9 July 1810 mouring ring 	J Brougham

Dedication: 9 July 1810 / J Brougham

One of the more fascinating aspects of ring design and motifs in the early 19th century is the increased use of gems and stones. What had previously been relegated to fine jewels was becoming ubiquitous and taking over as a symbolic motif in their own right.

Pearl mourning ring

Pearls are the most popular and common to find in rings (many bracelets were strung with pearls, but surviving pieces are harder to find). Jet and turquoise are two of the other most popular materials and are important for their use in mourning custom and symbolism.

1815 mourning ring

Second and third stage jewels took very well to the enhanced use of colour, as reflective surfaces and colour were permissible, so hairwork jewels flanked with stones were not only an essential part of mourning, but a beautiful way to reflect and respect the loved one.

3rd stage mourning ring

Turquoise and Hairwork

These became prevalent from around 1810 and lasted well into c.1850, where larger, bolder styles and black enamel facilitated the changing fashion.

We have taken a look at some of the more unusual design elements at the turn of the 19th century jewellery, each reflecting a society adapting to new methods and tools of construction, access to materials and fashion that began to demand jewellery as a social expectation, rather than social denominator. With this little ring, we can see the use of machine turning to the gold-work in order to create an exact pattern across its entire body.

Inside, however, the hairwork memento still remains. This style did not adapt easily to the application of gems and stones, due to its uniform design, but makes a grand statement in its gold-work.

However, this is a style derived from the mainstream oval/rectangular shape of ring design, as opposed to that style being derived from this. Furthermore, the contour of the band reflects the earlier late 18th century navette/round styles, in that it isn’t a shank meeting the bezel to flatten out underneath, but a clear, circular contour.

James Chifley Mourning Ring 1802

The ubiquitous early 19th century mourning band was born from a confluence of styles. As seen in the previous Gothic Revival articles, there was a shift back to the ecclesiastical in mainstream art, reacting to the opulence of the neoclassical era with the more primitive Gothic movement and a move away from the personal as the subject of worship.

By the early 19th century, the neoclassical shape of the navette and oval (which previously had mostly housed painted miniatures in the memento area of the ring) had reduced itself to the essence of the shape. Simple, geometric lines reflect a grand and simple statement. In this piece, we have the example of the black enamel being broken by the two white enamel lines. Simple, bold and proud design that, in effect, puts the tombstone around the wearer’s finger.

This was an evolution of a style that had adapted throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. The band itself is a highly malleable and simple design that can adapt very quickly to new art styles that flow in mainstream fashion.

Examples of this can be seen as the contemporary popular style of mourning band adapted the Gothic Revival motifs quite heavily, yet this skews closer to the 1820s in its simplicity.

Country: England
Year: 14 June, 1802
Dedication: James Chafy (Esq) (Age 71)

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

The Victorian appropriation of the Rococo style is something that overtook the mainstream and led to many good pieces of art and jewellery. Influenced by Romanticism, you can see the impact on this particular ring:

Rococo Revival Ring

Rococo Revival Ring

Rococo Revival Ring

When it comes to hinges in rings, there are many variations of the kind and it’s only when a style is at its absolute peak does the commonality and perfection of the form match the jewel itself.

And what do I mean by this, I hear you ask? Indeed, there have been unusual forms of hinges in rings dating back to pre-history, but for sentimental and memorial jewels of the late 19th century, you will find the hinged hairwork band to be one of the more common popular jewels produced. This leads into a lot of what was mass produced in the late 19th century in terms of jewellery design.

Jewellery design was at a point where it transcended socio-economic boundaries and found itself trapped within the necessary lexicon of moral standard. This is particularly true of mourning jewels, which had their set factors in time of the dictated mourning periods (1st, 2nd and 3rd) in Protestant-based Western culture, rather than sentimental jewels which were worn with reasons of personal beauty and random affection.

It was also a time where other styles of art, from the popular Arts and Crafts movement and subsequent Art Nouveau movement began to permeate the mainstream society and influence the style of jewellery design that was quite locked into the static social standard that had existed from the 1860s to 1890s. While the society was rebelling against these pre-established concepts, we have to look at what was also influencing it.

Mass production becomes a major factor here; a society locked within its very formal ways was being facilitated by high levels of production and low cost for items that were necessary within society. Look to establishments such as Jay’s Mourning Warehouse; places which tailored the mourning experience (and travelled!) to the individual and basically created a fashionable culture around this social necessity.

Mother Hairwork Hinged Ring

How does this impact this ring? Indeed, this ring comes from a time when this formalisation was becoming set, yet it has a wonderfully individual slant on the style. By the 1870s, society from the UK to America was finding these measures of standardisation in production, with the catalogue being the primary source of purchase and rings in particular (with fob chains, brooches and pins) being the more obvious items of fashion for day to day wear that denoted affection. Note how this ring is detailed within the hinge itself and the curvature to the band. It becomes almost an adaption of the style, which is clearly visible in the ring itself. Hair bands of the 1860s and 70s set the precedent for the mass production of the 90s, with a noticeably heavier weight in gold, thinner styles and greater differentiation with the shield or dedications on the front. In this, we have the formal Empire flourishes to the surrounding shield with ‘mother’ written very elegantly inside. The interior is dedicated ‘T.H. Morris’ and the woven hair is still in excellent condition.

Mother Hairwork Hinged Ring

One can draw inferences about how and why this ring was worn, certainly the dedication speaks for itself, however a good way to begin this form of esoteric analysis is to look at the condition of the piece and then draw some conclusions about its interactivity with day to day life.

I’ll leave that there, I won’t want to muddy the waters of fact with any sort of blind romanticism!

Enjoy the ring, because I know I will – I have a special affection for hinged bands.

Courtesy: Sarah Nehama
Dedication: Mother / T.H. Morris

Strange sized fingers and opening hinges while a jewellery historian binges on a wealth of fabulous examples of this odd construction technique.

modern hinged ring

modern hinge

Based on Monday’s Space Oddity; Understanding a Hinged / Locket Sentimental Ring with Hair, we need to understand that the implication wasn’t that this form of construction was never followed again, as to insinuate that a method of construction isn’t replicated considering that there are only limited ways to fit a ring to a finger is ridiculous, however, to consider this a style that was part of mainstream thought and a catalyst for a popular style is certainly not appropriate.

When pieces with unusual construction methods appear, the fundamental reason for them being unusual and not commonplace (though though produced in areas or by request) is that what the general populace takes for granted as being a ‘style’ doesn’t merge with what the technique that makes the piece ‘unusual’.

For example, these examples show a how the style was not necessarily adapted from the piece earlier in the week, but requested or specifically constructed for their purpose.

1858

This piece separates past the shoulder, allowing the enamelled design to appear uninterrupted and also hide much of the hinge itself, except for where it joins at the bezel.

1870

From this example, another form of the locket construction is quite different, separating and connecting from shoulder to shoulder, leaving the bezel free and completely obscuring the hinge itself.

What can be decided about these items is that they were commissioned for a reason.

This leaves two options, one must ask that in a world where rings were often made for the intended person, why would one construct a ring with a hinge? Consider these points and feel free to discuss!

1. The ring was created this way to overcome a large knuckle. If so, then by implication, a specific finger is required for that ring. Why would one finger be more important than another?

2. The ring was made and altered. Why would the ring be this way? Would you suggest that it may have been produced from the money allocated in the will and made to a generic size?

3. Would jeweller have experimented with this style?

4. Could it be created to preserve the band?

5. Perhaps a cultural phenomenon that was popular for a short while?

Courtesy and thanks: Marielle Soni, Verlaine Davies, rings from ‘Rings 1800… – 1910’, Write Designs, LTD, Ruidoso, NM, 2009 and the modern ring Sarah Nehama

forget me not 20th century

I’m about to travel around the world for several weeks, so here’s an appropriate symbol to carry us through; the forget-me-not!

Flower symbolism conveys messages that are engrained within our culture, through the last two centuries of re-enforcing their statement as symbols. The 18th and 19th centuries Romantic movement helped establish a push away from the paradigms of ecclesiastical and traditional worship, while putting the focus back upon the natural world around and the passions of the human experience. Hence it is only natural (pun intended) that as the 19th century forget me not ringabsorbed much of the cultural shift back to traditional values during the Gothic Revival period, that many of these concepts would remain and be elaborated upon, but not revolutionised. What do I mean by this? Simply that the interpretation of flora into symbolism was aesthetically pleasing, symbolically safe (often with roots back to religious concepts) and were easy to interpret in jewellery design. The motifs worked well within the Christian concepts and symbols, so where many other symbols may cause the viewer to think twice, flora was defined and catalogued for easy interpretation and use.

“Forget-me-not, O Lord!” is what a poor German knight shouted as he fell into a river. He and his lady were picking flowers by the side of the river at the time, no doubt enjoying the beautiful day around them, and yet as fate would have it, the knight’s armour dragged him down to the bottom as he fell in. Upon his cries to the Lord, he threw the blue posy of flowers to his loved one and promptly drowned. This little tale reportedly dates to around the 15th century, but no doubt had different permeations along the way, as romantic stories often do. Hence, the concept of remembrance, eternal love and faithfulness grow from this.

forget me not 20th centuryAnother fable is that of the baby Jesus playing magician with his mother Mary. He was quite an articulate lad and thought how wonderful it would be if everyone could see her beautiful eyes forever. He touched her eyes and waved his hands over the ground below and then the magnificent blue forget-me-nots sprung from the earth. Relating back to my earlier points of how floral symbolism was safe in the context of religion, here we have the eternal memory symbolism not only implied with its name, but infused with solid Christian concept.

Now that we have the tales out of the way, the symbolism of the forget-me-not is obviously implied within its name. It should also be noted that the flower grows quite ubiquitously in Europe, America and Asia. Its first use in English literature is reportedly from c.1532 and is otherwise named Myosotis (mouse’s ear). Interestingly enough is the rise of the flower’s popularity c.15-16th centuries. This is what we, as jewellery historians, need to understand. From this, we have the popularity of the posy ring and its use as a love token in jewellery. The posy (poesy, posie, posey) emerged at a time when modern society was developing through a shift back to the personal and emerging from the middle ages and its strict adherence to ecclesiastical living. Giving a ring with an inscription on the inside as a token of love was a profound statement, it showed that relationships were increasingly interpersonal and not decreed before god. It was between the couple. Hence, the forget-me-not was used as a decoration (often crude) in some of these rings to denote its message of love and remembrance.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, the use of the forget-me-not didn’t change, however, it did blend in well with the Rococo and Baroque excess of design well enough that it could balance with other flowers and leaf motifs. By the time of the Neoclassical period, its use was relegated more towards being a footnote in memorial jewel depictions painted on ivory. During this time and the rise of hairwork weaves becoming mainstream and popular, the forget-me-not did become a symbol used to create floral depictions from hair.

The 19th century is when the forget-me-not truly found its place as a central motif. Many rings, bracelets, brooches and mourning/sentimental peripherals showcased the forget-me-not as a primary motif, often boldly displayed on enamel. Often, other symbols (buckle/belt/serpent/cross) would complement the forget-me-not, rather than it being a symbol used as a design flourish or in repartition. Where the flower was used in more decorative areas of jewellery was in the Rococo Revival period, especially the latter 19th century, and lasted into the 20th century with its reliance on its romantic roots. Its use in the 20th century became much softer; in the forget me notEdwardian period, the romantic movement adopted the symbol and applied it (often in enamel) to lockets and by the time of the First World War, its relation to the remembrance of soldiers (carried through by poetry) and into the Second World War was assured.

Today, the forget-me-not is still as resonant as it was one hundred years ago and you can still find it as a popular motif in jewellery to give to a loved one.

So, I’ll be away for a few weeks, but the site will still be updated. Forget me not, jewellery historians!

Previously on Symbolism Sunday:

The Belt/Buckle/Garter

The Upside-Down Torch

The Peacock

Wheat

Pine

Ivy

The Cypress

The Lantern

The Elephant

The Pelican

The Arrow and Quiver

The Knot

The Grape

The Daisy

The Oak

The Acanthus

Revisiting The Trumpet

The Harp

Drapery

The Acorn

The Trumpet

The Male

The Woman

The Three Graces

Faith, Hope and Charity

The Clover

The Willow

The Column

The Hourglass

The Serpent

The Dove

The Dog

The Angel

The Marigold / Lily

For those who visit this site and experience a new/different area of jewellery that is part of cultrual and social history, I welcome you and thank you for your time to read my ramblings.

Art of Mourning has been around for 6 years now and I’ve been collecting for a further 10. The idea for writing down my knowledge came about from my hope to educate, inspire and ignite a new interest in this wonderful area of social/art history to promote new collectors and even a new industry based around the culture of mourning and sentimentality.

This is a concept based upon love, not morbidity or the affectation of death, but love itstelf.

So, to commemorate the occasion, please click over to an interview with me at Collectors Weekly to discover a little bit more about myself, search through the archives of Art of Mourning or visit the parent site itself.

> Link: Hayden Peters Interview with Collectors Weekly

As usual with mourning, there is never an end, but a continuity and memory of everything before and we have much ground to cover. Keep reading, as there is much to come!

Read More:

Mourning and Sentimental Symbolism in Jewellery

Spotting Forgeries. Fakes and the History of Reproductions

Civil War Bracelet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more on this read…

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

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

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

Courtesy: Sarah Nehama

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

Envelope Ring 19th Century

Despite the introduction of lower grade alloys in jewellery post Hallmarking Act of 1854, no construction or detail was lost in translation, regardless of the materials used. For today’s wonderful presentation, we have a stunning little envelope ring that shows just how intricate construction can be.

I’ve shown various swivel rings and rings with opening hair compartments (such as this marvellous example from 1881), but this piece shows the double fold and catch set in the envelope/pouch design.

Envelope Ring 19th CenturyMid to late 19th century fashion adopted many classical art forms and created various revivals in art, such as Rococo, Etruscan, Greek, Gothic and Roman, yet one thing remains underlying these various forms of art and that is the heavy symbolism used in motifs. This, along with the envelope itself, shows the detailed vine pattern rising across the shank and over the envelope folds. The envelope itself signifies the shortness of emotional distance between the wearer and the person who has given it, regardless of the physical distance. Hence, the motif can work as both sentimental or memorial love token.

Also note the hair being inside a compartment, a popular style from the late 1860s onwards, as opposed to larger earlier styles.

Courtesy: Sarah Nehama

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.

Form factor is one of the most important things to look for when discovering oddities in jewellery design. Every era has their quirks and their set styles, mostly following whatever appeals to the mainstream.

Victorian Snake Ring With SymbolsAs mourning/sentimental jewellery collectors, we’re particularly at the mercy of what sold well in its prime. Pieces were made to a high degree in order to facilitate the demand and necessity of the social display of mourning, hence when something that defies the trend pops up, then it’s a sight to behold.

Along with this high production and demand (people were going to die, families needed to display their grief), the Hallmark Act of 1854 saw the allowance for lower grade alloys to be used in jewellery construction, hence even higher production for mourning jewellery at smaller cost. So, once again, we need to discover some nice quirks surrounding popular movements in mainstream jewellery design/art.

Victorian Snake Ring With SymbolsWhich brings us to this snake ring, which revels in the excess of its design and also constructs the design around its materials. We have the forget-me-nots set in white enamel across the black of the shank, which twists into a design that curves around the ring and twists in upon itself, providing the sentiment of eternity. The garnet and its rich, red colour is the main centrepiece of the ring, balancing the emergence from full mourning during the late second to third stage with the very organic mourning symbolism of the shank and the ‘In Memory Of’ dedication. This takes a lot of the visual styling of the mid-19th century and rises above the common due to the confluence of designs and sentiments. There’s the touch of white enamel (purity/innocence), the rather standard black enamel and ‘In Memory Of’ and then the use of the garnet on top. Do note that many mourning jewels were reappropriated in the hairwork memento on top with other stones, but this piece appears untouched and original.

Victorian Snake Ring With SymbolsThe hallmarks are particularly crisp and its overall condition is pristine. Much of the time, rings like this were sparingly worn after being commissioned, or kept simply for their sentiment and not worn.

Pieces like this I tend to keep as pristine as possible. I would personally ensure that this time capsule from an earlier time remained as it was the day it was made, rather than harm the delicate enamel through wearing. There is a lot of indifference with some collectors towards Victorian pieces, mainly due to their recent history and how common they are to find (many were produced en masse through catalogues), but be it a piece of alloy or a finely created piece like this, the sentiment is the same and it’s an existing testament to a bygone age.

Courtesy: Barbara Robbins

Rather than write a myriad of superlatives about how magnificent the Burns Archive is, I’d rather let you all discover it for yourselves, with their wonderful new post about photography and mourning dress.

>> Link / The Burns Archive: Dressed to Distress

Of course, there are my little dissertations to view on mourning dress (without the photography):

17th Century Mourning Dress Part 1
17th Century Mourning Dress Part 2
18th Century Mourning Dress Part 1
18th Century Mourning Dress Part 2
19th Century Mourning Dress Part 1
19th Century Mourning Dress Part 2

19th century picture frame mourning angelsThis frame (with modern picture inserted) is an original memorial frame dated 1877. Take note of the urn and weeping angels, the detail is a reminder of memorial display in households at the time.

Household items, such as crockery, boxes and statues also contained memorial imagery, even ranging to scrimshaw. Pieces of this sort are too numerous to mention, as the size of the mourning industry was so large. As long as there were grieving people, there were items to sell. As time goes on, unusual items will be added to the site.

Swiss 1855 19th Century Memorial ArtThis memorial dates from around the Swiss region c.1855 and combines hairwork with sepia to create a powerful memorial. The inscription is part of the tombstone and each part of the picture has been individually fashioned. Memorials such as these are common in Europe and America, often behind glass and with inscriptions.

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.

As previously stated, depending on the weave, hairwork can stretch to the size of the wearer. This particular bracelet is a wonderful example of that, as the diameter of the piece would hardly accomodate a child’s hand.

Turquoise beads and late 19th century etching on top of a ribbon motif provide the flourishes to the this example.

Look back on the previous hairwork bracelets this week and see the contrast in styles and also the evolution of their forms in a relatively short period.

What assumptions can you make from looking at them all together?

Certain weaves in hair jewellery stretch to fit different sized areas (such as the neck or wrist).

This seemingly small bracelet will stretch with its box-shaped weave to fit larger wrists.

The clasp, though looking to be a locket, is fixed and decorated with Victorian neo-Rococo design.

Compare this to the earlier piece seen yesterday. Despite around fifteen years separating them, this piece shows the evolution from the simple, bold gold-work that was more prevalent in the mid 19th century to the Rococo revival period that was emulated in much of the florally embellished gold-work. One again, the clasp tells a story about the piece itself.

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