Antique Tuesday - Victorian Hair Jewelry

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry
Mourning dress was popular throughout Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but it wasn't until Queen Victoria was widowed in 1861 upon Prince Albert's death that mourning dress spread throughout England, America and the world. Victoria, widowed at 42, proceeded to wear mourning dress for the next forty years of her life and required that her court do the same. The aristocracy followed suit, and mourning dress filtered down to all classes as an expression of dignity and social status. Although Americans were not directly affected by the mourning of England's monarch, they were influenced by world mourning fashion and customs. Several English magazines outlined the length of various mourning periods. The Gentlewoman, for example, recommended fifteen months mourning for a daughter who lost a parent: six in crape, six in black and three in half mourning. Different magazines outlined different schedules, which proved to be quite confusing for the mourner who didn't want to dress inappropriately. Women wore no jewelry during the initial phase, deep mourning, but a booming fashion and jewelry market emerged for the later stages. Mourning was a respectful, yet fashionable practice; women were quite interested in wearing attractive mourning dress and accessories. 

Laurelle Limited Antique and Fine Jewelry - $444.18 Circa 1850

For mourning accessories, jewelry items made from the hair of a deceased friend or loved one became hugely popular. Pamphlets featuring hairworking patterns assisted Victorians with creating their own hair jewelry, if they so desired. The jewelry designs are surprisingly complex and varied for consisting of such humble material as human hair. The pieces could incorporate jet, gold and diamonds for later stages of mourning or lockets for hair or photographs. There was also a large market for mass-produced gold fittings that could be personalized with engraving or monograms, so the jewelry items could be commissioned as well. There was some distrust, however, of professional hairworkers; there was a widespread problem of hairworkers neglecting to use the deceased person's hair. Instead, they would sell "custom-made" pieces actually made from purchased bulk hair. 

Weston Fine Jewelry - $1,099

Hair jewelry functioned as a keepsake of the dead and as a memento mori, a reminder that death was an ever-present possibility; the wearer was constantly reminded that she should lead a good life because death could strike without warning. Often a wearer would add more hair pieces to a glass-covered brooch when additional relatives or friends passed away. Hair jewelry was not always worn to commemorate the dead; lovers also wore pieces made from the couple's hair. 

Above Article from History of Hair Jewelry in Victorian America - Historic Northampton Museum and Education Center. 

Adin Fine Antique Jewelry - $3,729

This mourning ring has the hair of little baby that died in 1877 at the age of 11 months. The hair is visible behind the glass window in the center of the ring that is surrounded by 19 little rose cut diamonds. In the inside of the ring we see the name of the child and the day he passed away.

Maryefine Antique Jewelry - $395.72

Woven hair mourning earrings with 9 carat gold fittings dating to the Victorian period, circa 1870.

Pugh's Vintage - $1,250

Antique Victorian snake hair mourning bracelet 12kt gold.

Cutter Gallery - $524.99

Circa 1865 14kt gold mourning hair ring.

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

A. Bernhard & Co. Catalogue, 1870 - 48 of Victorian hair bracelets, brooches, stickpins and earrings.

I hope you enjoyed today's "Antique Tuesday".


  1. Hi Denise, fab post! I find Victorian jewellery fascinating and it is used as a source for lots of jewellery today. The memento mori hair pieces are not so popular because they have been perceived as distasteful but in actual fact, these pieces show incredible craftsmanship. Thank you for the post, really thought provoking.


  2. I love Antique Tuesday and have been learning a lot from your posts. This post was really fascinating. I cannot believe the intricate pieces that were made with hair. Thanks for this thoughtful post!

  3. At first I was fascinated, but a little creeped out by hair jewelry, but when I thought about it being made from the hair of a loved one, it took on a differant, more reverant feeling. I wish the pamphlets telling how to make these works of art were still around.

  4. very interesting post if only the pieces could talk oh what a story they would probably tell :)

  5. I have been enjoying your research that you do for antique tuesdays. This one was especially interesting!

  6. I come across hair jewelry every now and then at the flea market - often in the form of a watch chain.

  7. I love how elaborate some of these designs are. I thought they only really kept locks of hair!


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