The Jewelry Insider

October 29, 2010


(This is a popular older post that seemed appropriate to share again before the Halloween weekend. Be safe and bedazzle, jewelry hounds!)

Most of us associate jewelry with happy occasions like weddings, birthdays and Valentine’s Day. But many folks are wearing jewels these days that symbolize quite the opposite.

Mourning jewelry is apparently all the rage right now, according to TrendHunter, and with vampire chic taking over our pop culture – from Twilight to True Blood – it’s no wonder.

So what is mourning jewelry exactly?

The earliest examples of mourning jewelry were found in Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries. Black and white enameled heads or skulls were often set into both rings and brooches and worn to signify a period of mourning after the death of a loved one.

The jewelry category reached its height of popularity in England with Queen Victoria after the premature death of Prince Albert in December 1861. Black jewelry soon became a must-have accessory, as thousands of Brits sympathized with their grieving Queen.


In the United States the use of mourning jewelry increased with the outbreak of the Civil War, which included the emergence of hair jewelry – lopped off locks given to loved ones by soldiers who went off to war, often worn as pendants or in closed lockets.


Today, mourning jewelry is making a comeback, with young designers like Anna Schwamborn from London designing a range of styles made with the hair and cremated ashes of loved ones mixed with black bone china. Her “Mourning Objects” collection includes a rosary, necklace and a watch chain tear catcher, among other styles.

So what do you think about this ‘trendy’ jewelry category? Would you wear the remains of your loved one around your neck, for example, or in the form of a ring? Or is the thought of it too morbid to even consider?

I’m curious. Has anyone out there worn mourning jewelry before? Share your story!

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Comments (13)

  1. Janet

    anything that takes death out of the closet and into the open is okay by me – beautiful photos and interesting history, thanks!

  2. Jewelry Insider

    Funny. I went to my first Ren Fair last month and you got that joint pegged, Stonesetter. Goth Goth and more Goth. Totally agree with you too Janet. Although the hair sample jewelry is a little weird for me.

  3. Necie

    I have been doing fine jewelry IMO’s (in memory of)for years. Very Un-Goth, much more Victorian. I take great pride in my beautiful hair weaves for lockets. When customers leave up-lifted from a tragedy like the unexpected death of a loved one, my talents have once again succeeded. May be “icky” for some but beloved & cherished others.

  4. Ean

    Anna Schwamborn lacks talent in hair work. When I first saw those pieces I honestly thought it was a joke. There are modern hairworkers with talent that you can’t even imagine! They make the work of Schwamborn look like that of an infant.

  5. Glamour

    Nice post… I’m very amazed with the content of your blog. Looks like you are really putting hard work on it. I’d surely visit here often.

  6. Weesnott Designs

    Mourning Jewelry, I love the concept. Jewelry is created with the intent that another living soul connects with the art and beauty. I have created pieces that i guess could fall into place with this topic, but I do not look at them in that way. Beauty is undefinable, no matter where you find it. It just exists.
    Love your blog and will come back often!

    Jess Craig
    WeesnottDesigns.com

  7. Jewelry Insider

    Well said, Jess/Weesnott Designs. Glad you enjoyed the post. Jewelry can symbolize many things – which is why I am so passionate about it, I suppose. This is one use of jewelry that is rarely discussed – but generates much emotion. I’m still not sure I would wear ‘actual’ remains in jewelry form – but I love the sentiment of jewelry as a symbol of loss during difficult times.

  8. Anonymous

    Love your blog – just found – Refreshing to see someone doing their homework! I too am a fine jeweler/designer & have been sculpting an urn line. But “Mourning” much better. After my husband died & then my brother, I just started sculpting urns – it just happened. To me, my art, sculpting in metal & acenting w/little gem sprits is my healing, my teacher, my inspiration. Everyone should have some kind of passion in their lives that offer this to their soul.

  9. buy generic viagra

    That jewelry is a little bit creepy, some people think it is to be used during a Halloween party or something similar but I love when my girlfriend wearing black and creepy jewelry because she looks so sexy.m10m

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