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“The Resurgence of Victorian Mourning Jewelry”

The Resurgence of Victorian Mourning Jewelry

Mourning jewelry has a long and fascinating history, with its roots dating back to ancient civilizations. However, one particular era stands out as a pinnacle of mourning jewelry’s popularity and artistry – the Victorian era. During this time, mourning jewelry reached its zenith, becoming an essential part of mourning rituals and a symbol of remembrance for the deceased. In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in Victorian mourning jewelry, with collectors and enthusiasts appreciating its intricate craftsmanship and historical significance. This article explores the resurgence of Victorian mourning jewelry, delving into its history, symbolism, and the reasons behind its renewed popularity.

The History of Victorian Mourning Jewelry

The Victorian era, spanning from 1837 to 1901, was a time of strict mourning customs and rituals. Queen Victoria’s prolonged mourning for her beloved husband, Prince Albert, set the tone for the entire era. The wearing of mourning attire and the creation of mourning jewelry became widespread practices among the upper and middle classes.

Victorian mourning jewelry was crafted using a variety of materials, including jet, onyx, black enamel, and hair. Jet, a fossilized wood, was particularly popular due to its deep black color and ability to be intricately carved. Hairwork, where strands of the deceased’s hair were woven into intricate designs, was also a common feature of mourning jewelry.

These pieces of jewelry served as both a personal memento and a public display of grief. They were often worn as brooches, lockets, rings, or bracelets, allowing the wearer to keep their loved one close at all times. The designs of Victorian mourning jewelry were often somber and symbolic, featuring motifs such as urns, weeping willows, and crosses.

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The Symbolism of Victorian Mourning Jewelry

Victorian mourning jewelry was rich in symbolism, with each element carefully chosen to convey a specific message. The materials used, the design motifs, and even the way the jewelry was worn all held significant meaning.

Black was the predominant color in mourning jewelry, symbolizing the absence of light and life. Jet, with its deep black hue, was the most popular material for mourning jewelry, as it perfectly embodied the somberness of mourning. Onyx and black enamel were also commonly used for their dark and mournful appearance.

Design motifs in Victorian mourning jewelry often represented themes of death, remembrance, and eternity. Urns symbolized the containment of the deceased’s ashes, while weeping willows represented grief and mourning. Crosses were a common motif, representing faith and the hope of eternal life.

The way mourning jewelry was worn also conveyed specific messages. For example, wearing a brooch on the left side of the chest indicated that the wearer had lost a spouse, while wearing it on the right side indicated the loss of a parent. Lockets containing a lock of hair or a photograph were worn close to the heart, symbolizing the emotional connection to the deceased.

The Resurgence of Interest

In recent years, there has been a notable resurgence of interest in Victorian mourning jewelry. Collectors, historians, and enthusiasts have rediscovered the beauty and historical significance of these pieces, leading to a renewed appreciation for their craftsmanship and symbolism.

One reason for this resurgence is the growing interest in antique and vintage jewelry. Victorian mourning jewelry, with its unique designs and materials, has become highly sought after by collectors. The rarity and historical value of these pieces make them prized additions to any jewelry collection.

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Additionally, the rise of social media and online platforms has allowed enthusiasts to connect and share their passion for Victorian mourning jewelry. Online communities, forums, and Instagram accounts dedicated to mourning jewelry have emerged, providing a space for collectors and enthusiasts to discuss, showcase, and learn about these pieces.

The resurgence of interest in Victorian mourning jewelry can also be attributed to a broader cultural fascination with death and mourning rituals. In recent years, there has been a growing movement to reclaim and explore death as a natural part of life. This has led to an increased interest in mourning practices of the past, including the wearing of mourning jewelry.

Collecting Victorian Mourning Jewelry

For those interested in collecting Victorian mourning jewelry, there are several factors to consider. Authenticity, condition, and provenance are crucial aspects to examine when acquiring these pieces.

Authenticity can be determined by examining the materials used, the craftsmanship, and the design motifs. Genuine Victorian mourning jewelry will often feature intricate hairwork, delicate engravings, and specific mourning symbols. It is essential to educate oneself on the characteristics of Victorian mourning jewelry to avoid purchasing replicas or modern reproductions.

The condition of the jewelry is also important, as pieces that have been well-preserved will retain their value and beauty. Look for minimal damage, such as missing stones or significant wear, as this can affect the overall aesthetic and value of the piece.

Provenance, or the documented history of the piece, is another crucial aspect to consider. Pieces with a known history or connection to a notable individual or event can significantly increase their value and desirability.

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When collecting Victorian mourning jewelry, it is essential to approach it with respect and sensitivity. These pieces were created as symbols of grief and remembrance, and it is important to honor their original purpose. Understanding the historical context and symbolism behind each piece can enhance the appreciation and enjoyment of collecting Victorian mourning jewelry.


The resurgence of Victorian mourning jewelry is a testament to its enduring beauty and historical significance. These intricate pieces serve as tangible reminders of a bygone era, where mourning rituals were deeply ingrained in society. The symbolism and craftsmanship of Victorian mourning jewelry continue to captivate collectors and enthusiasts, sparking a renewed interest in these unique and poignant pieces. Whether as a collector’s item or a personal memento, Victorian mourning jewelry allows us to connect with the past and honor the memory of those who came before us.

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