I’ve been horrible about blogging lately. I have no excuse, just plain lazy lately. Trust me, I’m not proud of myself, that’s for sure. But, I decided today to try and get myself back on track and that starts with a Wednesday History Lesson!
This necklace, “Amazing Bird Locket Repurposed Necklace” is the special 20% off necklace for the month of September and it features an incredible mourning locket with a bird on it. I’ve always associated lockets that have a “well”, that is a deeper area than what would be required for a photograph, as a mourning locket. That well usually was meant to hold a memento of the deceased such as a lock of hair or in religious relics, a snippet of the clothing worn by the saint, etc.
Mourning jewelry has been around since at least the 16th century, but it is widely associated with the Victorian Era, when mass production made it affordable. The trend reached its high point after the death of Prince Albert in 1861, when Queen Victoria, as well as members of her court, wore black clothing and matching mourning jewelry for decades.
Thanks to this royal example, black jewelry became quite fashionable. The best pieces were made out of jet, a fossilized coal found near Whitby, England. Less-expensive alternatives included black glass, black enamel, vulcanite (a hardened rubber,) and bog oak, which is more of a brown color but still dark enough to express somber sentiments. I have made several mourning bracelets, all of which sold very quickly.
Some of the most interesting examples of mourning jewelry included hairwork, which describes bracelets, necklaces, pins, and rings made from woven human hair. The hair was not necessarily from the deceased—in the middle of the 19th century, 50 tons of human hair a year was imported into England for use by the country’s jewelers. To create a connection to a deceased loved one, their initials were often discreetly woven into the object.
Lockets were also popular. Some contained a lock of the deceased person’s hair. Other lockets held a photo of the departed. The photo lockets were actually descendants of miniature portraits, which had been very popular early in the century and had historically been used in mourning jewelry to honor deceased monarchs. Carved cameos or silhouettes were another way to remember someone.
A close cousin of mourning jewelry is sentimental jewelry. Sometimes the forms were used interchangeably. For example, that lock of hair might have come from one’s fiancée, so determining whether a piece of jewelry is true mourning or merely sentimental can be tricky.
As I’ve been researching and buying items for my repurposed jewelry, I got to thinking about the symbolism chosen for these mourning lockets and I did some research! Apparently, the bird is symbolic of the “winged soul.” The representation of the soul by a bird goes back to ancient Egypt. Some older burial art features only wings to convey the symbol of divine mission. Often denote the graves of children, eternal life.
Then I got to wondering…what type of bird is this and realized…doh! It’s a dove – important symbolic animal in Christianity representing the Holy Spirit. The white dove is referred to in the story of baptism of Christ. “And John bore record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him” (Bible, John 1:32). The descending dove is a very common motif on grave memorials.
In all my jewelry I try to tell a story. I think this necklace will eventually tell the story of whoever you decide to honor in this amazing locket whether they are still alive or not.
This necklace is my priciest piece but is truly spectacular. And, during September it is 20% off so instead of $600 it will be $480. Use coupon code: SEPTEMBRE when checking out and you’ll see your $120 savings in your cart.