Mourning jewelry was jewelry that commemorated the death of a loved one or of a famous person. Mourning jewelry was also called sentimental or memorial jewelry. Black was the symbolic color usually worn in medieval times and during the Victorian Period of intense mourning.
The color black was used in brooches such as black cameos, portrait pins and brooches with compartments for a lock of hair from an absent love. Other mourning jewelry were necklaces with a special place in the back for a lock of hair, cuff links with hair from the deceased and watch fobs.
You would often find materials such as jet with hair woven into the sentimental jewelry, horn molded, carved and dyed to make jewelry, vuleanite which was an early plastic, Indian rubber, bog oak (fossilized peat) and French jet (black glass).
The Victorian Period of mourning came about in 1861 at the death of her husband, Prince Albert, who died of typhoid. Queen Victoria mourned for forty years but was in full mourning for three years. Her entire court was dressed in mourning garb as well, which was the fashion of those wealthy enough to signify the passing of the head of the house or a famous person.
Mourning came in stages.
First mourning -Women were expected to mourn for two years.
Second mourning -This period lasted for nine months and limited mourning jewelry could be worn.
Half mourning- This period lasted for three to six months and more elaborate fabric would be used for the trim. Coming out of mourning colors such as grey, mauve, purple, lavender, lilac and burgundy could be worn. White was used for cuffs and collars.
It was believed that children under the age of 15 could not handle “the grief brought on by assuming mourning”.
In 1901, at the death of Queen Elizabeth the “world came out of mourning”. Repressed values of the Victorian Period were no longer society’s values. Times were changing.