The History of Fashion: Mourning Jewelry

Losing a loved one can be a catastrophic and life-changing event. But losing them does not have to be the end of their legacy. By taking a piece of their memory with us throughout our lives, we are choosing to focus on the positive impact of their lives, and tokens they have left behind.

The Victorian Era Shaped The Way We Commemorate the Departed

In the Victorian-era, human hair was taken from the deceased upon death, and was incorporated into jewelry of mourning. Worn mostly by the elite, this jewelry brought solace to those who were in experiencing grief. Whether woven or braided into metal pieces, these avant-garde creations were the highlight of the decade.

In the United States, grieving widows would make hair pieces out of their relative’s hair and wear them as part of their everyday attire. These wreaths, as they were called, were a construction of wire, hair strands, and the occasional floral arrangement. Those that were adventurous would collect the hair of multiple family members, both alive and dead, and incorporate those into a single wreath.

A Necklace To Last A Lifetime

Lockets were a commonly worn piece of bereavement jewelry, and Queen Victoria was a quintessential archetype of this custom. When her husband, Prince Albert, passed away in 1861, Queen Victoria commissioned for a locket be made of the late Prince Albert’s hair. For 40 years, until her death in 1901, Queen Victoria proudly displayed the heart of her anguish and love in a tiny locket. Necklaces have also been made from the ashes of cremated loved ones. In where, the ashes are held within the locket or incorporated into the design of the jewelry.

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Modern Bracelets That Hold Meaning

Memorial bracelets are designed in recent times, by various manufacturing companies as dedicatory jewelry. These individual pieces are fashioned to symbolize the wearer’s fallen loved one. Whether their death was the result of military action or they were the unfortunate victim of terrorism, each bracelet acts as a token of everlasting love and observance. The social significance behind these bracelets are progressive. Instead of the traditionally honoring a loved one with a memorial site, these bracelets allow the memorial always to be remaining with you. Some bracelets have even been created to remember a family member who has passed away from cancer or who has been a victim of the Holocaust. The significant effects these bracelets have on the wearer, cannot be defined by a simple idiomatic expression.

In some instances, memorial and mourning jewelry has a vital place in society. It is representative of a culture riddled with sadness, but it the same breathe it is evidence of strength. The strength that only the wearer can possess. The advantage to move on after a loved ones passing, and choosing to publicly display ongoing sentimentality for them. Without these pieces, it would be challenging to express compassion for the deceased, as their death brings about a sense of finality that is hard to ignore, let alone move past.