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Mourning Jewelry Part II: Other Georgian Mourning Jewelry

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’.

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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...

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