Mourning Bracelet Clasp

Bracelet clasps often showcase some of the most presentable and intricate sentimental art available from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This is related to their use in fashion and how they were presented outwardly, as well as their grand size. While rings tended to have different variations in their artistic depictions, from the ready-made and easily customised neoclassical ideal (which tend to be more naive), bracelet clasps generally hold a higher level of detail. As we’ll see in the coming weeks, I’ll show some interpretations of the bracelet clasp and how they were worn.

The clasp is special because of its inscription; “Angels Weep When Children Mourn”. This is not just exceptional artwork for its form, but also sentimental in its child dedication. Note the sepia art and how crisp it is. A piece like this is rare to be found in a bracelet clasp and even more so in its condition.

Courtesy: Barbara Robbins
Year: c. 1780-90
Dedication: Angels Weep When Children Mourn

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Because we’re revisiting some fashion this week, let’s take another look at this spectacular miniature:

Let me begin today’s lesson by stating that to some degree, mourning jewels are fundamentally sentimental and quite personal. There is little to no doubt about that. Grief isn’t something that can be measured by price, it’s not an affectation and it’s not something that any layer of pomp can prove justification to.

18th Century Mourning MIniature with Contemporary WomanWhen it comes to jewels, no matter what the quality, they were worn for the ideal of grief, regardless of their quality and when you see a piece that not only defies the mainstream, or tradition, of popular at a certain period, you know you’re looking at something special. Does that make the piece any more sentimental than any other mass produced item from a catalogue? I think not.

This piece rises above the expectations of the time in which is was made, it produces a bold statement about the person who held/wore/commissioned it and it demands an immediacy of emotion that was rarely captured in miniature paintings, an immediacy and proximity to the subject that perhaps only photographs could manage to take.

Read the rest of this entry »

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

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

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

Urn Brooch with Damage / c.1810

Urn Brooch with Damage / c.1810

Urn Brooch with Damage / c.1810

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

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

Willow and Urn Pin 1811

Willow and Urn Pin 1811

Urn Willow Onyx Mourning Ring

If you know me well enough, you may think this is hypocritical, but sometimes I often buy jewellery to wear. Yes, as a person who is based in conservation and education, I love my urn/mourning motifs and this one grabbed me. I was in London looking down upon a cabinet of jewellery and it just spoke to my heart. As you can see, there are no dedications on it, which make it safe for me to wear and not feel that I’m harming the memory of a person.

Urn Willow Onyx Mourning Ring

Urn Willow Onyx Mourning RingWant to read a bit more on the use of the willow in jewellery symbolism? Then why not click over here for more!

Wow, take a deep breath and enjoy this wonderful miniature from Barbara Robbins – if you like what you see, why not visit and learn more about wonderful memorial miniatures!

Mourning Miniature in Original Box

Mourning Miniature in Original Box

Mourning Miniature in Original Box

Let me begin today’s lesson by stating that to some degree, mourning jewels are fundamentally sentimental and quite personal. There is little to no doubt about that. Grief isn’t something that can be measured by price, it’s not an affectation and it’s not something that any layer of pomp can prove justification to.

18th Century Mourning MIniature with Contemporary WomanWhen it comes to jewels, no matter what the quality, they were worn for the ideal of grief, regardless of their quality and when you see a piece that not only defies the mainstream, or tradition, of popular at a certain period, you know you’re looking at something special. Does that make the piece any more sentimental than any other mass produced item from a catalogue? I think not.

This piece rises above the expectations of the time in which is was made, it produces a bold statement about the person who held/wore/commissioned it and it demands an immediacy of emotion that was rarely captured in miniature paintings, an immediacy and proximity to the subject that perhaps only photographs could manage to take.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sepia Ring

A prime example of Neoclassicism and white enamel

If you know me, you know I like my white enamel pieces, often because of their immediate sentimentality and their ability to speak volumes without even the use of a standard memorial motif.

Sarah Jervis White Enamel and Sepia Mourning Ring, 1777

With the one colour, the life of a person is represented; virginal, pure, often young and innocent. Black has its obvious connotations, but there’s something infinitely touching about the white enamel, as death is a certainty any way you look at it.

Which brings me to this wonderful example of a sepia ring with the white enamel. Let’s have a look at some of the obvious features.

Firstly, there is the white enamel, I’ve written about this subject quite a bit, but at first glance, we can see that the person (in this case, Sarah Jervis) was unmarried. She died at the age of 24, which was no young age for its time, so there the fact that the ring was constructed opens up the possibility for a decidedly well-off, larger sized family. Sarah Jervis White Enamel and Sepia Mourning Ring, 1777An assumption would be that the ring was commissioned by a member of her family, as there is no personal dedication of the ring to a specific person (often inscribed underneath the bezel), but the ring has been polished quite a bit and such dedication may have been lost (if it was ever there). I would lean towards this not having been there, as several rings for Sarah would quite possibly have been constructed, this is conjecture, however.

Sarah Jervis White Enamel and Sepia Mourning Ring, 1777Next we have the year of construction, which would be around 1777. Combined with the white enamel and the connection of the shank to the bezel, we have a lovely look at the evolving style of jewellery from the mid 18th century.

Sarah Jervis White Enamel and Sepia Mourning Ring, 1777

The curve to the inner shank borrows from the earlier Rococo bands, popular in the 1740s to the 1760s. Its clear connection to the bezel shows no tampering, so it’s in quite honest, solid shape.

Then there is the sepia on top. Painted on ivory and set under convex crystal, this depicts a well defined urn underneath the willow tree. Standard motifs for death and sorrow for a loved one, but this is quite delicately painted.

Sarah Jervis White Enamel and Sepia Mourning Ring, 1777Overall, this ring is quite typical for its time, this oval/band combination running parallel to the navette shape. The white enamel makes it particularly special and I would like to thank the ring’s owner, Jim Williams, for opening it up for discussion!

Courtesy: Jim Williams
Dedication: Sarah Jervis / OB: 25 July 1777

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