a best friend and here it explicitly states that. I am somewhat emotional just looking at the piece now.

As for the quality of this piece, let’s look at the sepia work to the font. Note the very fine calligraphy; it’s not at all rushed, but very methodical and is the art for one side of the pendant. Certainly not an inexpensive piece, even the little flourishes surrounding the font and the mixture of upper and lower case show careful planning. It’s a personal sentiment, as well, so it was certainly commissioned with the sentiment in mind. Do note the slant to the name against the ‘IN MEMORY OF’ – this may show that the ‘IMO’ was pre-written and the sentiment below personalised.

Besty Robinson Obt 3rd Octr 1809 Pendant Sepia Hairwork

Then on the reverse, we have the dual hearts, an eternity knot of hair, initials and the sentiment ‘THE UNION OF HEARTS CONSTITUTES OUR HAPPINESS’. There is somewhat a French influence to this piece, from the quality, to the size to the etching of the gold. Stylistically, I would lean towards this being an American piece, however, there’s not enough data to substantiate this as of writing. Nevertheless, the sentiment seals the love that is imbued within the piece, it’s an eternal statement about the person who wore it and I should think that such a firm sentiment is quite a rare one and puts us, as the viewers, in an almost intimate proximity between the two lovers involved with this piece.

Besty Robinson Obt 3rd Octr 1809 Pendant Sepia Hairwork

Overall, this piece shows us how far society had come and changed during the early 19th century. Today, we’re not so far removed from them, as society is still as volatile, borders are changing, more so than ever, we’re rampant consumers who parade ourselves in costume to the world and new discoveries are found each day, but at the end of it all, it’s love which defines us and binds us.

Tomorrow I take a look at how damage affects cost in jewellery and I hope you all join in on the Art of Mourning Facebook Group, where you can meet like-minded individuals, post your jewellery pictures and have a chat!

Courtesy: Sarah Nehama

Memento Mori Pendant Fob Silver Painted Skull EnamelOne of the greatest misconceptions and one of the reasons why the term ‘faux’ is applied to a piece of jewellery happens when there’s not a great understanding of a piece or the reason for its creation.

If the piece was made to deceive the person buying it by being constructed as a forgery or replica, then there is ample reason for it to be justified as a fake. However, many times, it’s a lack of the simple education surrounding the knowledge of a piece that can change the perspective of a dealer or collector and reappropriate the piece to be more realistic to its intent.

Read the rest of this entry »

Charles I Miniature Pendant with Pearl

I don’t think there’s enough that I can say about these Charles I pieces. To me, they represent the inception of an industry that certainly was on the verge of being one of the most culturally important movements in modern history, due to its cross-cultural pervasiveness and obvious necessity. Yes, I’m talking about the industry of mourning.

However, there is also the way that death was adapted by the oncoming industrial revolution and the inception of social movement. In some ways, the affectation of mourning speaks about the superficial nature of the human condition, with our fickle concerns of outward presentation and adherence to human-imposed social conventions.

Charles I Mourning Pendant Royalist Enamel Blue

What has this to do with the Charles I pendant on display here? The beheading of Charles I created a royalist movement that provoked society to adapt tableaus in dedication to the fallen king, with a disregard to the monetary context of the dedications – surviving portraits of Charles may vary in quality from the finely painted to the naive. However, there is quite an effort to present the man with respectful quality, regardless. This royalist movement was one that could transcend the socio-economic demographic and allow for the lower classes to express their grief/loyalty (even when the pieces were covered or hidden in lockets), as opposed to more insular cultural outlooks, which focused more on the immediate family/work paradigm without the greater social awareness. Communication was becoming faster, social borders were crumbling and the presentation of the self to this greater social audience was becoming more and more important.

Hence, when a piece like this was worn, albeit enamel side up (the pearl is a later addition), it still conveys a message about the wearer to the society around them. It shows obvious status and wealth.

Looking at the piece itself, Charles is looking off (not engaging the viewer) with sadness, hence its meaning as being a royalist piece is established (hardly the demeanour of a king still alive), the portrait itself, shows the face is painted to a pre-established ideal of the king and not painted in personal company with the man himself though the miniaturist has taken careful detail to shading of the hair and attention to the costume – often portraits of Charles would be closer in to the face of the subject. On the reverse, we have the blue enamel and this side doesn’t demand that the wearer turn it over to reveal the portrait. In this case, the portrait is personal and worn over the heart, while this enamel reverse can be presented with all the sophistication of class status that it deserves. If the wearer commissioned the blue enamel with the intent of royalty in the face of such a personal sentiment is truly the prerogative of the person who commissioned it, however, it is more likely. The piece is set in silver and retains much of the popular late Baroque design in the flower and enamel that would be expected.

And how does this all reflect upon us today? Well, essentially, it gives us all a great appreciation for the industry that surrounds us, but personally, I simply like to enjoy looking at this magnificent piece.

Courtesy: Barbara Robbins

I could spend days absorbed simply looking at a piece like this and the purpose of this website is for sharing, so enjoy this German rosary (c.1500-1525). The description is as follows:

Each bead of the rosary represents the bust of a well-fed burgher or maiden on one side, and a skeleton on the other. The terminals, even more graphically, show the head of a deceased man, with half the image eaten away from decay. Such images served as reminders that life is fleeting and that leading a virtuous life as a faithful Christian is key to salvation.

>> Link: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

For a collector of the memorial and sentimental, it’s quite common to find white, black and blue enamels, but when you find a contrasting colour, you have to take notice.

With this very early 19th century pendant, the gorgeous red guilloche enamel surrounds the hair memento and is generously surrounded with paste. In this case, the sentiment is purely love, red meaning passion. If you were to look at the hair inside, notice the elegant ribbon bow entwining the simple palette worked hair, almost as if it had been cropped off the head of the lover and simply placed inside (while obviously there’s a bit more work involved than that).

Due to the use of this for its sentiment and the tight weave of the hairwork in the back, this piece matches closely with other French pieces of the time, so it wouldn’t be difficult to make this assumption.

One of the joys and perils of knowing a little bit about old jewellery is that people want to know what they have. Though Antiques Roadshow makes it look very easy to spot a piece and be able to wax lyrical about it for hours on end, the truth of the matter is that a lot of research goes into a single viewing. Personally, I like to be certain about a piece and I can often be wrong, so in the interest of opening the door for all us amateur historians, let’s take a quick look at this pendant and try to reach some conclusions.

Stylistically, it lends itself to the first half 18th century, the lack of facets and the curve to the crystal is more common with that era, as opposed to the sharper edges of the earlier times. Then there is the conflict of the cipher inside, which is more common with earlier pieces, but for the period of 1680-1740, that was quite common, so it’s not really a conflict at all.

You’ve got the fleur-de-lis forming together the crown, which is rather nice, though they are a little ill-defined for a piece of high quality, though that could simply be the pictures.

Also, the wire-work to the surrounding gold is rather simply done in that it is uneven and forms heavier at the bottom in the dollop of gold.

With the arrow and quiver, you’ve got the motifs for mortality, so that combined with the initials up front makes it quite likely a mourning piece. The crown may denote either a literal or figurative connection with royalty (to be considered royalty or actual aristocracy) and all in all, I rather like it.

It’s obviously had a bit of a life as well, I think the imperfections make it special, but as far as a ‘Georgian Heart’ goes, I think it fits the category well.

But, is any of that correct? This piece was submitted by Rob Jackson and this is the first time I’ve seen it. I’ve made some rather grand statements and I’d prefer to back a lot of it up with proper evidence. What are your thoughts?

This mourning locket and chain are an excellent match, but are actually two separate pieces.

The fittings only compliment the hairwork of the chain itself and do not become the prominent focal point. The tight hairwave ensures that there’s a sturdiness to the chain and the weave is comfortable for the wearer.

Necklaces like this are common throughout most of the 19th century, though as discussed in the past, there is a large variation can be found in the style of the hair weave and occasionally the gold fittings. Pieces like this can be dated quite well through looking in original catalogues of the time, pieces like this were quite common from the 1870s.

Necklaces of course weren’t relegated to hair, and the pieces that weren’t display a union between the chain itself and the pendant it is attached to.

This ‘regard’ necklace and pendant from Barbara Robbins is an exquisite example of its form. From the hairwork under glass to the organic design of the gold work. Though clearly of its time, the organic design is shows an almost nouveau prototype in its nature patterns, right down to the gold hearts with flower designs that contain the stones. Much of this has to do with the transient art styles of the mid 19th century. The Neo-Rococo Romantic period is in full bloom with this piece, from the floral decorations of the gold to the basic sentiment of the stones.

The chain and heart design are a perfect union in this piece, delicate and never over balanced in their weight. It should also be noted that on the back of each heart where the stones sit are glass panels with hair inside. There is more than one type of hair on display in this piece, with the table-worked feathered hair on milk glass showing at least two colours and then the magnificent hair behind each of the regard mementoes.

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