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

Jonathan Dere 1796 Brooch

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

Born 1738
Died 1796

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

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

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

Jonathan Dere 1796 Brooch

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

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

1.Jonathan Dere 17962.

Jonathan Dere 1796

3.Jonathan Dere 1796

Courtesy: Sarah Nehama

I’ve been getting this question a lot and it’s currently buried in the Art of Mourning Archives, so today is a refresh of the article for all the new readers!
One of the easiest ways to spot the age of a ring is from the shank. Don’t believe me? Well, you’re in for a shock. What’s the best way to tell a piece verging on Rococo from Baroque? If you’re excellent with your Stuart Crystals, then you know your stuff, but for the rest of us simple folk, we need a good point of reference.

Read on for a quick guide!

Read the rest of this entry »

Lord Hayden Peters on The Collectors ABC

Yes, jewellery collectors and those who fancy an odd curiosity – you can now download ABC’s Collectors with my segment (shot in my ‘Victorian Room’) or the whole episiode which has me giving an interview in the studio itself.

I think the whole episode is the best, as you get a little bit more Lord Hayden for your bandwidth, but I’ll let you be the judge:

Link > Direct Segment (MP4)WMV

Full episode with download is coming soon. This one has my in-studio interview!

As a thank you to all, I’ll be having daily updates to Art of Mourning, with some wonderful discussions of historical pieces. Keep visiting for more, join the RSS feed or join the mailing list!

Hold the Shank

June 19, 2010

One of the easiest ways to spot the age of a ring is from the shank. Don’t believe me? Well, you’re in for a shock. What’s the best way to tell a piece verging on Rococo from Baroque? If you’re excellent with your Stuart Crystals, then you know your stuff, but for the rest of us simple folk, we need a good point of reference.

Read on for a quick guide!

Read the rest of this entry »

Cause For Concern?

May 2, 2010

Now, here is a piece that has caused a lot of distress to many people in the past. If you’re a French jewellery historian, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The first thing to recognise is the translation of the piece, which in its original French is: “pour vous tout seul” that roughly comes out as “all to yourself” (please forgive this horrid translation). A dealer in Paris attempted to sell this piece to me with the understanding that it was a mourning piece. When the lid is closed, the appreciation is one of a skull, however, since then I’ve known a little better.

The inscription as well as the motif (plus the faith, hope and charity), lends itself to being more familiar to marriage and not death. It was told to be documented in a French jewellery book and belonging to that of a French Marquis.

But let’s look at the facts. The stones used are diamonds (eyes), rubies (shank and interior) and the countenance is more that of a face rather than that of a skull. The bezel has a rosette formation and the translation is dedicated to someone. You have stones which are more used for precious sentimentality, so that doesn’t equate to mourning or otherwise, you have a face that may or may not be a skull (it’s been worn down) and the dedication is leaning towards subject sentimentality. It also has white, black and green enamel.

So what is it? A good question. On the whole, let’s look at that rosette bezel. 1760 was its prime, but you could get it back to 1740 if you were keen. Is it French? Why, yes it is. Are French pieces different to English? Quite a lot. How different? They were different cultures and one preferred to be ahead of the other in that respect. Could this have been for an English person living in France? Not according to its provenance, but perhaps (though unlikely). Why? Well, the piece was seemingly constructed in France, it bears no other hallmarks and has French writing. Ok, so it may be French, but is it mourning? Ah, what do you think of the face of the piece? It looks like a smiling face or Venetian mask. Anything else? Well, the face has dark around the eyes near the diamonds. Look at the head and chin, those areas are worn down. Why is this? Those areas may have been worn down due to age. So, what are those areas wearing down? Metal or enamel? Enamel. Hm, so how do you know what it looked like before the enamel was worn down? I don’t. So why impose your theory? Because the face is white. Ah, so a skull and a mask can both be white? Of course. Then, we’re at an impasse.

The most telling part of this wonderful piece is the inscription. The construction of a hinged face is wonderful, as well as the stones and inscription show a wonderfully made piece. The quality put into this piece is worthy of Continental work. Often, French and German pieces didn’t conform to the British pieces and had quite different symbolism. This piece also uses other flavours of enamel, which were quite uncommon for British pieces. Basically, for a French piece, this is quite sound. Back to the inscription and the “pour vous tout seul” once again hints towards it being dedicated to someone and not for anyone in particular, or at least for not a general audience (like a family). The leaning towards this piece being directly for sentimentality and perhaps marriage is certainly open, but I’ll leave it to your deduction to follow up the clues.

As quickly as the technology spread, jewellery and fashion were fast to adopt photography. The wearing of a photograph became linked to mainstream fashion; its use as a signifier of social status as well as a personal device of memorialising a loved was a revolution in the concept of memorial / sentimental jewellery. Worn on the outside or in, closed or open, photography and jewellery began a relationship that still continues to this day.

Replacing the miniature as a cost effective means of holding on to the memory of a loved one, lockets and pendants adapted to accommodate photography quickly. Following on from the 1830s, jewellery was becoming smaller and more adaptable for modern fashion, lockets and pendants weren’t as obvious in costume as they had previously been. By the 1840s to 60s, small lockets were accommodating photography and adapting styles as fashion permitted. Wearing the picture of a loved one over the heart was one of the most powerful symbols of affection between people; it was a secretive function and transcended any particular fashionable style.

In brooches, photographs began replace hair mementos, or often have hair on one side with a swivel to a photograph on the reverse (1850s and 60s). Even rings were not exempt from photographs, with signet rings opening to an image underneath, and eventually mourning pieces of the 1930s and 40s would be of Bakelite with photographs placed on the top. By the 1880s, the ubiquitous nature of the photograph was starting to replace traditional items of sentimentality, notably hairwork was declining in use as well as miniature portraits had almost become obsolete for common use by the 1860s.

Further Reading:

> Photography in Jewellery Part 1
> Photography in Jewellery Part 2
> Photography in Jewellery Part 3
> Photography in Jewellery Part 4
> Photography in Jewellery Part 5
> Photography in Jewellery Part 6
> Photography in Jewellery Part 7

The Great War was the most horrific moments in recorded history; between 1914 and 1918, with an estimated 65,000,000 casualties (including those from disease).One would expect from this catastrophic event that there would be an incredible amount of mourning jewellery produced. After all, the height of the industry was only around thirty years beforehand, the style wasn’t completely dead, with older and more traditional family members keeping the older customs alive. The jewellery had fallen out of favour, but here was an event which could have spurred on a revival. Why didn’t it?

One way to look at it was the costs of production on a ravaged Europe. Items that would have been gold were now a luxury more than ever in a post-war Europe. But there were always ways to commemorate a loved one and all it took was a base metal with the same styles to revive older mourning styles.

Modern styles were just that much more popular in the post-war period, there was a larger movement to be progressive and not as retroactive as the Victorians had been. New technologies, art forms and an embracing of a more affordable, physically mobile culture opened the world up in new ways. The United States was also now emerging as the dominant power and modern seemed to be the direction the world was taking.

But, what about keepsakes? Well, there was trench art, where soldiers and others involved with the war, made miscellaneous decorative items from whatever materials were around them. Items of this kind can be considered a form of memorial, but it’s such a broad topic that it requires further investigation.

Advances in watch making technology pushed the watch from the pocket to the wrist, leaving an abundance of chains, which some gave to their loved ones as a memento or keepsake. These could be worn around the neck, a style which is still popular today.

Australia 1911 Mourning RingMourning jewellery was still being produced into the 1910s, but in far fewer quantities, styles became simpler without outward mementoes and statements (in memory of), to become simple onyx and gold signet rings. When focusing upon these pieces, one must be careful to not confuse fashion with mourning, as the lines are blurred.

There was a small resurgence of Bakelite rings housing photos of the loved one, but this came later. For the 1910s through mid 1920s, the style that had been fashion of the 1880s was almost completely gone.

George Washington was a unique individual. It’s redundant to speak about his importance to United States history and rather than telling of the of his personal diaries (which I’ve interacted with), I’d rather focus upon this most wonderful ring:
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Charles I Mourning Ring FrontThis piece dedicated to Charles I is a display of affection that would eventually generate the popularity of the mourning custom. Looking at the piece, Charles’ eyes are turned upwards, which confirms the piece was created after his death. Pieces of this quality are historically important for their relevance to English history and in mourning jewellery. Incredibly rare, other examples can be seen in the V&A Museum. Though there is repair work to the shank, the style of the ring is a good indication of the mid 17th Century.

Rings of the time, particularly after the death of Charles I in 1649, used much of the memento mori symbolism (more on that in another post), but the difference of putting the portrait of Charles I (above), or pieces with the initials CR, shows a distinct change of memento mori as a statement to one of reverence.Charles I Mourning Ring Back Note that Charles’ eyes are facing upwards, which denotes the death of the subject. Earlier portraits (during his lifetime) had the eyes facing forward. These eyes are looking to the heavens. Pieces like this were created during the royalist movement (and beyond) and would eventually spur on the English Restoration leading to the instalment of Charles II.

The distribution of rings had been written into wills of the late 16th and early 17th Centuries. Most famously, William Shakespere in 1616 declared that in his will that his daughter and wife should have rings stating “Love My Memory” . This custom, though used, was not as popular as the latter half of the 17th Century would prove, though is provides a good basis for what was to come. Posy rings, typically bands with inscriptions, were popular for sentimental purposes during the 17th Century.

Charles I Mourning Ring InsideCountry: England
Year: c. 1649
Dedication: Charles I “prepared be to follow me”

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