Something That’s New…

December 5, 2011

Yes, I’m well on the way to building a new Art of Mourning that should be seen in the coming days. You’ll need to update your RSS subscriptions and bookmarks soon, however, you’ll see the inanimate become animate though letting theses pieces of jewellery live and breathe again! 2012 proves to be a very busy year, so be prepared for wonderment and excitement!

In Memory of Collecting

One of the things I love most, next to educating the world about the virtues of mourning jewellery, is informing people to go to your nearest antique fair and spend as much money as you possibly can! Being a lad who is situated in Melbourne, Australia, I have an obvious slant towards advertising the fairs nearest to me (if you have any nearby, let me know and I’ll post them on the blog).

This weekend is ‘The Way We Wear Fair’, which is one of the best, or dare I say, bespoke fairs that I go to. It caters to jewellery, clothes and antique/vintage fashion. Yes, I can almost guarantee that you’ll find some mourning/sentimental magic there.

So, if you live within a good drive of Williamstown, why not come along? I’ll be there, Tweeting from the floor, no doubt, and enjoying the moment. We can catch up and antique together if you like. See you tomorrow!

Admission Costs
Adults $12.00, Concession/Child $10.00 (10+), Family $30.00
Fair Hours
Saturday 19 November 10am-5pm , Sunday 20 November 10am-4pm
Venue
The Williamstown Town Hall, 104 Ferguson Street, Williamstown, Victoria
> Link to Website

Following on from Part 1 of our little book review adventure, here are a few books that may or may not be essential to your collecting, but they are are great to have!

du Tertre, Nancy., The Art of the Limoges Box, 2003, Harry N. Abrams, Inc (Amazon)
This book certainly isn’t essential to the mourning or sentimental collector, but it does have some wonderful examples and shows the peripherals of what can be found in sentimental objects. The book is mostly pictorial and should really be entertained as such, a great little book for having handy on a lazy day or for referencing.

Evans, Joan., A History of Jewellery 1100-1870, 1953, Faber and Faber
Evans is one of the better writers on the subject of historical jewellery and this book shows why. With an unflinching knowledge of such a broad subject, she traverses the years with ease and shows some of the most intricate historical examples and how they weave into social history. Highly academic and highly entertaining, this book isn’t for the casual or the curious, you have to really look deep into the past for this one. Go get it, scholar!

Frank, Robin Jaffe., Love and Loss American Portrait and Mourning Miniatures, 2000, Yale University Press (Amazon)
Oh, how I adore this book. Frank really selects her pieces for display carefully, nothing seems arbitrary at all, as she weaves a solid, involving and intricate history of American Portrait and Mourning Miniatures. I highly recommend this book to go with British Portrait Miniatures or The Portrait Miniature in England, you won’t be disappointed.

Hinks, Peter., Nineteenth Century Jewellery, 1975, Faber and Faber (Amazon)
There are some wonderful examples and anecdotes in this book by Peter Hinks, he unearths some little known facts about 19th century jewellery and that makes for a good companion piece to other jewellery books on the era.

Knowles, Eric., Miller’s Victorian Antiques Checklist, 2000, Octopus, (Amazon)
No, I don’t really know why this book is here at all, but I did buy it when the collecting beast was wildly prowling Eastern Europe for something shiny and old to buy. It only made those pangs a whole lot worse. Basically, it’s a pocket book that you can keep handy with a few photo references and small blurbs to go with each, as most Miller’s books are. Really quite good if you’re brand new to collecting and need a point of reference, also good if you’re starting out and need to know about other contemporary styles.

Luthi, Ann L. , Sentimental Jewellery, 2002, Shire Publications (Amazon)
Luthi is one of the finest writers and most knowledgeable people on the topic of sentimental jewellery, hence it is only fitting that this book is authored by her. For such a small book, this is deceptively full and quite handy for any collector. A great overview and a great point of reference with a very broad, global slant that covers all the necessary periods of sentimental jewellery. For the new collector, it’s one of the most invaluable books you can own, for the seasoned collector, you should have this anyway.

Over at my website Art of Mourning, I’ve got a reasonably comprehensive list of the essential books to buy if you like the old jewellery and I’ll repost them here with some brief thoughts:

Bell, Jeanenne., Collector’s Encyclopedia of Hairwork Jewellery, 1998, Collector Books (Amazon)
Bell’s book on hairwork jewellery is a nice overview of the form and gives many random facts, I feel that it’s a necessary book to have for references (especially with the catalogues in the back) and her knowledge of hair weaves really comes in handy when you’re evaluating pieces. Her writing doesn’t discuss much about the historical context of the pieces or the references, but it is a nice collection of facts.

Burke, L., The Illustrated Language of Flowers, 1856, A. Routledge & Co.
Rather essential if you’re keen on learning all about the classification of sentimental symbolism. Also helpful if you’re an art critique, as the symbolism was quite transient across mediums.

Burns, Stanley., Sleeping Beauty Memorial Photography in America, 1990, Twelvetrees Press
An absolutely wonderful overlook of its time and subject. Burns quite rightly narrows his gaze to American photography and really excels at an academic and also entertaining view of photography (for the layman and scholar).

Bury, Shirley., An Introduction to Sentimental Jewellery, 1985, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office (Amazon)
Bury is one of the foremost writers and academics on the subject of sentimental jewellery and even this quick introduction to sentimental jewellery puts anything I’ve ever written to shame. She has a wonderful way of knowing her subject, balancing it with its time and giving it perfect historical context in relation to other jewellery, culture and society. Magnificent!

Campbell, Mark. (Kliot, J & K, ed)., The Art of Hairwork Hair Braiding and Jewelry of Sentiment with Catalog of Hair Jewellery, 1989, Lacis Publications
You probably shouldn’t be reading this site if you haven’t got a copy, downloaded a copy or at least have seen pages copied in other books.

A great look into not only the hairweaving process, but the industry and society of the time.

This book is also a wonderful reference for your hairwork jewellery – matching your pieces to the book will give you a very good insight into how they were constructed.

Coombs, Katherine., The Portrait Miniature in England, 1998. V&A Publications (Amazon)
This book gets into the depth of the miniature portrait and also is very approachable. If you want to look at miniatures and their relation to society and other jewellery, go get it. In another post, you’ll see a beautiful companion to this book based purely on American miniature portraits (more on that another day), so if you have this book, you’ve got a wonderful overview of early modern portraits. For those who just like a good picture, beautiful images abound!

Cooper, D., Battershill, N., Victorian Sentimental Jewellery, 1972, David & Charles LTD (Amazon)
Cooper’s approach to sentimental jewellery is also a nice overview of sentimental jewellery and it’s wisely focused directly upon Victorian. This book doesn’t aim too board, so it can focus upon the many different variations of Victorian jewellery and its symbolism. A great reference if you were wonderful what peripheral symbols were in Victorian jewellery and their inception. This covers jet and everything in between.

DeLorme, Maureen., Mourning Art and Jewelry, 2004, Schiffer Publishing (Amazon)
DeLorme’s views on peripheral funeralia are wonderful and a joy to read. This is very much for the new collector and also a good reference for the veteran. Her approach, while global in intent, exceeds at giving an American perspective. Great references, images and more! Go get it if you haven’t.

There’s been a lot of discussion about the limits of what a fake or a forgery is over at the Art of Mourning Facebook Group and I thought I’d open up the floor to a little discussion (feel free to join in over at the group) and add a bit of commentary.

I’ve mentioned before that I began Art of Mourning as a tool to put down as much knowledge as possible before my loved ones eventually require a mourning ring made up of myself and to dispel as much fiction surrounding a piece for the new collector or the seller who isn’t completely sure of what they have in their hands.

Once upon a time, an antique dealer once said to me that the best sellers in the world are the ones that listen to the collector and absorb the knowledge, as opposed to being seemingly knowledgeable over a large area of collectables. The collector has the passion, the collector is the boffin who spends their life in pursuit of a singular item.

However, it’s no secret that there are items out there which are reproduced for the singular purpose of monetary gain and to obfuscate the collector. These exist and are sold under the pretence of being something they are not, something which does not represent the past but is clearly being sold as a piece from the past.

For those who have been collecting antiques or are very knowledgeable about them, there’s an understanding that these items have always existed and there’s not much one can do apart from learning more about the subject and being deceived. Then, there is the new collector or person who may be fooled by the piece, thinking it too good to be true or a genuine item. Here is where there is a grey area surrounding whether or not to directly engage with them and identify that the piece is an obvious forgery, or to turn the other cheek.

I’ve written the articles below early on to try and identify what constitutes as a fake or forgery and I hope you can find the time to breeze through them. There are many other areas of forgery, usually found on eBay, that are new productions, but there is more difficultly in identifying repair work and revival periods.

> Spotting Fakes and Forgeries: Contemporary Pieces

> Spotting Fakes and Forgeries: Plastic, Odd Materials and Repairs

> Spotting Fakes and Forgeries: Hallmarks

> Spotting Fakes and Forgeries: Gold Content

> Spotting Fakes and Forgeries: How to Spot the Forgery

> Spotting Fakes and Forgeries Conflicting Styles

> Spotting Fakes and Forgeries: Mourning and Sentimental Art Revivals / Part 6

> Spotting Fakes and Forgeries: Mourning and Sentimental Art Revivals / Part 5

> Spotting Fakes and Forgeries: Mourning and Sentimental Art Revivals / Part 4

> Spotting Fakes and Forgeries: Mourning and Sentimental Art Revivals / Part 3

> Spotting Fakes and Forgeries: Mourning and Sentimental Art Revivals / Part 2

> Spotting Fakes and Forgeries: Mourning and Sentimental Art Revivals / Part 1

> Spotting Fakes and Forgeries: Mourning and Sentimental Art Revivals: Spotting

So, please stop by the Facebook Group and lend your opinion!

You’ve discovered a treasure: unique, beautiful, interesting, an asset to your collection and within your fiscal reach! Buy, buy, buy! Well, that is all very well and good isn’t it? But what of that dilemma when there is a lovely group of options on the market – all comparable, all lovely – of which you can only afford one? Hmmm? That’s where it gets a bit tricky.

Have you read this description: ‘…lustrous pearls surrounding a glazed locket compartment containing woven hair…’. I imagine that you have if are interested in mourning rings. It is a description of the classic Georgian pearl mourning ring, you know the ones, rectangular or possibly square thick glass under which there is woven hair of the deceased surrounded by pearls of varying quality, set in gold, ribbed band, split shoulders, and so on. I knew I wanted one. I felt it was important to have an example of this type of work. However, they were so popular at the time (early 19th C) that many have survived and there are a number of them available on the market. So which one should I get?

Classic Georgian Mourning Ring

I decided on this one and it was really a process of which one ticked the most boxes for my criteria. There you have it – know your criteria. What is it that you really value in the piece, in your collection, and why?

I respond much more strongly to pieces that have inscriptions. It is possibly my strongest criterion (after sheer beauty of course!).  This piece has two dedications making it even more delectable to me. I am also attracted to pieces that are dedicated to the young and/or unmarried. This ring is dedicated to a Miss Tylor 1797 and Miss Jane Tylor 1804. The condition of the ring is very good, most particularly the pearls are very white and lustrous and appear to be untouched. The ring is sound, solid and weighty. The split shoulders and ribbed band is a typical Regency era design. The mille-grain detailing on the bezel represents fine craftsmanship. The woven hair is blonde (rarer), the glazing thick and clean.

Detail of the split shoulders

Do you hear my felt-tip ticking the boxes?

Accurate dating is also a detail that appeals to me in a piece of jewellery because I enjoy researching the history of its time and, if I am very lucky, the subject or owner. This ring comes in its original box. Rundell & Bridge were very popular fine jewelers in the Regency period. Interestingly, Rundell & Bridge were appointed official Royal Jewellers in 1797, the same year Miss Tylor passed away. In the ring box there is printed on the interior silk a royal crown atop the jeweller’s logo. One can be confident therefore that this ring was made in 1797 or later. Possibly due to the placement of the inscriptions we can further assume that it was purchased in 1805 or shortly after, to fit both inscriptions so comfortably. I have a number of clues here so there is opportunity for me in the future to more thoroughly research the Miss Tylors.

The inside of the box lid also provides me with the jeweller's address

Decision making 101? Know thyself…okay, that might prove too difficult, but at least know your collection criteria!

P.S. I am happy with my choice.

– Marielle Soni

Another year and I can’t wait to discover new treasures. If you’re in the Melbourne area, come along and we can do some treasure hunting together:

MELBOURNE ANTIQUES FAIR brings the best expo of antiques and fine art to the traditional home of Melbourne’s Antiques Fairs – Malvern Town Hall in the leafy inner east.

This quality Fair presents antique furniture and décor, works of art (portraits, oils, watercolours), original prints & maps, Australiana, Art Deco, clocks & timepieces, bronzes, lamps, sterling silver, ceramics & glass, antiquities, jewellery and rare objects.

Choose eclectic objects to reflect your personality. Meet enthusiastic experts who know what today’s collectors are looking for. Start collecting!”

Gala Preview
Thursday, June 9, 6.30pm-9.30pm

Friday, June 10, 10.00am-7.00pm
Saturday, June 11, 10.00am-5.00pm
Sunday, June 12, 10.00am-5.00pm
Monday, June 13, 10.00am-4.00pm

Parking: On Street parking.

Transport to the door by tram to Cnr Glenferrie Rd & High St: Route 6, Stop 44.

I make no apologies for my love of antique/vintage costume, I grew up with costumiers and if it wasn’t for my love of history and fashion, I doubt I’d be writing to you now. So, if you have time this weekend, come along and enjoy!

Melbourne Show
27 – 29th May 2011

Venue
EXHIBITION HALL, MELBOURNE SHOWGROUNDS
Epsom Road, Ascot Vale VIC 3032

Times
Fri 27th May 2011     5.30pm – 9pm
Sat 28th May 2011    9.30am – 5.30pm
Sun 29th May 2011 10.00am – 4.00pm

In Memory of Collecting

The time has come for me to spread the good word of memorial jewellery around the world for the next several weeks, so in my absence, we’re going to be revisiting some old friends from the crypt. There will be new Symbolism Sunday posts every (Australian timed) Sunday morning and they’re getting bigger every week!

So, if you’ve just only found the site in the past few months, look forward to some wonderful mourning and sentimental jewellery insights, in-depth discussion and more information than a jewellery historian has any right to know in any one lifetime. By the time I get back, I expect you to be teaching me.

Forget me not, jewellery lovers, we’ve only just begun!

Oh, and if you want to follow my jewellery adventures, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and I’ll be posting from all around  the globe (or as much as I can!)

If you’re close to Melbourne City, this one is quite good to find some wonderful items. Be quick, or I’ll get them first!

“Antiques in Autumn at the Box Hill Town Hall will take place on Saturday 5th March and Sunday 6th March 2011, from 9am to 5pm on both days.

We aim to bring to you a range of quality antiques and collectables, from furniture, to china, glass, silver, books and many more categories with over 50 individual exhibitors from all over Australia.

Our craftsmen will be demonstrating various forms of restoration work at intervals through out both days, this is a must see for anybody wishing to rescue a dilapidated piece of furniture and maybe even turning it into a family heirloom.

Our cafe will be open from 9am to 5pm on both days for morning teas, light lunches and afternoon teas.Entrance fees are $10 adult accompanied children under 15 free and seniors $8.

Exhibitors enquiries most welcome.”

Antiques in Autumn | Box Hill Town Hall

Whitehorse Road  Box Hill Victoria  Australia.  View Map Map opens in new browser window
Telephone: 0439 655026

It’s going to be a busy weekend for those in Melbourne, so I hope you have a car and a lot of dosh.

Coming up is the Maryborough Antiques & Collectors Fair, at  Neill St, Maryborough, VIC, 5th – 6th of March! If you travel up there, go to Station Antiques and have a fabulous lunch, their regional nosh is delicious.

Feeling like finding some treasure? Then get ready for the Maldon Antique and Collectables Fair (which I do believe to have some wonderful regional dealers). If you’re in the state of Victoria, come along!

19—20 Feb 2011
Frances St.
Maldon VIC 3463

An up and comming event, quickly becoming the “must attend” of the antique fair calender.Held over 2 days on the lush grassy surface of the Maldon Footbal oval, over 120 stalls offering antiques and collectables from all over Australia. public addmission just $2 kids free,opening hours 8.00am till 5.00pm.Stall holders $75 with FREE CAMPING on site. great public and stall holder amenities, ATMs in town ample parking lots to see and do plus and antique fair, to boot

Further Details: www.maldoncollectables.com

It’s been a wonderful year for us all and I hope that the new year brings you all that you require and desire!

One thing that collecting antique memorial and sentimental jewellery can teach us is to treasure those around us, savour every moment you have with your loved ones and relish those to come. We’re all lucky to have what we do and now is a good time to reflect upon that and learn from what has come before, so we can use the knowledge of the past to apply in the future. I have a feeling that there are some wonderful moments to come this year, so savour the moment and have a great 2011!

Over at my website Art of Mourning, I’ve got a reasonably comprehensive list of the essential books to buy if you like the old jewellery and I’ll repost them here with some brief thoughts:

Bell, Jeanenne., Collector’s Encyclopedia of Hairwork Jewellery, 1998, Collector Books (Amazon)
Bell’s book on hairwork jewellery is a nice overview of the form and gives many random facts, I feel that it’s a necessary book to have for references (especially with the catalogues in the back) and her knowledge of hair weaves really comes in handy when you’re evaluating pieces. Her writing doesn’t discuss much about the historical context of the pieces or the references, but it is a nice collection of facts.

Burke, L., The Illustrated Language of Flowers, 1856, A. Routledge & Co.
Rather essential if you’re keen on learning all about the classification of sentimental symbolism. Also helpful if you’re an art critique, as the symbolism was quite transient across mediums.

Burns, Stanley., Sleeping Beauty Memorial Photography in America, 1990, Twelvetrees Press
An absolutely wonderful overlook of its time and subject. Burns quite rightly narrows his gaze to American photography and really excels at an academic and also entertaining view of photography (for the layman and scholar).

Bury, Shirley., An Introduction to Sentimental Jewellery, 1985, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office (Amazon)
Bury is one of the foremost writers and academics on the subject of sentimental jewellery and even this quick introduction to sentimental jewellery puts anything I’ve ever written to shame. She has a wonderful way of knowing her subject, balancing it with its time and giving it perfect historical context in relation to other jewellery, culture and society. Magnificent!

Campbell, Mark. (Kliot, J & K, ed)., The Art of Hairwork Hair Braiding and Jewelry of Sentiment with Catalog of Hair Jewellery, 1989, Lacis Publications
You probably shouldn’t be reading this site if you haven’t got a copy, downloaded a copy or at least have seen pages copied in other books.

A great look into not only the hairweaving process, but the industry and society of the time.

This book is also a wonderful reference for your hairwork jewellery – matching your pieces to the book will give you a very good insight into how they were constructed.

Coombs, Katherine., The Portrait Miniature in England, 1998. V&A Publications (Amazon)
This book gets into the depth of the miniature portrait and also is very approachable. If you want to look at miniatures and their relation to society and other jewellery, go get it. In another post, you’ll see a beautiful companion to this book based purely on American miniature portraits (more on that another day), so if you have this book, you’ve got a wonderful overview of early modern portraits. For those who just like a good picture, beautiful images abound!

Cooper, D., Battershill, N., Victorian Sentimental Jewellery, 1972, David & Charles LTD (Amazon)
Cooper’s approach to sentimental jewellery is also a nice overview of sentimental jewellery and it’s wisely focused directly upon Victorian. This book doesn’t aim too board, so it can focus upon the many different variations of Victorian jewellery and its symbolism. A great reference if you were wonderful what peripheral symbols were in Victorian jewellery and their inception. This covers jet and everything in between.

DeLorme, Maureen., Mourning Art and Jewelry, 2004, Schiffer Publishing (Amazon)
DeLorme’s views on peripheral funeralia are wonderful and a joy to read. This is very much for the new collector and also a good reference for the veteran. Her approach, while global in intent, exceeds at giving an American perspective. Great references, images and more! Go get it if you haven’t.

Instant Karma

July 17, 2010

Anyone been to the fairs this weekend yet? If not, get going (doesn’t matter if it’s the Melbourne ones or others around the world near you), get collecting!

If you’ve been to one, share your thoughts below!

There comes a point after collecting over so many years that you feel that you’ve seen it all and you’ve got nowhere left to go.

The unfortunate reality of being a collector is having too much passion for a subject. Certainly, people say that I’m somewhat obsessive (me? perish the thought!), but I find that my focus on old jewellery and items sometimes undulates between being more important than food/shelter and then turns into something that can be dreadfully annoying or in my way.

What’s a lad to do? I often follow this course of action:

Flirt with other items
What? Leave behind the mourning and sentimental for a while? You can’t be serious! Yes, I actually began by collecting Victorian silver and that’s where I often go when I’m feeling a little jaded about all that excessive hairwork around the house. I find that looking at other things makes you appreciate the love for your one and only passion and increases you knowledge of other areas and can also open up your perception to new experiences.

Look into other forms of history
Be it a concurrent history to the items that you’re collecting, this will only open up more knowledge about the society of the time. If you like Victorian, read more Dickens, find old newspapers or academic papers on the subject. Challenge what you know with new ideas.

Abstain
Yes, this is the hardest one. Don’t wear any jewellery, don’t look at any other jewellery, don’t go to antique shops or fairs. Put it all out of your head and dedicate yourself to other pursuits. When you come back, you’ll want more (trust me).

Catalogue your items
Think you have it all? Not even a museum has it all. Think you know it all? I doubt any human ever will. Go to your pieces and catalogue them by age, style or any arbitrary way that will give you new insight and appreciation of them. I guarantee you’ll see holes in your collection and that passion will fire you back into action!

Yes, this is very broad, but I’ve tried all these things and here I am writing about old jewellery every day. Always be the student, wary collector, there are hundreds of years to look upon and time is on your side.

Book Suggestions

May 24, 2010

I’m in desperate need of some new reading matter; have any of you got any suggestions for a lad?

Comment below!

At what point is your collection just a return on investment? As I’ve mentioned before, a lot of people suggest that the only reason to collect is to gain more money, that makes very little sense to me, you may as well be talking to me in Mongolian. But, I could see a point that even in the darkest moments of my life when the jewellery may have to be offloaded for some horrible crisis (though I’d sooner lose a limb than a piece of jewellery).

What’s your threshold? Are these pieces transient or is your collection like your best friend? Comment below!

Question of the Day

May 1, 2010

By now, you may have noticed that I do like the old things, but what I want to know is what got you into collecting? Post below!

What Turns You On?

April 25, 2010

QuestionWell, it’s pretty obvious that I quite like the mourning jewels and if you’re here, there’s no doubt that you do as well.

But of all the things you collect, what’s your speciality? Are you an expert in Victorian silver? Horology? Regional American needlework?

Comment below and tell all!

The One That Got Away

April 21, 2010

Once upon a time I was travelling the continent and happened upon a small shop on the outskirts of an even smaller city.

Being a lad who still has a mediocre grasp of the English language, I was bumbling around this European city with mostly sign language and exaggerated facial gestures.

Nevertheless, I found this small shop that was overcrowded with collectables, dust and dirt. The acrid air hung heavy with mould and dampness. My little heart raced with excitement, as I felt there was a treasure to be found.

After thirty minutes of rifling through cardboard boxes and other assorted bric-a-brac, I was resigned to leaving empty handed. I walked out, rather jaded.

I had lunch in a café not very far away and decided to walk back past the old store. It was shut, but I thought I’d look in the window. And there I saw it. A beautiful neo-classic ring, buried under silverware, broken picture frames and pottery. The piece looked dusty, but otherwise in good condition. It was the unmistakeable weeping widow beneath the willow with the tomb in the centre. The piece looked to be in relief, with the tomb itself built up.

After my heart started beating again, I walked to the door and knocked. No answer. For the rest of the afternoon, I travelled back and forth waiting for them to reopen. I even continued to after sundown.

The following day, I was there at dawn. Still closed. All through the day I continued to stalk the property (I’m surprised the police weren’t called). Still nothing.

The tragedy was that I had to depart that city the following day. They never opened, even after trying to talk to the locals to see if they knew who owned the store.

So, my question is, have you ever lost out to that ideal piece? As collectors, sometimes you have to learn to let things go because it wasn’t meant to be. For you, what’s the one that got away?

Changes in the collecting landscape of Melbourne, Australia owe a lot to the new generation of collectors and the shifting focus from Antique Centres as museums, to multi-faceted warehouses containing junk/vintage/retro objects (who would have known that He-Man figure or M&M dispenser would be worth money?) to the antique.

Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t Be Emo!

April 5, 2010

People always ask me what I do for a living and after I tell them what I ‘do’, I assault them with my jewellery history. This, in turn, makes them shuffle awkwardly in their seat, cough, look around, eventually realised they’re pinned and their eyes glaze over, where they no doubt go to a land with food, alcohol and nude members of the opposite sex. After two hours of assailing someone with my passions and falling out of the trance, I look down at the unwitting corpse-like vegetable below and wonder ‘what put them off?’

Well, usually, the thing that first puts them off is ‘yes, I have many examples of human hair’, from there, they expect me to be rolled out in a full-face covering mask and talk about fava beans and Chianti. What people don’t understand is that their great-grandparents lived within this marvellous paradigm of mourning society, where people would spend their last penny on a decent burial to save face for their family. Where their great-grandmothers wore black to represent the virtue of the family in perpetual mourning! Now, however, I feel it is my duty to at least demystify a lot of these fears and modern concepts of what is morbid and rather disgusting to some.

A lot of the culture that has appropriated death since the late 1970s has bore down quite a negative influence on collecting memorial jewellery and a lot of people think of it immediately as ‘goth’. So much for historical, cultural or even ethnographic. The truth to the matter is that this is based upon love. Love for collecting, love for art, love for history, love for our past. This is the most magnificent act of love that someone could bestow upon another – the act of wearing a little bit of them around your neck, in a picture, in a ring. This is a beautiful thing and something to be relished.

Unfortunately, morning jewels are borne upon the concept of death, be it modern or historical. Having spent much time with many jewellers, I’ve seen the concept of a father, mother, brother, sister, wife or husband come in to a shop and purchase/have created a piece with the intent of that holding a loved one’s hair and this is only in the past 10 years!

Yes, the primary basis for what we collect still resonates as a very real thing for many people, these jewels did hold the lives of the person who they were dedicated to (primarily for the person who wore them) and that validates the beauty of them all the more.

People ask me why do I have so much and why don’t I wear it all? I’m the caretaker of these things, they belong to the person who they were dedicated to / who commissioned them. I’m just a link in a chain and I hope they live on for hundreds of years to come.

I have an honest secret to share and it shames me as much as it thrills me.

I don’t know a damn thing about antique clocks.

Yes, I’ve researched any that have flirted with mourning or sentimental, that’s just what I do, but I’m endlessly fascinated by horology. Everything from the way clocks adapted popular art and fashion (just like jewellery) to their developing machinery to the very sound they make. I just love them.

I own several 19th century watches and a few very early 20th century ones as well, currently, I’m looking to get my hands on a nice mantle clock.

So, where do I begin (please post in the comments if you have any suggestions as well)? Well, so far I’ve spotted pieces that I like, spoken about them with dealers and gone to the books to study them all, from the maker, to the place where they were constructed to their materials.

So, should I buy one because it suits me the best? Absolutely, and I will. However, I still want to learn more and absorb as much knowledge about these wonder items as possible. Suggestions for books and further reading would be helpful and in the meantime, I’ll document the pursuit of knowledge in later posts!

ebay is the Way?

March 14, 2010

I wrote in a previous post about the decline of the venerable Melbourne antique centres during the early naughties and I think one of the strongest reasons for this decline is related to eBay.

And why not? ebay is a global forum for sellers to compete on prices, it gives the buyer instant gratification (been looking all over town for that Georgian miniature and nothing has come up for years? Check eBay, it’ll be there) and that collector’s bug can be squashed with the push of a button.

So is it right that when you walk into a store and see a piece that you know has an extra digit on the price tag when you’ve just seen it for nothing online? Of course it is, that’s the seller’s prerogative. You don’t have to buy from a shop or eBay, you’re a grown person, you can do what you want.

But consider this; the piece on eBay is being judged by four or five dimly lit pictures and the price is too good to be true. A physical shop will often open the cabinet and let you handle the piece, letting you scrutinise it for yourself.

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Well, it’s that time of the week where it’s time to venture forth into the world and discover some treasures. Today will be Daylesford, Geelong and perhaps even Ballarat (again!). What will come of it? Find out in a future post!

Wearing hairwork isn’t something that I would recommend as a daily habit. My only caveat for that is that if the hair is worn as a memento, under glass or protected in some way. Why, I hear you ask? Well, if you want to keep that antique hair supple and lasting another 100 years, you’d best keep it climate controlled and away from environmental harms.

‘Hayden, wearing hairwork keeps is pliable through the oils in your skin!’ a dealer once told me. Hairwork has been treated before weaving, a method which has kept it physical since the day it was cut from a loved one’s head (or the head of an European nun who dedicated it for money). From experience, it is true that this is the case, you can keep your 150 year old hairwork quite mailable, but you will also experience discolouration to the hair and your sweat will slick it down. If you have a beautiful weave, which may have originally been intended to wear over a costume and you’re wearing it at the neck on a warm day or at a function, it’s likely to gain some of your essence upon its coating. When it comes to cleaning this off, I haven’t had a the heart to take any of my hairwork to ‘the cleaners’ as it were, but if anyone has a good method for this, please post or let me know.

Hairwork in a locket or ring memento (or any other jewellery memento where it is sealed off) is quite logical. Here, a treated (or even untreated) piece of hair can be kept for years and worn without any real fear of being ruined. I’ve worn an untreated piece of hair on my wedding ring finger each day for the past ten years and I’ve seen no deterioration to the hair itself. I wash my hands with impunity and even on 40+ Celsius degree days I’m as comfortable as can be.

Bracelets are much the same as necklaces, please be aware that any hairwork touching the skin wasn’t immediately intended to be so. Respect the era in which it was made, these pieces had a reason for being and any excess wearing will expedite their exit from the planet. If you wear something for its pride of place or for its sentimental value, then that is for your prerogative, but if you have a piece that is unrelated, then consider its history and for whom it was made. Love and appreciate it and it will love you back by lasting several more generations.

Shame On You

March 9, 2010

To follow up to my last post ‘Fool Me Twice…‘, I do recall the very same dealer venting his lack of business management upon me again.

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If you’ve ever looked at a piece and wondered about it being real or not, or if there’s any doubt in your mind about it being correct, then you have a definite cause for concern and if it’s not what you want or you don’t like it aesthetically, perhaps it’s best to put it back.

But for some of us, you have to have it. Fair enough, you’re only human.

Let us take a quick look at this piece. It looks good on the face of it, but have a look at the solder at the base of the memento on the pin. Should that solder be there? The photo doesn’t really do it justice, so can we really tell?

Also, look at the edging to the gold around the memento. It seems to be undulating. Concerned yet? It’s very easy to be reactionary when it comes to looking at jewellery; you can either swing very hard against or for an opinion, but it’s always safe to be impartial. Unless something is undoubtedly incorrect and it’s being claimed otherwise, then it’s easy to give judgement. Otherwise, if you’re left to your own opinion without any other input, then you must question yourself.

Is it a marriage? Is it correct? The elongated oval shape of the memento and the the eternity twist/buckle do look like they go together, but that solder does raise questions. Perhaps it had damage or a hard life? I think that a piece like this is much more fun to question, because telling if it is or isn’t from the quality of the images and the subtle issues to its build is such a delicate process. I would be more wary of anyone who can swoop in and pass instant judgement, having a preternatural insight like that is incorrect. Question why it was built, who it may have been for, when you believe it was made.

Perhaps it is, or perhaps it needs further investigation…

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