Mourning Jewelry: Morbid with a Touch of Class

Studio 360

All kinds of jewelry can be considered commemorative --- think of your grandmother's locketor a class ring. But some of the mostbeautiful/morbid/meaningful jewelry (pick your adjective) is madein memory of the dead.And like seances and curiosity cabinets, this kind of thingreally reached its apex in Victorian England.

Because dark feelings are more fun when you share them with the world, I've cobbled together some excellent examples of mourning jewelry from London's wonderfulVictoria and Albert Museum.This would make the great start to a Pinterest board for any young Goths.

Two memento mori rings, both in gold with black enamel

The terms "mourning jewelry" and "memento mori" are often used interchangeably to describe similar pieces, but they are in fact slightly different things. Memento mori jewelry simply acts as a token to remember one's own mortality. "Memento mori" literally means "remember you must die" in Latin (or, to quote a little Game of Thrones, "Valar Morghulis").

Mourning jewelry, on the other hand, was made to remember a specific person, often a loved one, and couldincorporate organicelements --- that is to say, actual bits of the person. Hair from the deceased was the most common, butoccasionally even teeth show up in thedesigns. Skulls and funeral urns were popular motifs in the Victorian era, appearing on everything from rings to pendants to brooches. Designs frequently incorporated pearls, used to symbolize tears.

You can see more jewelry from the V&A below, or explore their who collection here.

A gold brooch featuring a funeral of enamel, pearls, and hair
Two gold mourning rings
Two more elaborate examples of mourning rings
A memento mori pendant charm, meant to be hung from a chain
Multiple views of an ornate enamelled gold morning ring