The spooky season is well underway, and that spookiest of nights - Halloween - is fast approaching. What better way to get you in the mood than with some spine-tinglingly eerie antique jewelry? From creepy crawlies and spooky skulls to scary stories of cursed diamonds...

An antique rose and yellow gold spider on a green-gold chain.

From @pinkpirahnah via Instagram.

Some more fantastically freaky pairings of antique jewelry from @pinkpirahnah via Instagram.

Edwardian scissors giving off Edward Scissorhands vibes, and a hacksaw charm for some Halloweeny weapon-themed antique charms. - Antique Animal Jewelry.

Some of these are modern pieces, but we couldn't resist sharing them. The gold ghost is by Albert Lipten.

From @pinkpirahnah via Instagram.

Creepy Crawlies & Other Alarming Animals

Eye of newt, and toe of frog, Wool of bat, and tongue of dog, Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting, Lizard's leg, and owlet's wing... What are your ingredients for the Halloween spirit? Here are ours...

A stunning late Victorian English brooch modeled in 18-carat gold. A cat playing with a mouse and a fly caught in a spider’s web. - Antique Animal Jewelry.

A collection of antique beasties. An Edwardian stickpin fly of 15ct old, the body set with an emerald and large natural pearl, the winds set with pearls and tiny rose-cut diamonds; an Edwardian insect 15ct bar brooch made from a large turquoise for the body, 5 pearls across the wings, and red paste eyes; an antique 9ct spider brooch with demantoid garnet eyes; a late Victorian 9ct snake brooch set with a turquoise cabochon stone. - All from @the_old_cut via Instagram.


A stunning and unusual Victorian Giuliano brooch modeled as a spider on its web. The two body segments are set with different cabochon gemstones: the head/thorax with a ruby and a citrine, and the abdomen with a star sapphire. It's crafted in 15k gold and silver, c.1900.

From Butter Lane Antiques.

Large spider brooch encrusted with tiny prong-set faceted paste stones of three colors: red, green, and white, made in Czechoslovakia, early 1900s. - From @ccfinds.treasures via Instagram.

A stunning pair of Victorian garnet spiders straddling hexagons.

From @accidental_antiquarian via Instagram.

A Victorian-era, c.1880, hand-punched silver spider brooch. - From @bloomsbury_antiques via Instagram.

19th-20th century gold brooch in the form of a spider with an embossed and engraved gold body and legs of wires in gold tubing engraved with a zigzag pattern and carrying a gold nugget.

© The Trustees of the British Museum

A Victorian gold and peridot spider brooch

Via Antiques Centre York

Two Edwardian gemstone spiders. Left: A 9ct Edwardian bar brooch - From @wrenandrust via Instagram. Right: An Edwardian amethyst spider pendant - From @millys_marvels via Instagram.

Edwardian 18ct gold and paste spiders: a pair of front fastening earrings and a ring to match.

From @daisysvintagejewellery via Instagram.

A delightful pair of 19th-century hairpins in gold filigree, each set with a large cabochon amethystine quartz representing a spider with long antennae formed by spiral wire supporting a pearl.

©Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

A stunning French intaglio signet ring, fully hallmarked for 18ct gold, Birmingham and 1909 with WGS makers marks. The intaglio reads 'Seule mais occupee' 🕸, meaning 'alone but occupied/busy', with a spider resting upon a web. - From @ishyantiques via Instagram.

An antique pendant featuring a spider and fly on a web under glass.

Antique Animal Jewelry.


The body of this Victorian-era antique 14K gold brooch is embellished with a cabochon-cut, bi-color, pink-green tourmaline, and a half pearl. The silver and engraved gold wings are set with old rose-cut diamonds, the eyes with cabochon-cut rubies, c.1890. - From Romanov Russia.

A pair of rare Georgian riveted bright cut steel bug brooches, C. 1820's.

From Phoenix Jewelry via Ruby Lane.

A Victorian blue tiger's eye, diamond, and ruby bug brooch in silver on gold.

From @piccadillyvaults via Instagram.

A Victorian emerald and diamond fly scatter-pin brooch, each pin in the form of a fly, set with an emerald-cut emerald and old-cut diamond cluster body, with an emerald-set middle body, old-cut diamond-set wigs, and cabochon ruby eyes, connected with a gold trace-chain, suspended by a gold safety pin set with a rectangular-cut emerald, c.1880

Via Bentley & Skinner

A Victorian bug/insect brooch handcrafted in silver with fine detailing, with a large oval Tigers Eye for the body, a cabochon black banded agate head, and ruby eyes. Each wing is set with a double row of natural seed pearls and each leg is adorned with its own seed pearl.

From Syren Antiques Birmingham UK via Ruby Lane.

Labradorite, ruby, and diamond antique beetle ring (converted from a stickpin).

Antique Animal Jewelry.

For more antique bugs, see our blog on Victorian Jewelry: A Bug Obsession...


Two gorgeous little matching antique golden mice, carrying pearls.

Antique Animal Jewelry.

Late Victorian 15k gold mouse charm pendant hand-chased with realistic fur and features, c.1900.

From Butter Lane Antiques.

A Victorian Essex Crystal rat/mouse pendant. - Antique Animal Jewelry.

An antique gold rat/mouse stickpin with a diamond - From @franziska_vintage_jewels via Instagram.

Antique mouse jewelry, including a large silver mouse that opens, a smaller gold mouse, a mouse whistle with a little rodent scuttling along the top of it, and a mouse bracelet. From @pinkpirahnah via Instagram.

Amphibians & Reptiles

Eye of newt, and toe of frog...Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting, Lizard's leg...

A Georgian rose-gold and diamond-set frog ring c.1800s. - Via Pinterest.

An extremely rare Victorian lizard/salamander bracelet, c.1860. Made from 15-carat gold and set with emeralds and diamonds. - Antique Animal Jewelry.

Snakes in antique jewelry aren't traditionally 'scary', as they were often used in love jewelry to symbolize eternity. We have therefore tried to pick out only the most fearsome-looking, Halloweeny snakes.

A very large antique tortoiseshell, paste, and turquoise snake brooch.

Antique Animal Jewelry.

Slithering snakes - #1: Charming high carat Victorian emerald snake ring. #2: Gorgeous and rare mid-19th-century Russian snake ring with french import marks. #3: Victorian snake ring, c.1900, with a beautiful rose-cut diamond crown. Created in 18-carat gold. #4: An 18-carat antique snake ring with a brilliant-cut diamond in an open-backed setting with 2 little diamond eyes. #5: An antique gold snake bracelet set with gorgeous red gemstones. - Antique Animal Jewelry.

An early Victorian mourning snake brooch inscribed, ‘In memory of my dear mother born 21st June 1769, died Aug 16th 1843' - with her initials in diamonds, 'AE', beneath the crown and a wonderful pair of curling snakes in black crosshatched enamel. Look at those teeth! c.1840. - Antique Animal Jewelry.

An antique French 18-carat snake locket in gold, the snake reaching for a diamond.

Antique Animal Jewelry.

Black enamel and gemstone encrusted antique snake earrings.

Antique Animal Jewelry.

An ouroboros snake pendant encrusted in gemstones with black enamel crosshatching.

Antique Animal Jewelry.

An antique chatelaine snake pendant with a silver and gold snake entwined around a shield, a cherubic head, and with a kneeling cherubic figure on top. Antique Animal Jewelry.

A stunning Victorian gold brooch/pendant with a massive central amethyst rock and four turquoise-set snakes guarding it. - Antique Animal Jewelry.

19th century Victorian 15ct gold double snake bracelet, made up of two entwined snakes each beautifully set with demantoid garnet eyes and a pear-shaped ruby to the head. A diamond is set centrally between the two snakes. The green eyes give the snakes a fearsome glint. - From JeremySilverthorne via Etsy.

Snakes curled around crosses. Left: A large, French 19th-century 18-carat brooch with a snake coiled around a black enamel and rose-cut diamond cross. Right: A gold snake with gemstone eyes wrapped around a black enamel cross. - Antique Animal Jewelry.

A Victorian snake bracelet with a blue enameled snake biting a gold gauntlet, set with rose-cut diamonds. Antique Animal Jewelry.

Antique Victorian snake jewelry for Halloween - From @pinkpirahnah via Instagram.

Bats & Owls

Wool of bat...and owlet's wing...

Brooches depicting figures riding bats. Left: A 19th-century cast and chased gold brooch of a naked female with a winged cupid riding on a bat, possibly a representation of 'Night'. - © The Trustees of the British Museum. Right: A cameo brooch with gold scrollwork depicting a naked youth - Ariel - with a large feather, on the back of a flying bat. Taken from Shakespeare's The Tempest (Act 5, Scene 1), and resembling a painting by Joseph Severn in the V&A, c.1840. - ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

Antique Victorian Vulcanite mourning locket with a carved bat, which opens.

Via Pinterest.

A rare Victorian bat pin, c.1880, crafted in 18kt yellow gold topped with sterling silver. Its outstretched wings are encrusted with sparkling old rose-cut diamonds, in between veins of yellow gold. The creature's body is portrayed by a natural pearl, and additional rose-cut diamonds adorn its face, where two vibrant red rubies dot each eye. - From A. Brandt + Son.

Art Nouveau gold and diamond bat brooch, c.1900. - From @macklowegallery via Instagram.

A Victorian silver owl propelling pencil pendant with glass eyes.

Antique Animal Jewelry.

Victorian silver Albert chain 16” long and a substantial silver and paste owl with onyx eyes.

Antique Animal Jewelry.

An impressively soul-piercing pair of Georgian owl-shaped shoe buckles set with black spot paste and painted eyes. - From @thedyslexicdealer via Instagram.

Skulls, Skeletons & Coffins

The Torre Abbey Jewel, a Memento Mori pendant in the form of a skeleton in a coffin. Gold, enameled in white and black, with the remains of opaque pale blue, white, yellow, translucent green, and dark blue enamel on the upper scrollwork. Along each side of the coffin is the inscription, ''THRONGH. THE. RESVRRECTION. OF CHRISTE. WE. BE. ALL. SANCTIFIED.' c.1540-1550.

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Enameled gold memento mori pendant in the form of a coffin, with crossbones on the suspension chains and a skull and crossbones pendant. The coffin opens to reveal an enameled skeleton, the initials I.C.S. above its head and the inscription 'HIE. LIEG. ICH. VND. WARTH. AVF. DIH', meaning 'Here I lie and wait for you'. c.1660. - ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

An antique 19th-century Austro-Hungarian enameled coffin locket with skull and crossbones.

Antique Animal Jewelry.

A mourning pendant in the shape of a miniature coffin. The obverse set with a weave of brown hair under crystal, surmounted by the details of the deceased: 'GB aged 34 died Aug. 15 1785'. The heart-wrenching inscription in sepia on a white enamel ground surrounding it reads: 'Twas the last pang that took him from my breast'. To reverse is a weave of grey hair surmounted by the details of the deceased: 'MDW aged 83 died Nov 30 1838'. The surrounding inscription also on a white enamel ground reads: 'Tho lost to sight to memory dear.' - From Rowan and Rowan.

Antique Georgian-era wooden coffins and Vesta cases. The ring box at the end is to show scale.

Antique Animal Jewelry.

A really quite disturbing carved elephant ivory Memento Mori pendant/bead, pierced vertically so that it can be suspended from chaplets or rosaries (strings of beads to assist those praying or saying the long sequences of religious recitations). Formed of four figures placed back to back. One represents a young with the words 'AMOR M(un)DI' (Love of the World). At his back is the same person dying, his figure emaciated, with the words 'VADO MORI' (I am going to die). The third figure appears to be a devil, or imp with bulging eyes and lolling tongue, the stomach filled with a hideous head. This figure has locked arms with the dying figure as if to pull him away; underneath on a scroll is 'SEQUERE ME' (Follow me). The fourth is a skeleton (Death) holding an hourglass and reaching across to grab the chest of the figure with his left hand; underneath is 'EGO SUM' (I am). A snail and snakes crawl over the skull. Northern France/South Netherlands, c.1520-1530. - ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

Another ivory Memento Mori pendant, Flanders, c.1500. On one side is a well-dressed young woman in her prime. Yet the Latin inscription around her veiled head reads, 'HEELAS ME FAUTIL MORIR', which translates as, ‘Alas I must die’. On the other side of the pendant is her rotting skeleton, infested with frogs, slugs, worms, and salamanders, accompanied by the Latin 'ECCE FINEM', (Here is the end').

© Trustees of the Wernher Foundation.

Memento Mori slide c.1660-1680 in high carat gold, with a black and white enamel depiction of a skull and crossbones device surrounded by other symbols of mortality and immortality. An hourglass and an oil lamp symbolize the passage of time, serpents entwined around staffs and the pillars of Hercules represent unbreakable bonds. To the reverse are the initials 'MM' for memento mori, Herculean knots representing further unbreakable bonds, and a forget-me-not within an ouroboros symbolizes eternity.

From Rowan and Rowan.

An enameled gold ring, the bezel in the form of a skull and cross-bones in a border of rubies with an enameled rosette behind, two marks 'CC' and 'AL[?]' in a monogram. Europe, c.1550-75.

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

A Georgian skull ring - From Diamonds. The Collection Of Benjamin Zucker by Diana Scarisbrick.

A German 17th-century scent case in the form of a skull, made of silver, with a lid. The letters probably correspond to the scents held in each section of the case. - ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

A tiny enameled 17th-century gold pendant that hinges open to reveal a miniature scene of the baptism of Christ - © Trustees of the Wernher Foundation.

A gold mourning slide with an enameled skeleton on a coffin inscribed 'I Rest' with two angels supporting a cartouche with the initials 'MT' embroidered in gold thread on a background of hair and foil, under rock crystal. Made in England, c.1700. - ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

A large Victorian sterling silver snake locket, on a wonderful Victorian fancy chain with two bolts to hang extra charms from. The pendant/locket is filled with tiny mother of pearl skulls.

Antique Animal Jewelry.

A late-18th century disturbing French finger-ring in gold with a slender hoop expanding to open-work triple-branched shoulders. The bezel displays an enameled skull. Fear not, though, as this piece is actually a romantic (if morbid) offering, with a secret inscription below the hinge that reads, 'Je ne la crains que dans ton coeur', meaning 'I only fear death in your heart'. - © The Trustees of the British Museum.

A 19th-century mourning ring of gold with a slender hoop and a bezel in the form of a skull with eyes of red enamel. There is an engraved letter at the base of the skull.

© The Trustees of the British Museum.

An early 19th-century English Memento Mori stock pin, the head made from enameled gold and a baroque pearl, forming a skull. - ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The battery-operated skull stickpin, enameled gold with diamond eyes, French, c.1867. Designed by Gustave Trouvé and signed PICARD for A.-G. Cadet-Picard. The jewel contains electric terminals so that, when connected to a battery concealed in the wearer's pocket, the eyes roll and the jaws snap. ©Victoria & Albert Museum.

Cursed Jewels: Diamonds are not Forever

Cursed gems might sound like something out of a pirate movie or Harry Potter, but the following famous diamonds do have some seriously spooky stories behind them. Decide for yourself if you think they're cursed or not...

The Hope Diamond - A Hopeless Story

The Hope Diamond starts out its story in the hands of French merchant traveler, Jean Baptiste Tavernier, though quite how it got there is blurry, with some believing he stole it from the eye of a Hindu idol - giving it its curse. In 1668, the diamond was sold to King Louis XIV of France who had it re-cut, revealing an impressive blue color, earning it the name of 'Blue Diamond of the Crown' or the 'French Blue'. This is where the trouble began. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were caught trying to flee the city during the French Revolution with the diamond in their possession. Shortly afterward, they were beheaded. In the looting that followed, the diamond was stolen.

From The Smithsonian Institute, photo by Chip Clark.

Of its subsequent owners: King George IV of England got into considerable debt and had to sell it, Princess de Lamballe was beaten to death by a mob, Jacques Colet committed suicide, Lord Francis Hope (of the Hope family who gave it its name 'The Hope Diamond') found himself suddenly bankrupt after inheriting the gem and had to sell it, Surbaya was stabbed to death by her royal lover who gifted her the stone, and Simon Montharides died in a carriage crash along with his entire family.

Its penultimate owner, Mrs. Evalyn McLean, ignored the curse, claiming that anything unlucky for others was often lucky for her. She bought the diamond from Cartier in 1911 and then ensued a life of tragedy. Her 9-year-old son was killed in a car accident, her husband divorced her and went insane, and her daughter committed suicide. Mrs. McLean herself became a morphine addict. Her jewelry collection was purchased by Harry Winston, who donated the Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian Institution.

The Black Orlov Diamond - A Story to Make you Jump

Also known as the 'Eye of Brahma Diamond', this gem is not one to fall for, despite being an extremely impressive stone and the 7th largest black diamond in the world.

Black Orlov Diamond - Image: London Museum of Natural History

Another diamond that was supposedly stolen from the eye of a Hindu statue, the monk who stole it was believed to have been murdered. The gem was then brought to the US by diamond dealer J.W. Paris, who jumped to his death shortly afterward from a skyscraper in New York. The next owners were two Russian princesses, Nadia Vyegin-Orlov and Leonila Galitsine-Bariatinsky, who both committed suicide (months apart) by jumping to their deaths from buildings in Rome. In an apparently successful attempt to break the curse, a jeweler cut the gem into three different pieces.

The Koh-i-Nûr Diamond - A Killer of Kings

With a name meaning 'Mountain of light', this 186 1⁄16 carats diamond is one of the most valuable gemstones in existence and is believed to carry a curse causing any man who wears it to lose their throne.

On the left is a replica of the Koh-i-Nûr set in an armlet, as it would have been delivered to Queen Victoria by the President of the Board of Control at the East India Company in 1850. On the right is the Koh-i-Nûr in its final resting place in the crown of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother in the front cross.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021

An ancient diamond passed from ruler to ruler throughout conflicts in the Mughal Empire, every male ruler to own it has been deposed, invaded, defeated in battle, taken ill, overthrown in a coup, assassinated, and in a few special cases: blinded by his own son, and had his bald head coated with molten gold after being dethroned. However, since it fell into the hands of Queen Victoria during the colonization of India, it has been passed from woman to woman without trouble. It is now part of the British crown jewels.

To wrap up, here are some more spooky and gothic pieces from Antique Animal Jewelry...

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


If you have ever seen a piece of antique jewelry with black patterning or detailing that looks a bit like enamel but metallic and shiny rather than matte or vitreous (glass-like), then you are probably looking at 'niello'. Stronger than enamel and coming only in various shades of black, the lustrous material that is niello has a long history of use. From scimitar inscriptions in ancient Syria to Egyptian and Roman tiger and panther statuettes with niello stripes, the popularity of niello decoration has persisted for millennia.

Victorian-era niello and silver snake bracelet with rose-gold accents on the head and garnet eyes, c.1890s, possibly Austrian. The niello forms a checkerboard pattern like intricate scales. From The Eden Collective via 1stdibs

What Is Niello?

The word 'niello' comes from the Latin word, 'nigellus', meaning 'blackened'. Historically, niello is a black compound made from silver, copper, sulfur, charcoal, and lead. The designs are made by engraving the surface of a metal, usually silver because it contrasts excellently with black, and then filling the engraving with niello. Often, the niello was powdered and then spread over the engraved metal which had been moistened with a flux. When the metal was heated, the niello powder would melt and run into the channels of the engraved design. Some of the most common niello work appears as stripes and chequered patterns in jewelry.

Victorian niello bolt and horseshoe in 9-carat gold and silver. - Antique Animal Jewelry.

A 16-inch late Victorian or early 20th-century niello chain with a large spring ring and beautifully intricate twisting details. - From Liz Kantner via Pinterest.

A French-made niello locket necklace with a checkerboard pattern, hanging alongside a matching spherical pendant, all in sterling silver. Inside are two compartments with locks of hair. c.1890.

From Erie Basin.

The Popularity of Niello

Niello's next peak in popularity following its use in ancient cultures from Syria and Byzantine to Egypt and Rome, was during the Renaissance - particularly in Italy, where it was made famous in the workshops of Florentine goldsmith Maso Finiguerra. It had another revival towards the end of the 18th-century and remained popular, to some degree, throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.

During this latter revival, a town called Tula in Russia became particularly well known for its niello work, leading to niello's alternative name of 'Tula silver'. By the turn of the 20th century, most niello work in Europe was coming from Tula. Niello work was also very popular in the Ottoman Empire, where it was often referred to as 'Van work', from the town of Van in Turkey. Additionally, niello was popular in Thailand and is sometimes known as 'Siam sterling'. American soldiers who visited Thailand in the mid-20th century often brought 'Nielloware' like this home for their wives or girlfriends, making it a popular mid-century trend.

Antique Imperial Russian Kubachi silver niello belt buckle, c.1898 - 1903. The Kinjahl dagger joins the two pieces of the buckle, which are inscribed in Russian with what might translate as 'Remind' / 'Remember'. The buckle has a Russian Cyrillic makers initials Mark which translates in English to the initials A D and these initials are for the maker Aleksandr Vasilbev Domnin who was a St Petersburg silversmith who worked between 1896 - 1917. - From AntiquescollectorGB via Etsy.

Antique Russian Tula silver and niello belt buckle made into a brooch pin. Marked as 84 silver, c.1898-c1908. A dagger joins and secures the two pieces. - From @artaurora_antiquesjewelry via Instagram.

Victorian-era silver Russian niello belt, early 20th century. - From

Sterling silver antique niello pendant in a finely engraved lobed teardrop shape with ornate niello designs of vines/leaves/flowers. Possibly Turkish/Ottoman, possibly 19th century. - From vintagedazzle via Etsy.

A silver-gilt and niello belt buckle, Ottoman Provinces, 19th century, comprising two fitted plaques with clasp and hooks for attaching, decorated with panels of arabesque form each containing an engraved niello design of entwining foliage. - Via Sotheby's.

A Turkish parcel-gilt silver and niello belt from the second half of the 19th century, the hinged panels decorated with niello bosses of British Royal Arms, the American eagle, a double-headed eagle, an early locomotive, pair of Irish harps, and landscapes and flowers, marked on backs with Tugra.

Via Sotheby's.

This belt is typical of the silverwork produced in the Ottoman Empire at the end of the 19th century, consisting of 14 rectangular segments hinged together. Each segment has an oval plaque in the center surrounded by a border of granules faceted to look like cut-steel. The designs of the plaques show buildings, flowers, birds, trophies, and other characteristic motifs picked out in niello. It has a large filigree bow on the front, decorated with faceted granules in the same way as the belt, and has three matching pear-shaped pendants, each with smaller pendants of spiral wire, hanging from its lower edge. It was probably 'Van work' made by Armenian silversmiths in the town of Van in Turkey, c.1870-1920. ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

A Turkish/Ottoman niello and gold brooch. - From @acarantik via Instagram.

Niello Chains/Necklaces

Victorian niello curb link chain in silver and 9-carat rosy gold with a large bolt. - Antique Animal Jewelry.

English-made 60" guard chain with unusual sphere-shaped niello links and gold links alternating with niello and silver oblong links creating a three-tone effect, c.1870. - From Erica Weiner.

Victorian niello guard chain with a clover drop. The chain alternates between niello sterling silver links and 9ct rose gold gilt connecting links. - From Lillicoco.

A Victorian niello chain made from two shorter ones, with a large bolt and a niello dog clip. From @incroyables_et_merveilleux.

Antique early 20th-century niello chan with niello bolt and dog clip. From Etoiles Jewelry Box via Instagram.

A Victorian niello chain made of silver with double bar niello links forming a necklace. Each double bar link is enameled all around in a traditional striped niello motif. Connecting each link together is a section of silver chain, which is gilded with a rose gold finish. A large spring ring clasp and Niello watch swivel clasp meet at the center, making it possible to hang a complimentary locket or pendant, c.1880.

From A. Brandt + Son.

Antique Victorian niello chain with a niello bolt and dog clip, alternating mirrored niello-striped and plain silver twisted links with triple silver links between. - From @epilogue_antiques via Instagram.

19th century rose gold fill and niello chain that can be worn as a bracelet. The niello links form figures of 8 or infinity signs. - From LuxeVieuxLoft via Etsy.

Niello chain with a niello bolt ring and dog clip. England, c.1880. - From Fable & Windsor via Instagram.

Late 19th-century Victorian niello chain, once a watch chain but used now as a necklace.

From MossiBelle via Etsy.

Left: Greek key pattern antique niello chain with silver and 14k gold links. - From A Pocket of Rocks. Right: Antique niello chain with a Greek Key design and niello clip and clasp. - From JewelHoundTreasures via Etsy.

Antique silver and niello chain with an unusual pattern on the niello links. From Le Boudoir de Verre via Instagram.

4 different antique niello chains. #1 has rose gold alternating links and a wide niello pattern, c.1900. #2 has niello fetter links with a striped pattern wrapping around them, the ends of which link to a triple gold link, c.1880. #3 has a classic loop-in-loop design alternating rose gold and niello patterned links, c.1920. #4 is a watch chain that alternates slender striped niello links with 3 gold links and has a niello dog clip, c.1890. - All via 1stdibs.

A selection of antique niello bolt rings, dog clips, and clasps. - From @blondestarjewellery via Instagram.

Niello Bracelets

A stunning antique niello bangle dating from the turn of the 20th Century. The centerpiece is a gorgeous infinity knot (aka lover’s knot), embellished with rose gold star details and simple hand-chased cuff segments. - From Butter Lane Antiques via Instagram.

A Victorian-era bracelet crafted in sterling and 9kt rose gold overlay with a niello surface. The bracelet is twisted into the shape of a nautical style knot in the front with two rose gold plated accent loops. 11 rose-gold stars decorate the bangle, which has a discrete push clasp hinge and safety chain, c.1900s.

From A. Brandt + Sons.

Antique silver niello bracelet, c.1900 -1910. The roundels that compose this bracelet are gently domed with exquisite niello designs outlined in silver. If you look closely you will see that there are four different designs. There are matching pairs on each side and then a different design in the center.

From Suzy Lemay via Ruby Lane.

Silver niello chain-link bracelet with a concealed clasp and safety chain, c. 1880. - From Erica Weiner.

An antique silver niello link bracelet. - From A Pocket of Rocks via Instagram.

A Victorian niello bracelet crafted in silver with a 3-dimensional buckle motif on the front with striped niello accents. A fine basketweave niello pattern is inlaid into the outer surface. The bracelet is hinged and opens at a push clasp at the side, where a safety chain provides extra security. c.1880s.

From A. Brandt + Son.

Sterling silver and niello flower motif bangle/bracelet. The decoration is only on the top of the wrist. It opens at a secure push clasp at the side. c.1880. - From La Bellinieuse via Instagram.

Antique Austro-Hungarian niello bangle. - From @antiquariato_trouve via Instagram.

An Austro-Hungarian niello bracelet/bangle crafted in 900 silver embellished with a fine niello checkerboard pattern. c.1880s. - From A. Brandt + Son.

Niello bracelet, probably originally a watch chain, Late 19th or early 20th century. From

Late 19th-century Parisian Jules Wièse bracelet composed of round articulated links set with garnet cabochons and decorated with niello, French assay mark for 18ct gold and maker's mark. - Via Sotheby's.

Niello Lockets, Pendants & Pocketwatches

An ornate niello locket on a bold chain comprised of several sterling silver and niello links. Each row of 3 Niello links is connected to the next by a row of 2, 9kt rose-gold links, and dangling from the bottom is a beautiful square-shaped locket with a single sparkling diamond bezel-set in its center. The locket is covered in a niello floral print and opens to reveal 2 empty photograph compartments. The entire piece hangs from a Niello swivel watch clasp. - From A. Brandt + Son.

An unusual Victorian silver and niello locket with silver initials on top of the cross and diamond niello patterning and with a silver bow at the top set with a gemstone. - From @midnightveil via Instagram.

Antique finely detailed niello locket on a niello chain with the initial R beneath a crown on the front and 'Robur' on the back, which may be a last name. - From @estatejewelrymama via Instagram.

A Victorian-era French locket with an elaborate niello design. 'Porte Bonheur' translates to 'Lucky Charm.' From @velanyc via Instagram.

Antique circular silver and gold locket decorated with striped banding of niello and inlaid with two yellow gold fleur-de-lis, c.1890. - From Searle.

An Imperial Russian niello and silver shield locket with 3 gold stars down the middle and some kind of foliage on either side, possibly stylized thistles, c.1900. - From Butter Lane Antiques.

An elegant Victorian double-sided niello locket. From @franziska_vintage_jewels via Instagram.

An antique niello locket with a pattern of stars or flowers. The perimeter of the locket is embellished with rose gold plated balls. - From @lisakramervintage via Instagram.

A Victorian convex oval locket crafted in niello and silver. The surface sports rows of alternating black and silver triangles to create a pleasing geometric effect, c.1880. - From Butter Lane Antiques.

A Victorian oval niello locket with a checkerboard pattern on silver, c. 1880. - From Erica Weiner.

French stamped niello sliding pendant/mirror, c.1900. - From @madamebrocante via Instagram.

Victorian sterling silver niello locket fob pendant and watch chain. From Vintageatmums via Etsy.

A Victorian-era silver and niello slide mirror locket with a matching encased button hook, c.1880. The mirror locket is rectangular in shape and is hinged at the top bail where it slides open. Each piece is detailed with a checkerboard niello design. - From A. Brandt + Son.

Victorian niello heart locket pendant with a chequered pattern, c.1860-1870, likely made by French or Russian jewelers. - Via 1stdibs.

A Victorian niello shield locket in sterling silver. - From Lillicoco via Etsy.

A Victorian niello locket with a striped design and rose-gold gilt accents on the front.

From Mossi Belle via Ruby Lane.

A Victorian diamond-shaped niello locket patterned with tiny vertical stripes and rows of classic waves on both sides. The inside retains both interior bezels. - From New Kingdom Jewels via Ruby Lane.

Antique silver niello and rose gold locket and chain. - From Lang Antiques via Pinterest.

Double-sided Victorian niello locket with a bold Wiener Workstatte (Vienna Workshop) style graphic design on both front and back, and a striped pattern along the round edge. The 15k double bale allows this locket pendant to lie perfectly flat. c.1890. - Via 1stdibs.

Victorian silver and niello lockets with various patterns. - From The Deeps via Instagram.

A Victorian silver, gold, and niello fob pendant with a large niello dog clip which attaches to 3 niello links which further attaches to a 2 compartment round locket. c.1890. - Via 1stdibs.

Antique Austro Hungarian silver and niello cross pendant with niello work to the front, back, and bale. Assayed between 1872-1922 in the city of Vienna. - From B&E Antique Vintage Jewellery via Instagram.

Antique niello pencil and chain with striped and diamond patterns. From Antique Gems N Jewels via Instagram.

A French Victorian-era niello and silver whistle charm/pendant with a chequered pattern, c.1890. The open sides have to be closed off by pinching them between your fingers in order for the whistle to make a sound. - From Butter Lane Antiques.

An unusual Victorian-era niello fob made of silver with an open center and 2 intertwined rings on the outside. Each ring is covered in a striped niello pattern. 4 rose-gold rings rest horizontally on each rounded bar and a matching niello ring rests at the top of the fob. A single 9kt rose gold ball lies at the center base of the fob pendant. The thin, flat stamp bottom has an engraved musical staff stamp with the words 'Jch lie be dich' and 'L.v.Beeth'. c.1880. - From A. Brandt + Son.

An Imperial Russian miniature egg pendant crafted in niello and silver, with abstract clover and foliate detailing and clear Russian silver marks to the original bail, c.1890. - From Butter Lane Antiques.

Antique silver niello stem-wind pocket/fob watch with chain, c1890. - Via 1stdibs.

Two huge Victorian silver and niello Chatelaines. Left: Comprised of a jockey hat, a niello-linked chain with a watch key, an oval-shaped center ring with a buckle and riding crop across the front, and a pocket watch, c.1880. Right: Comprised of a niello flower basket at the top of a clip, from which hangs a connecting niello pattern and a heart-shaped pocket watch as well as a niello chain with a watch key. Both from A. Brandt + Son.

Niello Buckles & Cufflinks

Antique niello snake buckle. - From eBay Archives.

Victorian niello and rose gold gilt buckle brooch pin, handcrafted c.1800. Belt buckles symbolized eternity, fidelity/loyalty, strength, and protection. - From MossiBelle via Etsy.

Silver and niello cufflinks with a finely executed geometric line ornament. c.1890. - Via 1stdibs.

A pair of French striped niello cufflinks c.1880, made of sterling silver, each double-sided cufflink comprised of two discs connected by a strand of chain. - From A. Brandt + Son.

Large niello dotted square pattern oval cufflinks c.1890. - Via 1stdibs.

Niello BRooches

A Scottish silver ring/plaid brooch decorated with a niello pattern of anchors and roundels, c.1769. The ring brooch is traditional to Norway and Scotland, indicating the strong historical and geographical ties between the two countries. Brooches like this one are typical of Scottish Highland brooches in the second half of the 18th century. This one is inscribed on the back with two sets of initials and a date, suggesting it was probably a betrothal gift. - ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

Antique German late 19th-century niello brooch with a chequered pattern in 800 silver. From HouseOf3Cats via Etsy.

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


For the Victorians, death was a huge part of their daily lives. In London, the average lifespan for middle-to-upper-class men was 44 years, but only 25 for tradesmen and 22 for laborers. With cholera and scarlet fever around, workhouses with terrible conditions for the poor, and Queen Victoria's own tragic loss of her mother, husband, and 3 of her children, it is perhaps no wonder that the Victorians thought about death so often - carrying with them sentimental mementos of loved ones who had passed, and enacting elaborate rituals and codes of mourning to cope with their losses. In Part III on Mourning Jewelry, we looked specifically at Victorian Mourning Rings. Now, we delve into the wider world of Victorian mourning jewelry.

Whitby jet snake mourning panel bracelet, intricately carved from head to tail. The symbol of the snake was very popular in the Victorian era, used in both love and mourning jewelry alike to symbolize 'eternity'. The choice of material here suggests that this piece is a mourning bracelet. c.1880s.

Via 1stdibs.

Mourning jewelry in the Victorian era could take many forms, from pendants and lockets to bracelets, buttons, stickpins, and brooches. Of all of these, lockets and brooches were by far the most popular. Brooches were worn by both men and women alike, and mourning lockets were considered practically 'indispensable' as a daily fashion item between the 1860s and the 1880s.

Popular Mourning Jewelry Materials

Because mourning jewelry was at its peak in the Victorian era, it can be hard to tell genuine mourning jewelry from jewelry inspired by the materials and motifs used in mourning jewelry. The easiest way to identify a piece as mourning jewelry is via an inscription for a specific person or the use of phrases like 'In Memory Of'. Otherwise, some combination of the following can suggest a piece's use as a mourning jewel: hairwork, compartments for hair or photographs, mourning motifs like snakes and lily-of-the-valley, and black materials like jet, or common material pairings in mourning jewels like black enamel and pearls.

Enamel, Pearls & Diamonds

The 'Cult of Mourning' dictated that there were 3 stages of mourning in the Victorian era: Deepest Mourning, during which you wore only black and no jewelry (though later in the period a small amount of matte black jewelry was allowed); Ordinary Mourning, introducing a black and white color scheme with more extravagant black fabrics allowed and materials like pearls (representing purity and the tears of those left behind) and black and white enamels used in jewelry; and Half-Mourning, where diamonds, gold, and silver could also be used in jewelry, as well as other select gemstones if used tastefully.

A Victorian mourning stickpin with a beautiful black enamel snake wrapping around an oval of pearls with a central agate motif, the forget-me-not. To the back, the snake bears the inscription, 'Samuel Whitbread born Jan 18 1764, died July 6 1815.' and 'Lady Elizabeth Whitbread born April 7th 1765, died Nov 28 1846.' Samuel Whitbread was a part of Whitbread's, his father's famous brewing business, as well as being a politician, an abolitionist, and a champion of civil rights. He was an admirer of Napoleon and his reforms in France and Europe. A year after Napoleon's abdication in 1814, Samuel grew deeply depressed and committed suicide in 1815. - Antique Animal Jewelry

An unusual purple enamel Victorian mourning brooch, gold-backed and silver-fronted with a diamond halo and a lock of hair in the locket back. - From Wharfedale Antiques via Instagram.

A French mourning bracelet, perhaps made by Crouzet, in the Moroccan taste to reflect the French engagement with North Africa. Gold, enameled in black, and set with brilliant-cut diamonds and pearls, this bracelet is hung with five small lockets, each of which opens to allow the owner to insert a photograph or lock of hair. The motifs of a cross, anchor, and heart, symbolize the Christian virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love. This was likely worn during the Half-Mourning stage, c.1860.

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Mourning bracelet with three handing pendants, each of which bears one of three motifs: a cross, an anchor, and a heart, symbolizing the Christian virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love. These were common motifs in mourning jewelry. 'Royal' blue enamel suggests that the deceased was very important to those remembering them, like royalty. - Antique Animal Jewelry

A mourning bracelet of braided gold with 8 hanging locket pendants. Each has the second initial R with other first initials, implying they are members of the same family. Each contains hair and is inscribed with a date between 1847 and 1859. These are likely birth dates, though they could be dates of death.

From Gedenke Mein Freundschafts- und Memorialschmuck by Gisela Zick.

Victorian gold, black enamel, and rose-cut diamond mourning pendant/brooch, c.1860. From Wharfedale Antiques

A Victorian oval mourning brooch in black enameled gold, engraved with a lily-of-the-valley design set with seed pearls, with a photo panel to the back. The lily-of-the-valley symbolizes the reunion of loved ones who have departed. - Via Carter's

Victorian mourning locket featuring a rose-cut diamond in a raised claw setting surrounded by intricate gold inlay work against a ground of smooth black enamel. - From Heart of Hearts Jewels

A Victorian mourning brooch set with pearls and inscribed ‘William Robinson Baxter, died Dec 10th 1844 aged 2 years. Margaret Golder Minter, died 4th October 1856 aged 31. James Golder Robinson, died 5th June 1857 aged 37. Jane Robinson, died October 10th 1870 aged 91 years.’ From @devon_magick via Instagram.

Jet & French Jet

With a strict dress code during Victorian mourning, black materials like jet became extremely popular in mourning jewelry. It could be left matte or polished to shine, making it versatile in fitting various stages of mourning and designs. There was also a large source of jet in Whitby, Yorkshire, where workshops became well known for producing hand-carved and highly detailed jet pieces.

Left: I .M .O, 'In Memory Of', Whitby jet mourning locket back brooch. From @littledropofdifference via Instagram. Right: I .M .O, 'In Memory Of', Whitby jet mourning locket. From Sarah Nehama via Facebook

This jet parure consists of a bracelet, earrings, a necklace, and a brooch, and is carved with medallions of female heads symbolizing 'Night' in a surround of roses and leaves, c.1870. If worn as mourning jewelry, this parure likely would have been worn one piece at a time rather than all together, as it was considered in poor taste to wear a lot of jewelry during mourning. - ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Victorian Whitby jet mourning brooch - From @jetrockgirl via Instagram.

Whitby jet mourning bracelet, carved and polished, in the form of a coiled, segmented snake with the elements threaded on sprung wire so that it fits the wrist tightly. - © The Trustees of the British Museum.

Carved jet mourning locket in the form of leaf, sprays flanking an oval hinged lid which lifts up to reveal a glass-covered compartment bordered with gold twisted wire containing strips of laid and glued brown hair placed across each other at right angles. c.1860-80. - © The Trustees of the British Museum.

Oval jet morning locket with applied floral spray of flowers and buds, the locket polished, the flower spray left matte, the inside with a glass-covered compartment containing plaited strips of laid, glued, and cut hair of two colors, light and dark. The inside edge of the lid and back is carved with a foliate motif, c.1860-80. - © The Trustees of the British Museum.

Early Victorian jet mourning brooch with a floral motif, c.1840s. - Via 1stdibs.

Left: Carved jet mourning necklace, c.1875. Right: An intricately carved jet necklace with pendant, c.1875.

Both ©Victoria & Albert Museum, London

A collection of 3 jet and 2 either Gutta Percha or Vulcanite mourning pendants and lockets.

From Antique Gatherings via Instagram.

'French Jet' is a kind of imitation jet made from black glass, called 'French' jet because it was primarily manufactured in France (though England, Austria, Germany, and what is now the Czech Republic soon produced their own). The beads are often faceted to look like jet but are heavier and cold to the touch, unlike genuine jet. French jet, however, was much cheaper to produce so it soon became the most widely spread form of 'jet' used in mourning jewelry across Europe.

Stunning Victorian French Jet necklace and matching earrings. From A. E. I. Antiques via Instagram.

Victorian Mourning Cameo with a French Jet and Seed Pearl Surround. Via Lang Antiques

Pair of gold earrings, set with a hair under glass bordered with a double row of French jet beads. Original hinged loop fittings inserted from the back of the ear and hooking into the top of the earring.

© The Trustees of the British Museum.

A mourning brooch of faceted 'French jet' (cast black glass imitating jet), mounted on gilded copper. A panel on the back holds plaited hair, most likely the hair of a deceased friend or family member. c.1830-40.

©Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Victorian mourning pin of a floral design made with either French jet or onyx, more likely the former as onyx was a very expensive material at the time. The piece is decorated with seed pearls and set in 14kt gold, the pin with a pearl inset. - Via 1stdibs.

Onyx & Banded Agates

As well as jet, other black materials like onyx and banded agates were popular in Victorian mourning jewelry, particularly given Queen Victoria's own appreciation of these materials. She had onyx and banded agate pieces made on the deaths of her mother, Prince Albert, and 3 of her children, as well as to commemorate her half-sister Feodora, Princess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg. Onyx, however, was one of the most expensive materials to use in mourning jewelry apart from enameled gold, making it popular predominantly amongst the wealthier circles of society.

A great quality example of an onyx mourning locket, where the black and white bands of the onyx have been cut so that a white oval frames the diamond-set initials 'JE' and 'EE'. Inscribed around the frames of the hair compartments is '+Jarvis Empson, born June 28th.1793, died March 28th.1871' and '+Elizth. Empson, born 17th. April 1784, died July 24th.1867'. - ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

A Victorian onyx and 18k gold necklace with a double-sided locket. The front of the locket has a 4-leaf clover set with white seed pearls and a small diamond. The back compartment is empty but perhaps once housed hairwork or a photograph. There are gold flowers on one side of each onyx link, the bale is set with seed pearls, and there is a detailed dolphin clasp set with a blue turquoise eye and a green (possibly also turquoise) eye. The place for hair or a photo and the black color of the piece suggests it might have been a mourning piece, c.1860-1880. - From Sarah Nehama via Instagram.

Two Victorian mourning photo lockets in gold, onyx, and pearls. One set with an M monogram, the other with a floral motif. - Via Bijoux Regionaux.

Oval-shaped Victorian mourning brooch in 15kt yellow gold with a central oval onyx cabochon set with a single seed pearl. The onyx is surrounded by pretty winding vines with textured gold ivy leaves, symbolizing 'eternity' or 'everlasting'. Surrounding the center is an elaborate enamel border in black and white enamel with a design that evokes Greek key, also symbolizing eternity. The back has a deep glazed compartment for hair. c.1870s. - Via 1stdibs.

Victorian black onyx and pearl bar mourning pin, c.1880. The combination of pearls and black materials like onyx was very popular in 'ordinary mourning' jewelry. - From St John & Myers Jewelry via Instagram.

14kt gold, onyx, and pearl mourning pendant with a shield-shaped onyx plaque surmounted by pearls set in a lily-of-the-valley motif, completed by a seed pearl bail decorated with black tracery enamel, verso with locket compartment. - Via Skinner

Victorian gold and black enamel mourning brooch set with a banded agate and a gold star with a pearl. Via Carter's

Early Victorian 18k gold morning pin/brooch with a carved banded agate displaying a forget-me-not design and with plaited hair set into the back, c.1850. - From A. Brandt + Son via Pinterest.

Gutta Percha, Vulcanite, Bog Oak & Tortoiseshell

These materials are all naturally dark brown or black in color, making them a good fit for mourning jewelry. Gutta-percha is made from the sap/resin of tropical trees native to Southeast Asia and northern Australasia, which can be easily carved and is very resilient. Vulcanite (also sometimes called 'ebonite') is similarly made from the sap of trees, specifically Euphorbia or Ficus trees from Malaysia, but vulcanite pieces are almost always molded rather than carved. Bog oak is a generic term for fossilized wood turned black with age and by long burial in peat bogs. It's traditionally Irish, with bog oak jewelry often featuring Celtic crosses, Irish harps, and shamrocks, however, the black coloring of the material also made it appealing for use in mourning jewelry.

Gutta-percha bangle mourning bracelet, hand-carved with two bands of 9kt yellow gold lining the top and bottom resting in carved grooves to create a ridged design. Set across the front are seven ornate flourished with a soft etched surface, c.1880. - From A. Brandt + Son

Victorian Gutta Percha snake mourning pin, the snake symbolizing eternity - From lovestreetsf via Etsy

A double-sided French 19th century mourning brooch, the border made of carved Gutta Percha, with flat/palette worked human hair curled and tied behind a glass panel. - Via Ebay.

Two Gutta Percha pins, the smaller with grapes and the larger being a mourning locket pin with a fuscia flower design and hair inside. From the 2nd half of the 1800s. - From Lorelay Trouvé via Instagram.

A luscious Victorian vulcanite cuff with a floral motif. - From Rebecca Sweeting via Instagram.

Victorian vulcanite mourning brooch with a high relief of a chaff of wheat. The symbol of wheat was extremely popular during the Victorian era, symbolizing the Bread of the Eucharist (Mark 14:22-24) and, especially when paired with grapes, the idea of everlasting life through the belief in Jesus. From victoriansentiments via Etsy.

Left: Victorian carved Bog Oak Fuchsia drop earrings, c.1880. From WestandSonJewellery via Etsy. Right: Victorian carved Bog Oak mourning earring with gold fittings, c.1860s. From GreenMoonHouse via Etsy.

Victorian Bog Oak cameo mourning pendant featuring an intricate carving of a woman with grapevines in her hair, and a ram. A border of carved beads surrounds the scene, and there is a genuine pearl set into the carving. - From Goddess in LA via Ruby Lane.

A dark tortoiseshell cameo mourning locket, carved, with hair inside the locket, c. mid-1800s.

Via 1stdibs.


From creating miniature scenes to weaving braided chains for bracelets and hanging watches from, the Victorian era was the height of popularity for hairwork in mourning jewelry. The hair was originally taken directly from the deceased, as a very real and personal memento that would not decay. However, by the mid-1800s, England was importing 50 tons of hair a year due to demand to supplement pieces. Although hair was also used in other sentimental jewelry like love tokens, it was particularly favored in mourning jewelry. Queen Victoria was said to have carried a lock of Prince Albert's hair with her almost constantly after his death, normalizing the practice of carrying around the hair of deceased loved ones.

Incredibly detailed Victorian hairwork mourning brooch/pendant with a floral motif in a vermeil frame. Via Live Auctioneers.

Mourning hair flowers brooch, American, c.1850–1860. Made from hair, gold, enamel, fabric, paper, and glass. The Greek key design around the border was popular in mourning jewelry as it symbolizes eternity. From the Sarah Nehama Collection

Mourning pin, c.1890s, containing detailed hairwork and a monogram on one side, and a portrait on the other. The center rotates so that whichever side faces outward is always framed by a black enamel frame. From Maejean Vintage Jewelry via Instagram.

Victorian mourning brooch with locks of brunette hair hand-worked into a bouquet of flowers, preserved between two pieces of swiveling, bevel-edged glass. The glass is in a gold sheeted bezel surrounded by a black enameled, gold sheet frame. Black enamel particularly suggests this piece's purpose as a mourning jewel. The elegant frame is embellished with acanthus leaves at the North and South points. c.1840. Via Gem Set Love.

A gold brooch pendant in the form of nine roundels surrounding a central roundel with an engraved gold border, each containing hair arrangements under glass; at the base is a small heart-shaped drop also with hair. The hair in the small roundels is arranged as curls tied with twisted gold wire; the central roundel contains two dark curls secured with gold wire and seed pearls, with further gold wire decoration. The reverse with initials on the back of the small roundels including the date 1852, and on the back of the small drop. These are probably for a family. - © The Trustees of the British Museum.

Victorian mourning brooch with an oval goldfilled frame and reticulated scroll border. The central hair work is on milk glass, displaying cut-work flowers and foliage and a Prince of Wales curl with gold wire and seed pearls, all surrounded by a black enamel frame marked 'In Memory Of'. - Via Live Auctioneers.

Two Victorian 19th-century hairwork brooches, one with strands of different colored hair forming a stylized sheaf of wheat in a gold frame with ribbon decoration, the other with cut hair forming a floral forget-me-not motif in a gold frame. - Both via

A Victorian double-sided mourning locket brooch/pendant. With a gold-plated body and 3d leaf-and-scroll-type motifs and an unusual sliding bolt that releases the center section to rotate and have the other side facing front. The hairwork is a 5-person mourning display of finely set sprays, gilt wire, and tiny seed pearls, c.1870. - From VictoriousAntique via Etsy

Oval hairwork brooch with a spray of pansies (conveying the sentiment, 'think of me') in cut and laid hair on ivory under glass, surrounded by a hollow tube of plaited hair held in four engraved gold bands. The reverse with glass a covered compartment backed with blue textile, and gold fittings at either side to attach a bracelet, c.1850-70. - © The Trustees of the British Museum.

Hair jewelry of this kind of design was very popular and often used in love tokens, however, this piece is a mourning piece. It's very unusual in its use of white hair - the hair of a deceased elder, rare and treasured. c.1850-80. A touching short story published in the Massachusetts Ploughman in 1878 tells of Beth, a young actress who cares for her ailing grandfather. She is courted by a young man who, upon her grandfather’s death, takes his own hair and the deceased’s hair to create a locket for her, giving both romantic and mourning value to the piece and making it more valuable than gems could ever be. From The Cincinnati Art Museum.

Hairwork brooch in the form of a bow, built up of triple hollow tubes of plaited hair on each side with a central rosette formed of an engraved gold flowerhead with an enameled dark blue forget-me-not in the middle, surrounded by hollow hairwork beads. From the center of the bow hang three hearts in hollow plaited hair with engraved pierced gold tops, suspended on chains. The inscription on the reverse reads 'Jessie J Jardine April 16. 1864', c.1850-70. - © The Trustees of the British Museum.

Listed as a Victorian mourning brooch, made from 9ct gold and human hair. There is a curled lock, mounted under glass, with a natural pearl and crimped wire. The glazed compartment is bordered with a woven tube of hair, pinched in as it passes through each flower-mounted tube.

From CliftonVintage via Etsy.

Left: Victorian era 14k yellow gold mourning pin/brooch with strands of hair intertwined within a gold framework. Via eBay. Right: Victorian mourning pendant/brooch of intricate, finely woven hairwork framed by gold, with an oval-shaped top from which two pendants are suspended, c.1880s. From SilverChai via Etsy. Both are listed as mourning pieces but could be another kind of sentimental token.

Left: Victorian hair bow pin with acorn drops, the gold 'knot; of the bow is inscribed 'Lizzie'. Right: Victorian hair bow bracelet with engraved initials 'AVP' at the center. These could easily be mourning jewels or other pieces of sentimental jewelry. - From Morning Glory Antiques.

Victorian hairwork brooch on gold with an outer circle of eight stiffened brown hair beads, an inner circle of braided hair loops, and a center of a gold rosette on hair. Handsewn to wire clasp. c.1850-70. There is no easy way to tell whether this is a sentimental or mourning jewel. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

Serpent bangle of brown hair on a coiled flexible metal base with an engraved gold head and tail. There are three cabochon garnets on the head and two garnet eyes. The serpent has a forked tongue and (apparently) teeth, c.1850-60. - © The Trustees of the British Museum.

A snake bracelet made of braided hair, head & tail in gold with engraved floral decoration, the headset with garnets, c.1840. This could be either a mourning jewel or a sentimental love token. From Nathalie Pavula via Instagram.

Bracelet of dark brown hair woven in an elastic open tube, chased gold serpent clasp with faceted garnet eyes, c.1850-70. - © The Trustees of the British Museum.

Bracelet of flat plaited elasticated dark brown hair with engraved gold ends and coiled gold serpent clasp with small amethyst drop and small pendant gold heart, c.1850-70.- ©The Trustees of the British Museum.

Victorian woven braided mourning hair bracelet with a golden locket containing another braided piece of hair beneath glass. - From antiquechoc via eBay.

French hairwork bracelet of light brown plaited hair with a gold and gold-spotted black enamel clasp with hair monogram CM or MC and wreath under glass, c.1850-1870. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

A mourning bracelet of light brown braided hair with a female portrait miniature on ivory, framed by foliage in a chased gold frame. The miniature is signed and dated 'William Egley 1832'.

From Gedenke Mein Freundschafts- und Memorialschmuck by Gisela Zick.

A matched pair of mourning hair bracelets c.1871. One for Amy, the other for Florance.

From Lucy Verity via Instagram.

A Victorian mourning brooch, featuring braided hair, monogrammed SSC to back, in 14ct gold.

Via Carter's

Pages 16 and 25 from the Bernard & Co 1870 catalog, via Morning Glory Jewelry

A selection of Victorian sentimental hair jewelry, some of which is decorated with pieces of French jet. The hair is woven into hollow tubes and stiffened to form bows, rosettes, chains, beads, and long drops. The bow brooch and bell earrings (top center) used hair of different shades. For the acorn earrings and the bracelet links, the hair is woven around a wooden core which it covers completely. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

Left: A display case of Victorian hairwork jewelry including two anchors, flat bands for bracelets, a bow, and two pairs of long earrings. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Right: Jewelry with woven, plaited, and laid hairwork, probably English, 1835-55. © The Trustees of the British Museum. Also featured in Jewellery in the Age of Queen Victoria: A Mirror to the World, by C. Gere & J. Rudoe.

Miniature Memorial Photographs/Portraits

Photography took the world by storm from the moment Daguerre announced the Daguerreotype in 1839. During the 1850s-1880s, several other types of photography emerged, including the Ambrotype, which was less detailed than the Daguerreotype but was cheaper to produce and had a matte rather than a shiny finish. Though they were not considered as skillful as hand-painted miniature portraits, the ability to affordably and quickly create true-to-life portraits of people was an absolute marvel to the general Victorian public. Perhaps unsurprisingly, miniature photographs swiftly became popular in sentimental and mourning jewelry, particularly inside lockets, offering an everlasting image of the deceased as they truly were.

Stunning gold and black enamel mourning bracelet featuring curling snakes at the shoulders and depicting two eternally intertwined wedding rings on the front of a hinged locket compartment that opens to reveal a commemorative miniature portrait. - Antique Animal Jewelry.

A mourning bracelet and pendant with initials on the cover in black enamel and diamonds, and miniature photographs inside remembering those passed. - Antique Animal Jewelry.

A mourning locket of gold, diamonds, and enamel, decorated with an initial L on the exterior and inscribed on the back, 'In remembrance of L.B.F. Oct 7th 1871, from C.G.S.F.'. The inside contains a miniature photograph and a lock of hair. The widowed husband of the woman in the photograph probably bought the locket and gave it as a keepsake to one of his wife's close friends or relations.

©Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Victorian vulcanite locket with fuchsia flowers and 4 photo compartments holding photos of what looks like parents and grandparents. - Via Morning Glory Jewelry.

A gold memorial locket for Charles Dickens, given to his daughter Mary ('Mamie'), containing a lock of his hair and a small, hand-tinted portrait of the author. The locket is engraved '9th June 1870', with Charles’ initials applied to one side, and Mary’s on the reverse. - From The Hairpin via Pinterest

Queen Victoria's Mourning Jewelry

Queen Victoria was likely the most influential jewelry trendsetter of the Victorian era, particularly when it came to mourning jewelry. After losing both her mother and her husband in the same year, Queen Victoria went into a period of mourning that was to last the rest of her life. After passing through the ritualistic stages of 'Deepest Mourning' and 'Ordinary Mourning', Victoria spent the decades until her own death in a perpetual state of 'Half-Mourning', during which she commissioned many pieces of mourning jewelry to remember those she knew and loved.

An oval banded agate locket, set to the center with a cushion-shaped diamond in a star border, commissioned by Prince Albert for Queen Victoria as a mourning jewel on the death of her mother, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, later Duchess of Kent. The locket opens to reveal a miniature photograph of the Duchess of Kent and a lock of hair, the reverse with the inscription 'Dear Mama b. Aug 17 1786, from Albert in remembrance of March 16 1861, Du warst uns Freud und Glück (You were our joy and happiness)'. - Via Sotheby's

Queen Victoria's Locket. A small gold memorial locket, set with central oval onyx, black on white, with a diamond star set in a plain gold border with the blue enamel inscription, 'Die reine Seele schwingt sich auf zu Gott', roughly translated as 'The pure soul flies up above to the Lord'. It opens to reveal hair on one side and a photograph of Prince Albert on the other, both under glass. This was one of a group of jewels placed in the ‘Albert Room’ at Windsor Castle after the Queen's death in 1901. - Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021

A gold mourning locket acquired by Queen Victoria containing a photograph of Prince Albert on the left, and a lock of hair on the right. The hair sits on a fabric mount. Both are set beneath glass. Carved on the front of the locket is the initial 'A' beneath a crown, on the reverse is 'Dec. 14/1861'. - Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021

A mourning pendant made by Robert Phillips and probably commissioned by Queen Victoria to commemorate the death of her daughter, Princess Alice (1843–1878, the 3rd child and 2nd daughter of Victoria & Albert). Designed as a cross with black and white enamel and with each arm terminating in a trefoil motif set with a banded agate and cushion-shaped diamond. In the center is an onyx heart with 'ALICE' beneath a coronet, set with rose-cut diamonds. The reverse contains a lock of hair in a glazed compartment and the inscription, 'Dear Alice 14th December 1878'. - Via Sotheby's

A mourning button commissioned by Queen Victoria to remember her daughter, Princess Alice, with the initial 'A' set with seed pearls, upon an onyx cabochon, with a portrait miniature of Princess Alice of the United Kingdom verso, the reverse inscribed 'From Mama VRI 7th April 1879'. - Via Sotheby's

A mourning pendant collet-set with a pearl upon a polished section of banded agate. Commissioned by Queen Victoria on the death of her daughter Princess Alice and granddaughter Princess Marie who both died of diphtheria the same year. The reverse holds a glazed compartment containing a lock of hair and the inscription '16th Nov & 14th Dec 1878 From Grandmama VR.' - Via Sotheby's

After Queen Victoria's own death, many mourning jewels commemorating her were produced. Left: A gold mourning brooch with black and white enamel frame, set with a circular miniature of Queen Victoria wearing the riband of the Order of the Garter. Right: A gold mourning brooch with black and white enamel and diamond frame, set with an oval miniature of Queen Victoria wearing the riband and star of the Order of the Garter. Both Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2021.

The End of Antique Mourning Jewelry

After the 1880s, mourning jewelry began to decline. What had once been rare and personal had become mass-produced and commonplace. With the dawn of the Edwardian era, there was also an increasing push back against the restrictive Victorian mourning codes which now seemed outdated and unfashionable. This included mourning jewelry, and so the era of mourning jewelry faded from view. Today, however, there is something of a renewed interest in antique mourning jewelry and the deeply personal and sentimental stories captured in the unique craftsmanship of each piece.

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