In last week's blog, we looked at the impressive range of Georgian mourning rings. This week, we tackle non-rings - including mourning pendants, brooches, slides, lockets, and more. Slides were popular during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as mourning jewels and were usually worn on ribbons around the wrist or the neck. From 1760, there was a new vogue for memorial medallions/lockets. These became especially popular in Britain, though the fashion soon spread across Europe.


A mourning locket with a gold frame enclosing a composition in hair, metal, and seed pearls on opaline glass of an urn with the initials FW beneath a willow, England, 1775-1800

©Victoria & Albert Museum, London



Death was often on the minds of those living in the 18th and 19th centuries. With difficult childbirths, high infant mortality rates, and diseases rife, it was rare for lives not to have been touched by loss. However, these were lives equally marked by love, sentimentality, and affection, and it is the combination of these things that culminated in mourning jewelry - offering the wearer remembrance, comfort, and consolation throughout their time of grief.



The Legacy of Stuart Crystals


As mentioned in Part I, Stuart Crystals were commemorative jewels for Charles I that initiated the mourning jewelry movement, marking a shift from general jewels focused on death to personal commemorative pieces. Many early pieces of Georgian mourning jewelry used a similar design to Stuart Crystal pieces, taking inspiration also from even earlier 'Momento Mori' pieces. This was true not only of rings but also for pendants and other jewels.


Early 18th century Stuart Crystal heart pendant with angels and crown. The symbolism of two angels/cherubs flanking another symbol is reminiscent of late-17th century Memento Mori motifs. The crown in this piece alludes to the loved one being thought of as ‘royalty’ and in many cases was reserved for royalty itself. - Via The Art of Mourning



A mourning slide in the shape of a double heart with faceted crystals and a center suspension loop, as well as two back loops for a ribbon. This locket contains the hair of both Mary (Partridge) Belcher and her husband, Governor Jonathan Belcher of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It commemorates Mary, who died in 1736 (aged 'near' 51). English, 1737 - Massachusetts Historical Society via incollect.com




Double-sided Mourning Jewels


In some rare cases, pieces of Georgian mourning jewelry had an outward face that appeared to be an ordinary, everyday piece of jewelry (sentimental or otherwise), while the hidden face contained a mourning piece with mourning imagery, a dedication, initials on hair, or a motto. Sometimes these may have been worn so that the mourning element was known only to the wearer, pressed close to the skin as a constant, private reminder.


A beautiful French mourning locket with rubies surrounding a ring of pearls, surrounding the beating cabochon garnet heart. On the reverse is a blue enamel border, often used for a loved one who was considered ‘royalty’, inscribed 'Rien Sans Amitie' (nothing without friendship). Inside is a sepia depiction of a tree, typical in neoclassical mourning designs. The relegation of this design to the back of the piece is unusual, and the locket was likely worn so that the mourning element was known only to the wearer, pressed close to the heart. - Via The Art of Mourning, Courtesy: Barbara Robbins



A double-sided Georgian mourning pendant with a frame of 15k rose gold. On one side is a finely detailed sepia painting of two young lovers, the man clutching the arm of the reluctantly departing woman. The fields of wheat behind them is a biblical reference to Passover and the last supper of Christ, making the wheat a symbol of faith in the redemption and resurrection of souls. The reverse of the pendant contains neatly interwoven hair of brown and dark blond, along with a border of blue enamel and the initials DJH in reticulated gold. - Via Heart of Hearts Jewels



A navette-shaped Georgian mourning locket made in silver with a frame of rose-cut diamonds and flat-cut emeralds. The glass-fronted locket holds a lock of hair beneath a silver and diamond sheaf of wheat bound together with a bow. Again, wheat is used here as a Biblical symbol of faith in the redemption and resurrection of souls. The reverse side is engraved 'Carne [Caroline] Cumming died at Paris 11 Augt [August] 1822.' - From EricaWeiner



An English, double-sided mourning pendant c.1795-1805. On one side is a 3/4 profile portrait miniature of a woman in a white muslin chemise, her face bearing an enigmatic half-smile. The reverse bears a mourning miniature of an urn crafted with mother-of-pearl, gold wire, and seed pearls, set atop a bed of gum-bound hair, headed by the initials 'RE' and shadowed by a painted weeping willow, all against a ground of foiled opaline flint glass (paste). - Via Heart of Hearts Jewels





Hairwork in Georgian Mourning Jewelry


While hairwork became most popular in the Victorian era, it was in practice from at least the seventeenth century onwards and was used fairly regularly in Georgian mourning jewelry. Hair was often incorporated into the background of the piece, or the design itself, frequently plaited or in the shape of a bow, or held in a compartment at the back of a locket - capturing something deeply personal and lasting from the deceased and weaving it into a wearable memory of them.


A late 18th-century octagonal mourning pendant made from engine-turned gold, with two glass compartments. The upper one contains bows of hair and seed pearl against a ground of translucent blue enamel. The lower one is painted ivory representing a lady seated in a landscape writing on a circular plinth which is set with gold wire and seed pearls. - Museum of London



A gold mourning pendant, the frame with plaited hairwork enclosing a hair wheatsheaf (the Vasa crest) bound with a diamond band on blue glass. At the back an inscription in seed pearls, 'Sir William Chambers died March 1796, Aged 74.' England, dated 1796 - ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London



A mourning locket with a gold case enclosing an ornamental motif in curled hair-work with seed-pearls and gold wire on a blue enameled guilloché ground with a pendant loop and a border with flowers and leaves in chased gold relief. The reverse has an engine-turned decoration with an oval panel with an inscription in the center with a border of chased gold flower and leaves. Made by John Willkinson, c.1826.

© The Trustees of the British Museum



Georgian 9k gold hair mourning locket/pendant, c.1820 - From CJ Antiques via Pinterest



A mourning pendant for Edward Cary Johnston. The cloudy background (mourning) and stylized dress (purity) used in the miniature portrait on the front indicate that the subject of the portrait is deceased. A sad note has survived with the miniature: 'The hair of my firstborn beloved Child who lost his life by accident when playing at the breakfast table of my dear Aunt Lady Jane Cary.' Edward Cary Johnston was two years and eight months old when he died, on Feb 20th, 1789. To express their grief and eternal love for Edward, his parents had his hair woven into an intricate belt that surrounds an additional lock of the child’s hair bound with a “bow” of pearls. - Cincinnati Art Museum



A memorial locket for Emma Camilla. On the front is a scene of a weeping young woman being led from a tomb by an angel pointing to heaven. The gesture is meant to signify hope and allude to life after death. Chopped hair forms the grass. The back features a feathered sheaf of blond hair, accented with gold wire and an enameled band inscribed Emma Camilla with a forget-me-not in the center. The gold case is bordered with faceted cut-steel beads. - Cincinnati Art Museum



A Georgian hair art memorial/mourning stick pin with braided hair behind glass in a gold setting and surrounded by seed pearls and garnets. Early 19th century. - Via 1stdibs



A late-Georgian hairwork mourning brooch, mounted in 14-18k gold, the hair clipping has been fanned and curled into an elegant wave shape with a tiny seed pearl 'clasp' at the base, and the reverse is monogrammed “AB”. - Via Alembic Rare Books



Right: 19th-century mourning pendant with a coil of braided hair set behind glass in a filigree-worked gold-filled pendant setting. - Via 1stdibs. Left: Georgian mourning brooch/pendant crafted in 9ct yellow gold holding woven hair inside a closed locket, with a full pearl surround. - From Wharfdale Antiques



Three mourning brooches with plaited hair under glass. Left: An engraved gold brooch set with seed pearls and jet. Engraved, 'S. R. OBT 29 JUNE 1818, AET 61', England, 1818. Middle: Gold brooch set with amethysts and seed pearls, probably England, early 19th century. Right: An engraved gold brooch, enameled and set with half pearls. Engraved, 'Henry Crewe Moseley, born 3d of Jany 1779; died 18th of July...', England, c.1800 - All ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London



Two double border pearl and garnet Georgian mourning brooches. Left: With an intricately woven lock of hair inside a central oval compartment, c.1820. - From Butter Lane Antiques. Right: With plaited hair inside a central rectangular compartment, c.1800 - From Antique Jewellery Group via Ruby Lane.



A Georgian mourning brooch set with large deep purple, oval amethyst stones, around an inner border of seed pearls that encompasses the crystal hair verso panel which contains a lock of plaited hair. From Constantine Rex Ltd



A Georgian graduated natural pearl mourning locket. At the center is a bird’s best of hair with little egglet seed pearls spelling GH. The back opens by way of a hinge. - Antique Animal Jewelry



A late-Georgian/early-Victorian mourning brooch made of many seed pearls that have been finely entwined using clear wife and backed with a carved mother of pearl plaque. In the center is a glass locket compartment with a small lock of hair and a portrait of a gentleman on the reverse. From Jeremy Silverthorne Fine Jewellery Co.





Ribbon Motifs in Georgian Mourning Jewelry


The ribbon motif was one of the most important designs in mid-18th century jewelry, the heart and ribbon design with hairwork being one of the most popular variations on this baroque-rococo design. It was most often used in sentimental love tokens but was also used in mourning jewelry, the twisting ribbon a symbol of eternity and intertwined endless love.


A mourning brooch composed of a silver openwork bow, set with rose and brilliant-cut diamonds and pink sapphires over foil, and enameled gold ribbon, also set with gems and inscribed 'Eliz Eyton OBIT Feb 1754 AET 81', surrounding a hair locket, England, dated 1754

©Victoria & Albert Museum, London



A Georgian heart and ribbon motif mourning locket with a black enamel ribbon border for The Hon Alice Nugent, died aged 80. Inside is an eternity twist of hair inside.

Via The Art of Mourning, Courtesy: Sarah Nehama



A Georgian heart and ribbon motif mourning pendant with a rock crystal heart and a gold and white enamel love knot ribbon, c.1745, in memory of W A(?) Dowse, ob. 14 July 1745.

From @luckandlockets via Instagram



A Georgian heart and ribbon mourning locket, black enamel on one side, white on the other. For Stephen and Sarah Perry who both died in 1747, Sarah aged 19, and Stephen aged 24.

Antique Animal Jewelry



Mourning pendant with the motto - 'je suis con-clue' and on the reverse ‘te suis con-clue’ - literally translating as ‘I am concluded’ and ‘you are concluded’. c.1740-50. - Antique Animal Jewelry




Snake/Ouroboros Designs in Georgian Mourning Jewelry


The snake was a popular symbol in Georgian mourning jewelry - often portrayed devouring its own tail in an 'ouroboros' motif - symbolizing eternity. Although it was frequently associated with marriage, symbolizing eternal love, it was also popular in mourning jewelry for the same reason, as well as signifying the eternal nature of the soul, and the endless cycle of life and death.


Gold mourning brooch with a frame in the form of a serpent (ouroboros, though it's not quite devouring its tail here) set with seed pearls and a ruby enclosing a glass-fronted locket for hair, England, ca.1800.

©Victoria & Albert Museum, London



A Georgian ouroboros crosshatched enamel snake mourning pendant, shown here on a snake link chain, with enamel detailed central panel with urn design in gold and cream surrounded by a border of pearls. The back has a hair panel locket and inscription ‘Eliz Challen died 21 May 1835 aet 25’.

Antique Animal Jewelry





Neoclassical Imagery


In the late 18th-century in Britain, there was a clear shift in style towards neoclassicism. This shift can be seen in the changes in mourning jewelry from baroque and rococo designs or memento mori motifs to neoclassic scenes, often sepia-paintings or 3D depictions using materials like the hair of the departed, seed pearls, and enamel. These scenes frequently depicted motifs such as funerary urns, broken pillars, plinths, classical figures, obelisks, cherubs/angels, and weeping willows.


A late 18th-century mourning pendant featuring a funerary urn on a plinth, rendered in mother-of-pearl, enamel, seed-pearls, and hairwork, against an engine-turned opalescent glass background, the reverse containing a glazed hairwork compartment. - Via Chiswick Auctions



Late 18th-century navette-shaped mourning pendant, the gold frame set with seed pearls. The front compartment contains, in relief on an ivory ground, a monument supporting an urn which is decorated with diamonds, gold banding, swags set with seed pearls, and the monogram ' LL', all below a weeping willow. The back compartment contains plaited hair. Museum of London



A Georgian navette-shaped mourning pendant depicting an urn on a plinth made from hair, adorned with gold wire and seed pearls. In the background stand cypress trees, pointing towards heaven. At the top reads: 'Mary Barkley, Ob 6 June 1787, Ae 49.' On the back is more hair.

From EricaWeiner



Left: A bracelet clasp for a Georgian mourning bracelet, set with seed pearls, ivory painted in watercolour, a miniature of an urn embellished with hair, England, 1775-1800. Right: Enamelled Georgian mourning pendant in the form of an urn, gold, set with amethysts, England, 1770- 1790.

©Victoria & Albert Museum, London



Mourning locket in the form of a funerary urn with seed pearls and amethysts, reverse with a lock of Prince Alfred's hair, who died at only 2 years of age. Inscribed around the edge in gold on white enamel, 'P.ALFRED. BORN 22.SEP 1780 DIED 20 AUG 1782'. Suspension loop.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021




Mourning Mottos


While some mourning mottos were featured on Neoclassical Georgian mourning rings, the extra room afforded by pieces like slides and brooches made mottos and phrases of grief and remembrance even more popular in these Neoclassical pieces. Here are some of the most popularly used mottos, as well as some rarer, more personal examples.



To Bliss


This sentiment is often carried by an angel/cherub hovering above a scene, in combination with another motto or message.


A Georgian sepia mourning pendant depicting a woman seated beside an urn on a plinth, inscribed 'There's rest in Heaven'. She sits beside an oak tree (strength, honor), with a dead branch alluding to mortality and death, and holds a handkerchief in her left hand for protection from the elements and for her tears. The urn and cherub are typical designs for the 1780s, the cherub carrying a banner inscribed 'To Bliss'. To know that a loved one was going ‘to bliss’ in heaven was, and still is, a comfort.

Via The Art of Mourning, Courtesy: Barbara Robbins




not Lost but Gone Before


Early 19th-century gold, painted ivory and hairwork octagonal form pendant inscribed, 'Not Lost But Gone Before' - Via Antiques Trade Gazette



Sepia-painted ivory brooch set in gold, with the motto 'Not lost but gone before', with rows of hair at the bottom of the painting, c.1780. - From Regency World: Georgian Mourning Brooches by Candice Hearn



Late 18th-century mourning brooch/pendant, gold with a plaited hair border, hair in the design, and hair on the reverse. The miniature is ivory painted in watercolour with a woman seated by a tomb bearing the initials 'IG' and inscribed, 'Not lost but gone before'. A cherub above bears a scroll inscribed 'To bliss', England, 1775-1800. - ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London




Affection Weeps, Heaven Rejoices


A bracelet clasp depicting a scene featuring: an angel holding the sentiment 'to bliss'; an urn upon a plinth inscribed, 'affection weeps, heaven rejoices'; a mourning woman; and a frame of cypress and willow trees. This is all within a border of pearls. For Ann Read, died 8th March 1789, aged 76. - Via The Art of Mourning, Courtesy: Barbara Robbins



A double-sided memorial/mourning pendant c.1794, featuring a painted miniature scene with a mourning lady, applied pearl-set plinth with urn finished in enamel, a hairwork weeping willow, and a cherub holding a banner with the words 'Affection Weeps Heaven Rejoices' on the front. The black and gold enamel border sets off the main scene beautifully. On the reverse is a full dedication, to LC ob 2 Feb 1794 aet 77, with hairwork bows and ribbon and set with tiny seed pearls. - From Butter Lane Antiques



A Georgian mourning brooch featuring a weeping woman beside an urn on a pedestal, inscribed 'Affection weeps, heaven rejoices'. To the left of the woman, an angel holds one arm raised heavenward. There is also an anchor, either as a symbol of hope or an indication that the deceased died at sea. The whole scene is surrounded by a blue enamel border. The back contains a panel of woven hair under glass, and reads, 'Harry Scrase Farncombe, obt 31 May 1794, aet 49.' - From @theidolseye via Instagram



A sepia-painted Georgian mourning brooch depicting two women beside a memorial urn atop a plinth with the motto, 'Affection weeps, Heaven rejoices.' One woman leans against the plinth in sorrow, while the other points to the sky above, indicating the deceased has ascended into heaven. An anchor of hope stands in front of her. Tiny bits of hair are strewn at the base of the plinth. Surrounding the painting are bands of black and white enamel, and a border of pastes. The white enamel suggests the death of a child or unmarried adult - From Regency World: Georgian Mourning Brooches by Candice Hearn




Parted with Grief to Meet with Joy


Georgian mourning brooch for Lilly Jennings, who passed away on the 19th January 1795, aged 27. The scene depicts a female mourner, her hand pointing towards the motto on the tombstone, 'Parted with grief to meet with joy'. - Via The Art of Mourning, Courtesy: Barbara Robbins



What I have lost, I hope Heaven has gained


Georgian mourning pendant featuring a woman grieving over a broken column, picked out in gold and very fine seed pearls, indicating a life cut short. At the top is the motto, 'What I have lost, I hope Heaven has gained'. A Cupid hovers above and in the background is a weeping willow and a line of Cypress trees. Underneath is a banner reading '15 June 1789 Died W.A(?)'. - Via Worthpoint




Sacred To...


These were popularly messages like 'Sacred to Friendship', or ' Sacred to the Best of Friends / Husbands / Wives', or 'Sacred to Dear Parents', or some elaboration on these themes.


A Georgian mourning locket with the motto, 'Sacred to the memory of deceas'd friends', c.1790. The 9-carat rose gold border contains a scene depicting an elegant woman leaning against an urn and marble ornament, pointing towards the motto and surrounded by evergreen trees (symbolizing renewal) with a border of tiny natural pearls (representing the purity of the deceased as well as tears shed by those left behind). This scene is surrounded by intricate hairwork with looping knots for everlasting love and a laurel wreath for peace and triumph. At the back, hair of two different colors is woven together (from two friends, though gone, still together in this piece). - From Elizabeth Rose Antiques via Ruby Lane



Georgian sepia-painted ivory mourning locket, set in rose gold. A young woman looks up to a cherub carrying a scroll inscribed, 'To Bliss'. Behind her is a willow, representing grief, with cypress trees pointing towards heaven. The woman leans against a plinth inscribed, 'Sacred to the best of friends', on top of which is an urn. This piece is unusual in that the woman is not an idealized depiction of a classical mourning figure but instead appears to be a self-insert in 'modern' 18th-century mourning costume. On the reverse is tightly woven hairwork. - Via The Art of Mourning, Courtesy: Barbara Robbins



A mourning brooch, the gilt copper frame enclosing a miniature of a woman by a tomb beneath the inscription, 'Sacred to the Memory of Dear Parents', England, c.1800. ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London




In Death Lamented as in Life Belov'd / In Life Beloved, In Death Lamented


A late 18th-century mourning pendant, the convex navette-shaped pendant containing an ivory plaque, featuring a hairwork depiction of a maiden below a weeping willow, lamenting at the foot of a polished urn inscribed ''In death lamented as in life belov'd', with the monogram 'JC'.

Via Chiswick Auctions




Angels Weep When Children Mourn


A Georgian mourning bracelet clasp, inscribed with the rarer sentiment, 'Angels weep when children mourn'. A child-like cherub/angel leans against the urn, pointing down towards the ground. Given the oval shape of this bracelet clasp instead of a navette shape, it's dated to the 1780s rather than the 1790s.

Via The Art of Mourning, Courtesy: Barbara Robbins




Rare Mottos & Personal Messages


Large, early 19th-century gold and painted ivory pendant with the inscription, 'Altho gone yet to me not lost still let me his inflicted child revere in dear remembrance my honour’d parent'.

Via Antiques Trade Gazette



'To Me He Will Never Die' mourning brooch, American or English, 1796. Gold, ivory, sepia, glass.

From the Sarah Nehama collection, via incollect.com



Other popular mottos include:

  • Gone but not forgotten / Absent not forgotten / Gone hence but not forgot

  • I mourn her loss

  • In silent sorrow o'er thy tomb I'll mourn

  • Nipt in the bud (for children)

  • Prepare to follow

  • Sacred will I keep thy dear remains

  • Tho lost to sight in memory dear

  • Weep not / Weep not for me/ Weep not: It falls to rise again

  • Ever to be remembered.


By the beginning of the 19th century, mourning jewelry had moved away from this great variety of mourning/grieving mottos in neoclassical designs. 'In memoriam/In memory of/In remembrance of' inscriptions in a gothic style on black enamel became standardized going into the Victorian era.


A mourning brooch of cast gold with black enamel and plaited hair under glass. Inscribed 'IN MEMORY OF'; engraved on the reverse 'George Ashby Obit 23rd Nov.1838, Aet 51 years'

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London



A Georgian Halley's comet brooch made from solid 15k gold and designed as a piece of mourning jewelry. One end holds an oval braided hair locket section with an 'In Memory Of' border and deep floral relief, with an enamel flower at the other end, c.1800. Likely inspired by the mesmerizing passing of Halley's Comet in late December of 1758 until March 1759.

Via 1stdibs


A Georgian era Halley's comet brooch unusually designed as a piece of mourning jewelry, one end set with foiled old cut white paste and the other with an enameled 'In Memory Of' panel with a hair locket, c1800

Via 1stdibs





Berlin Iron / Cast-Iron Mourning Jewelry


Berlin Iron became popular in the early 19th century. Although it became most strongly associated with Prussian patriotism and resistance to Napoleon I during the Prussian War of Liberation (1813-15), its black coloring also made it popular within the realm of mourning jewelry.


Left: A 'Berlin Iron' necklace with cameo-esque classical figures in silhouette and vine and acanthus decoration, c.1820. The neoclassical designs featured here were common in Berlin ironwork. Right: After 1815, neoclassical designs in Berlin ironwork gave way to Gothic motifs such as the trefoil, quatrefoil, and fine pointed arches. This 'Berlin Iron' necklace consists of sixteen links alternating foliage and rosettes surrounded by gothic quatrefoil tracery. c.1820-30. - Both ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London



A collection of 'Berlin Iron' pieces including an earring, a pin, a brooch, and two bracelets, c.1820-40. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London





To wrap up, here are some more pieces of Georgian mourning jewelry from Antique Animal Jewelry...


For more rare Georgian and Victorian jewelry follow Antique Animal Jewelry on Instagram

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Death was often on the minds of those living in the 18th and 19th centuries. With difficult childbirths, high infant mortality rates, and diseases rife, it was rare for lives not to have been touched by loss. However, these were lives equally marked by love, sentimentality, and affection, and it is the combination of these things that culminated in mourning jewelry - offering the wearer remembrance, comfort, and consolation throughout their time of grief.


An incredible 18-carat gold and black enamel Georgian mourning ring with a secret panel, c.1828. It's one of a pair with 'In Memory Of' written in gothic gold lettering and a stylized flower at the end with a secret button at the center of the flower that opens a hidden compartment inside the ring, revealing plaited blonde hair. The inscription reads ‘T.W. Died 4 January 1828 Aged 85’ Antique Animal Jewelry




The Roots of Mourning Jewelry


The predecessor to Georgian and Victorian era mourning jewelry was 'Momento Mori' jewelry. 'Memento Mori' literally means 'remember you must die'. It was worn as a reminder to the wearer of the fleeting nature of life and the eternal nature of death, encouraging people to live well and virtuously while they could. Memento Mori jewelry was usually marked with motifs of skeletons, skulls, coffins, or words associated with death.


After the execution of Charles I in 1649, Royalist supporters began wearing and commissioning jewelry in memory of the deceased King, to show their continued support for the Stuart monarchy. Some of these pieces are made of what is known as 'Stuart Crystal', showing the King's initials in gold wire over a background of his hair, all enclosed beneath a carved, faceted rock crystal.


Left: Gold pendant with the royal cipher of Charles I in gold wire possibly mounted over the king's own hair, under glass. At the back, the inscription 'CR REX MARTYR' describes King Charles I as a martyr. Right: Gold commemorative ring for Charles II and Catherine of Braganza. The oval bezel is set with a faceted crystal enclosing plaited hair and CR KR below a crown in gold wire. The foliated hoop formerly covered in black enamel, c.1685-1705 - Both ©Victoria and Albert Museum



This Royalist movement changed the face of mourning jewelry forever. Gone was the generalized and universal death that Memento Mori jewelry offered, and born was a kind of jewelry that commemorated a specific person - embued with sentiment and meaning. This was the beginning of mourning jewelry. Early pieces took much inspiration from Stuart Crystals and memento mori motifs, pairing these with the initials of their deceased loved ones and sentimental locks of the person's hair, placing a lasting part of the deceased into the heart of the jewelry.


Memento Mori style enameled gold mourning ring commemorating the death of Samuel Nicholets of Hertfordshire, who died on 7th July 1661. A lock of hair curls around the ring, visible through the openwork of the enameled decoration of skulls and coats of arms, 1661.

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London



A mourning ring for James I, the gold ring set with an alternating ruby and diamond border around a central crystal covering a crowned IR monogram in gilt wire and hair. Early 18th-century.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021



Three gold morning rings with monograms in gold thread inside a looped border under faceted rock crystal. All English, c.1690-1740 - © The Trustees of the British Museum. Left: With scrolls on each shoulder, set with two diamonds, and enameled black. Middle: Ornamented on the sides by flutings filled with black enamel with white dots. Right: Each shoulder chased with a leaf, the sides of bezel ornamented by flutings filled with black enamel and white dots.



Stuart Crystal ring with three little ciphers, 'BHE', beneath a table cut crystal. The tapered shoulders are set with diamonds in silver, c.1725. The merging of the shoulders directly into the ribbed rays on the back of the bezel here help to date the piece as early Georgian - Antique Animal Jewelry



A gold mourning ring, the oval bezel containing a monogram in gold thread with letters under crystal, the hoop is decorated in black enamel with memento mori imagery: an hour-glass, spade and pick crossed, cross-bones, and a skeleton. AR obt 1 Augt 1714. England, c.1714. - © The Trustees of the British Museum



Three mourning rings with coffin-shaped rock crystal bezels over enameled skeletons. Left: This skeleton holds an arrow and hourglass, upon a background of hair. For 'WC.RC.', died 'IVLY.8.1715'. Middle: For I Howkar born 9 Feb 1657, died 10 June 1722. Right: For R. Wenborn, died 4 Dev 1724, aged 24. The white enamel suggests they were unmarried. All c.1715-1724 - © The Trustees of the British Museum



It became quite popular to leave in your will some money to have mourning rings made, which would then be distributed to friends and family. The well-known diarist, Samuel Pepys, gifted 123 rings upon his death in 1703, which he divided up into 3 classes according to closeness of friendship and social status.





Crystals to Bands


In 1742, a series of poems called Night Thoughts on Life, Death and Immortality by Edward Young was published. It was incredibly popular, and maybe at least partly responsible for the peak in mourning jewelry's popularity at this time.


Towards the middle of the 18th-century, the crystal bezels of mourning rings were shrinking in size and the bands became a much more important part of the ring. By the 1740s, the Rococo style had begun to flourish in English design. Scroll and ribbon motifs were appearing on bands with inscriptions enamel-inlaid to the outer shank, alongside ring heads with ribbed rays. White rather than black enamel was often, though not universally, used for the deaths of children, spinsters, or bachelors (i.e. 'pure' virgins).


A Georgian mourning ring with a small rock crystal center and four diamonds, with black enamel detailing and rococo band inscribed ‘Matthew Meakin ob Jan 7, 1740, aet 73’. Antique Animal Jewelry



Three mourning rings from 1739-1742, all with rococo-style scrolling bands and small, faceted rock crystal bezels. Left: There may be hair under the crystal of this ring commemorating Catherine(?) Taylor, who died on 24 Jan 1742 at the age of 17. The white enamel suggests she was unmarried. Middle: With a coffin-shaped bezel containing a skeleton, commemorating Robert Heard who died 5 June 1743, aged 30. Right: The hexagonal bezel holds a skull on a hair background, the ring commemorating Elizabeth Price who died 29 Mar 1739, aged 49. - All © The Trustees of the British Museum



This gold mourning ring enameled in white, the band shaped like small bones, commemorates the death of a baby. The ring is set with rose-cut diamonds and is inscribed 'Matthew Arnold died 10 May 1742 aged 8 months'. England, c.1742. - ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London



A mourning ring with memento mori 'emblems of mortality' on a scrolled Rococo band. The enameled scrolls read: 'Mary Mount Ob 26 June 1745 aet 59', and the front scrolls are decorated with a skull, crossbones, and a gravedigger's pick and shovel. - From Rowan and Rowan via Pinterest



An unusual double mourning ring commemorating husband and wife, Zephaniah and Hannah Leonard, who died on the same day, April 23rd, 1766. With scrolled enameled sections and coffin-shaped rock crystal quartzes underneath which lie paper skeletons.

Courtesy of @historicnewengland via @sarahnehama on Instagram



These kinds of interlocking double mourning rings are especially laced with sentiment, usually commemorating a husband and wife, or occasionally close family members, and the unbreakable bond they shared. Left: A mourning ring for Samuel Warren who died on 20 Dec 1762 aged 79, and Ann Warren who died 14 years later on 15 Aug aged 72. Right: A black and white enamel mourning ring for Sarah Webb who died on 11 Dec 1764 aged 44, and Robert Webb who died 8 years later on 19 Nov 1772 aged 55.

© The Trustees of the British Museum



White enamel rococo memorial band, c.1762, for someone who died aged 56

Antique Animal Jewelry



Later, towards the end of the Georgian era and into the Victorian era, mourning bands moved away from slimmer bands of scrolls and ribbons, becoming thicker and more gothic in style.


A gold and black enameled mourning ring in memory of Edward, Lord Thurlow. The rectangular bezel depicts a baron's coronet above the monogram T., enameled in gold on black, and set with a brilliant-cut diamond rim. - Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021



Late Georgian mourning band, with gold gothic lettering ‘In memory of’ and lovely scalloped gold detailing, the inside stamped with the maker BC&N - and with the inscription ‘Mary Dannington Ob 5 August 1829 ae 64’. - Antique Animal Jewelry



Left: Enameled gold Georgian mourning ring, inscribed 'John Fuller OB 7 Dec 1819 ET 67'. Right: 18ct gold mourning ring with 'In Memory Of' in gothic font around the band, within a ribbed central brocade edged by a floral brocade which is in turn flanked by a twisted row, bordered by black enamel with a double rim. Inside, the dedication reads: 'Mrs Ann Jacoby ob 10 Nov 1828 aet 68'.

Both from Fetheray




Neoclassical Mourning Rings


In the later 18th-century in Britain, there was a clear shift in style towards neoclassicism, led by George III and later compounded by Napoleon Bonaparte's influence - not to mention the public excitement stirred up by the archeological excavations underway at Herculaneum and Pompeii. This shift can be seen clearly in the changes in mourning jewelry from simple bands occasionally set with small crystal or gem bezels to pieces with large bezels depicting full scenes featuring images like urns, broken pillars, classical figures, and weeping willows.


A collection of Georgian urn-themed mourning rings, the top ring being a swivel ring, the other side set with an amethyst within a border of pearls. When worn this way, the mourning side is hidden, pressed against the wearer's skin, known only to them. - From @maggie_made via Instagram



This mourning ring was made to remember John and Elizabeth (Eliza) Davys who died in 1783 and 1784 aged 70 and 55 respectively. They were probably a married couple. The center of the bezel holds a bone or ivory panel decorated with an enameled funerary urn on a pedestal underneath a weeping willow made up of their hair. The foreground of the image is also made up of chopped hair. The border is made from gold beading and a band of blue enamel with small gold dots. - ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London



Late 18th-century Georgian mourning ring with a rare miniature of a ship and anchor, with hair and sepia decoration. In relation to mourning, ships are generally a symbol for passage into the afterlife. The anchor acts as a symbol of hope for those left behind. - From Diamonds in the Library via Pinterest



A mourning ring for Charles Manners, fourth Duke of Rutland (1754-87), Lord Steward of the Royal Household, and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The gold ring is set with cut diamonds around a canted rectangular glass reserve, containing a funerary urn pavé set with diamonds and dark hair behind. The hoop is enameled in black and lettered in gold, 'AMICITIAE.ET.HONORE'. Engraved behind, 'Charles Manners / Duke of Rutland / Obt 24th Octr, 1787 / Aet 34'.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021



Left: A black and white enameled mourning ring decorated with an urn, inscribed behind 'Jno Brown/ Ob.24.Novr/ 1795/ Aet:66'. Middle: A particularly fine example of an early 19th-century memorial ring, set with amethyst pastes and a neo-classical funeral urn on a white enamel background. The ring commemorates George Richard Savage Nassau (1756-1823), a country gentleman and book collector from Suffolk. Right: An enameled mourning ring set with pearls and rose-cut diamonds (symbolizing purity), c.1788. Remembering William Fauquier - a member of a notable Huguenot London family. All from ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London



A gold mourning ring enameled in black, the hoop with shoulders and bezel formed of two hands grasping an urn, hinged to reveal a locket for hair. Engraved inside with initials 'MP'. England, c.1791-2.

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London



These mourning rings are a pair, possibly for a couple with the initials CS and IS who died aged 70 and 72. The diamond and colored paste set flowers depicted drooping in a vase symbolize death and mourning. Inscribed on the back of each is, 'Cease thy tears, religion points on high/ CS ob.25 Jan 1787 aet 70/ IS ob. 18 Sep 1792 aet 72'. - ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London (1 | 2)



A gold and cameo mourning ring, the bezel with an onyx cameo of an urn, the round hoop with a ground of black enamel between chain borders, a royal crown twice repeated, with supporters lions crowned rampant, and a monogram repeated three times, the design terminating towards the bezel on each side with a crowned lion rampant. Inscribed L.R. and G III Obt 1820. - © The Trustees of the British Museum



Mourning Mottos


Around this time when classical motifs were dominating mourning jewelry, many pieces held personal and meaningful messages or mottos. These were perhaps most popular on pendants, brooches, and slides, where there was more room to fit a lot of writing, but mourning mottos and messages were also found on mourning rings like those below.


Gold mourning ring with a pointed oval bezel painted with a miniature on ivory/bone of a woman seated by an urn on a pedestal inscribed 'Rest in peace', a cherub holding a wreath above. The foliage at the bottom of the painted scene is made of chopped hair. In memory of Mick I Norton who died 13th Feb 1770, aged 60, and Ann Norton who died 14th Nov 1768, aged 60. England, late 18th century.

©Victoria & Albert Museum, London



‘Not Lost But Gone Before’, a mourning ring depicting a cherub weeping, sitting at the base of a column whilst another hovers over the urn. The back with a stunning gold pierced monogram over hair behind crystal, with the inscription- ‘Margaret Saunders ob Jan 24th, 1777 ae 33.' - Antique Animal Jewelry



A pair of mourning rings, one for the husband, one for the wife, to honor their lost son Dan Craister. The larger is a Georgian 18ct mourning ring with the motto, 'Not Lost But Gone Before', featuring cherubs and an urn with initials DC made from macerated hair on white enamel. The reverse of the ring is inscribed ' Dan Craister Ob 22 May 1779 aet 26'. The smaller ring bears the motto, 'Weep not but prepare to follow' - Antique Animal Jewelry



'Sacred will I keep they dear remains' mourning ring, depicting a woman seated by an urn, looking wistfully at it. The navette bezel is bordered in a wheat sheaf design. 1786.

Via Art of Mourning. Courtesy: Barbara Robbins



'In life beloved, in death lamented' mourning ring, depicting a woman seated by an urn, a cherub holding a scroll above inscribed, 'To Bliss'. In memory of Elizabeth Penfold, died 1788, aged 72.

Via Art of Mourning. Courtesy: Barbara Robbins



Two mourning rings with the motto, 'Not lost but gone before', England, late 18th century. Left: With a sepia miniature on ivory of a veiled woman seated by an urn. A cherub holds a scroll inscribed TO BLISS. All on an octagonal bezel. In memory of Harriott Willock who died 18 Dec 1788, aged 15. Right: With a pointed oval bezel enclosing a miniature painted on ivory/bone of a woman seated by an urn. A strand of weeping willow is draped above the figure, the foreground made up of chopped hair simulating grass. In memory of Ann Scurfield who died 20 Oct 1790, aged 59. - Both ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London



Two 'sacred to friendship' Georgian mourning rings, English, late 18th-century. Left: The marquise bezel with a painting of Hope seated by an urn on a pedestal bordered by laurel. In memory of John Chalmers who died in 1786, aged 57 - ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Right: The marquise bezel containing an urn upon an inscribed plinth, tree drooping above, foliage formed by hair, all under glass. In memory of Matthew Hilton who died in 1790, aged 26. - © The Trustees of the British Museum



A gold mourning ring enameled in black, the oval bezel with a miniature of a woman and a girl weeping beside an urn on a pedestal inscribed 'SACRED TO THE BEST OF HUSBANDS', in memory of WM. Hembrow, who died 8 Oct 1792, aged 31. England, late 18th century.

©Victoria & Albert Museum, London



Gold mourning ring with a marquise bezel with a miniature of a girl seated by an obelisk inscribed 'To joy & happiness I rise', in memory of Eliza Clark who died 9 Oct 1792, aged 15. Her spirit, rising from the monument; is about to be crowned by an angel, England, late 18th century.

©Victoria & Albert Museum, London



'Affection weeps, heaven rejoices' mourning ring. On the reverse is the phrase 'faithful to filial duty', suggesting the departed was the wearer's father. The bezel shows two women leaning over a tomb on which an urn stands. At left is a large anchor, (for loyalty and hope for those left behind). In memory of John Rosbe, who passed in 1794. - Via 1stdibs



Gold mourning ring with a Marquise bezel depicting on ivory a woman standing by an urn worked in hair, on a pedestal inscribed 'EVER TO BE REMEMBER'D' and inscribed behind, England, late 18th century. - ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London



'Nipt in the bud' mourning ring, most likely for a child lost 'before their time', with the miniature depicting the motif of a broken rosebud. - From Glorious Antique Jewelry via Pinterest.





Ouroboros Georgian Mourning Rings


The Ouroboros motif (literally 'tail devourer' in Greek) is the symbol of a snake with its own tail in its mouth, creating an endless loop representing 'eternity'. Although it is often associated with marriage and love, symbolizing eternal love, it was also popular in mourning jewelry for the same reason, as well as signifying the eternal nature of the soul, and the endless cycle of life and death.


A Georgian mourning ring, 1809, with three snakes, a central ouroboros in chased gold around a cabochon crystal with black and white enamel border, and coiled snake shoulders. The back is engraved “ T Marsh ob 8 December 1809 aet 77”. - Antique Animal Jewelry



A gold and enamel mourning ring for Princess Amelia (1783-1810). The oval bezel is bordered by an ouroboros and enameled with a coronet and monogram 'A' with the words: 'REMEMBER ME'. The enameled white inscription around the ring reads: 'Princess. AMELIA. DIED. 2. NOV. 1810. AGED. 27.'

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021



A mourning ring in 10k gold with a hair locket under glass. The locket is framed by an ouroboros detailed with crosshatched black enamel scales (characteristic of ouroboros jewelry from the period 1810-1815) and a red enameled mouth and eyes - From Erica Weiner



Georgian ouroboros snake mourning ring, c.1810. Inscribed 'Sarah Lane ob 27 Mar 1810 at 60'. The ouroboros is boldly crosshatched with black enamel inlay, and lies around a foiled and collet-set central garnet. - From Heart of Hearts Jewels



A mourning ring for Princess Augusta, Duchess of Brunswick. The ring is gold, enameled in black, inscribed in gold letters, 'Died/ 23 March,/ 1813./ aged 76'. The bezel depicts a princely coronet above a monogram A in enamel, with a relief serpent border set with a small rose-cut diamond eye.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021



An unusual Georgian finely chased gold snake ring, holding an original heart in his mouth with hairline locket back. His body twists around a lock of hair from a loved one. Initials engraved to the back of his head M.J. Could be a piece of sentimental jewelry or a piece of mourning jewelry. Antique Animal Jewelry




Georgian Microcarving Mourning Rings


Micro-carving was a popular technique in the late eighteenth century and into the nineteenth century. Ivory carvings were mainly a continental specialty. Several towns in southern Germany were famous centers of ivory carving and there were also centers in Switzerland and France.


Mourning finger-ring with micro ivory detail depicting a figure on a background of plaited hair under glass. Inscribed, 'Preuve de mon amitié', 'Proof of my friendship', late 18th century

© The Trustees of the British Museum





Hairwork in Georgian Mourning Rings


While hairwork in jewelry became very popular in the Victorian era, it was in practice from at least the seventeenth century onwards and was used in memento mori jewelry and Georgian mourning jewelry as well. The hair of the deceased was often incorporated into the background or the design itself or was set in a compartment at the back of the ring to give each jewel a uniquely personal element - capturing something of the deceased that would last beyond their death and preserving it in wearable form.


This mourning ring has an extremely unusual design, in that the bezel shows a landscape of a house or church under a large tree, made out of chopped hair. The white enamel hoop bears an inscription recording the death of Richard Townsend, Esq. on 12 March 1768, aged 44. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London



An unusual Georgian navette mourning ring displaying a tiered Temple. The reverse is engraved all over the back, around the inner band, and around the rim. 'Cath. Spears Ob 19 Dec 1755 Aet 27 Years 11 mo 11days'. 'Rach.l Halliday obt 2 Dec 1782 aet 82'. 'Rev Rul.... 12 Sept 1803 ae 80'. The rim - 'In Memoria Perpetua Justus Eret Ss' CXII 6. CXII 6 - is a Psalm: The Righteous Shall Be Had In Everlasting Remembrance - the Psalm details the happiness and satisfaction of a good man who leads a religious life.

Antique Animal Jewelry



Left: A mourning ring in memory of Princess Carolina, daughter of William Henry, Duke of Gloucester. The gold ring has a shuttle-shaped bezel with a beaded rim and white enamel border. The center us set with hair behind glass, c.1775-1844 Right: A gold mourning ring, the oval bezel hatched with blue enamel, with a knot of blond and dark hair behind glass. Inscribed inside, c.1790-1827 - Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021



This ring was made as a mourning jewel commemorating E. Tempest, who died 3 July 1784 at the age of 76. The Marquise ivory or bone bezel of the ring is set with a funerary urn that has been made from chopped hair (presumably the hair of the deceased) and small gold decorations. England, late 18th century

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London



A gold mourning ring decorated with seed pearls, the marquise bezel with 'SWH' and willow leaves partly worked in hair, over plaited hair, England, late 18th century. The inscription on the back tells us the ring records the death of two children - Sarah Hetherington, who died aged 7 months on the 7 April 1786, and her brother William who died just a few months later on 31 July 1786. His age is recorded as 8 years, 9 months, showing that every moment of his short life was to be counted. Pearls were associated with purity and grief, whilst white was often used to mourn children.

©Victoria & Albert Museum, London



Left: A gold mourning ring enameled in black, the oval bezel containing a double knot of hair between two pieces of glass surrounded by garnets. English, c.1764. Right: A gold mourning ring with a slender channeled hoop, the oval bezel containing plaited hair covered with convex glass, and a border of seed pearls alternating with emerald pastes. English, c.1775-1800. - © The Trustees of the British Museum



A Georgian mourning ring with white enamel shoulders and a round bezel of plaited hair under glass with a border of clear, sparkling stones. Inscribed for Elizabeth H Taylor, ob 1st April 1797, aged 39. The white enamel suggests she was unmarried. - Antique Animal Jewelry



Left: An impressive mourning ring set with a ring of small seed pearls and cut jet/black garnet enclosing a panel of plaited hair under crystal. Middle: A mourning ring of gold with an octagonal bezel set with a covered panel of finely plaited hair and surrounded by white pastes. Right: This gold mourning ring, enameled in black and white and set with black garnets and plaited hair under glass, commemorates Barbara Towneley who died on 25 December 1797 at the age of 66. - All English, c.1780-1800, from ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London



Left: A gold mourning ring enameled in blue and set with seed pearls. The bezel with 'JLH' in monogram over plaited hair. Middle: A mourning ring with a circular bezel set with a loop of plaited hair under glass and the initials EWL in gold. It commemorates a child who died aged 9. Right: A gold mourning ring enameled in black and white commemorating William Godsell, who died 12 October 1810, at the age of 39. The use of white enamel suggests he may have been unmarried. The center of the bezel holds a plaited section of his hair. - All English, c.1780-1810, from ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London



Georgian black enamel rococo band mourning ring with plaited hair under a beveled crystal.

Antique Animal Jewelry



Family mourning rings for John Rose, 1815. They are inscribed, 'John Rose aged 8 years, full of health and Promise, snatched in one moment from his afflicted Parents and relations by falling from a Pony. Augt 18th 1815.' Each ring contains the blonde hair of John Rose under glass in the bezel.

Via Art of Mourning, Courtesy: Sarah Nehama and Kunz, George Frederick, 1856-1932. 'Rings for the finger'.



Mourning ring for Queen Charlotte (1744-1818). The gold and black enamel ring has an octagonal swivel case containing, on one side, a gold crowned CR monogram on a ground of white hair under a crystal; the reverse with a lock of grey hair and an inscription on the band 'ob 17 Nov, 1818 aet. 75'. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021



A high-carat Georgian mourning ring with attractive crosshatched enamel detailing and shoulders, with gold foliate panels around the hair panel and enamel shoulders. The inside with inscription ‘ John Edwards ob 16 March 1819 aet 73’. - Antique Animal Jewelry




To wrap up, here are some Georgian mourning ring stacks and collections we love...


A collection of Georgian mourning rings - From @fetheray.jewels via Instagram



A collection of Georgian mourning rings - From @martillado via Instagram