Watch as Edahn Golan, Sherry Smith and Avi Levy join Michelle Graff to talk pricing and trends in this controversial corner of the market.
The History Behind ... Victorian mourning jewelry
National Jeweler delves into the when, where and why of mourning jewelry worn during the Victorian era, which spanned 1837 to 1901.
Depictions of grave-digging tools and skulls gave way to softer symbolism--clouds and angels--as mourning jewelry became entirely about remembering individuals who were lost, and was incorporated into the strict mourning dress code imposed upon women in Victorian times.
Antique jewelry dealer Lenore Dailey shares her insights on the mourning jewelry of the period in this month’s The History Behind, a follow-up to September’s story on Georgian era mourning jewelry.
When was the Victorian era and what characteristics mark mourning jewelry from this period? Historically, it is the period from 1837 to 1901, spanning the 64-year reign of Queen Victoria, who remains the longest-reigning monarch in history (though she soon could lose that title to Elizabeth II.)
Dailey, notes, however that the dates for jewelry design are not so exacting, as styles sometimes overlap dates.
What makes Victorian era mourning jewelry different from that of the Georgian era? Early Georgian era mourning jewelry was more macabre, Dailey says. It focused more on the concept of memento mori--remember that you will die--that later morphed into pieces created in memory of individuals.
“It’s marking the passages of life. It’s keeping their loved ones close to them and incorporating it into social customs of the time, which were very strict.”
Dailey says while mourning customs varied according to status, generally they were very detailed--women had to wear all black for a designated period of time and were restricted in what they could do socially after the loss of a loved one. Those who didn’t comply were shunned.
Basically, men wore a black suit, maybe an arm band or a hat band, and black gloves. The social restrictions were few, as men had to go out and work, and find a new bride to help with the children if that was the case.
How much is Victorian-era mourning jewelry worth today? Pieces range in price from a couple hundred dollars up to thousands, depending on the quality, the rarity and the materials used.
How can a retailer add this category to their antique jewelry offerings? “It’s more widely available, of course, as the Georgian and pre-Georgian pieces,” Dailey says, both because the era is more recent and more was made.
Dailey also recommends those with an interest in this category read In Death Lamented: The Tradition of Anglo-American Mourning Jewelry by Sarah Nehama, an “excellent” reference guide for mourning jewelry.
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