Day of the Dead: A Nod to Sentimental Mourning Jewelry
My daughter reminded me that this weekend is marks Day of the Dead celebrations in various cultures and so we will be paying a visit to the cemetery today. I thought I would share some photos of sentimental jewelry I have collected over time that hold symbolic meaning rooted in the tradition of Victorian mourning jewelry. I would refer you to the Art of Mourning as a wonderful online resource and study of specific pieces and trends in this genre. My knowledge is very basic and the pieces I have collected are very personal and came to me based on emotional response to their visual and tactile aesthetic and to the way they spark my imagination. In particular, I have a thing for snakes:This little darling is an Edwardian piece, early 1900’s and I’ve taken him on as a kind of mascot. What I love about him is the detailed scaling on the back of his head, and the treatment of his smile , not pictured here, gives him an endearing grin. Queen Victoria’s famous engagement ring was a snake ring, symbolizing immortal love and you can find lovely examples of double snake rings with their tails entwined about one another in a sensuous embrace as a metaphor for eternal lovers. This fellow has a cabochon sapphire embedded atop his head that reminds me of the New Mexican sky and so gives me a fragment of piece when I look at it.
Partnered above is an example of a Victorian buckle ring fashioned in Chester, England during the 1890’s. Here it is the delicacy of the floral engraving that touched me, the ring, though wide, has a fragility about it, even as it represents the bonds of heart between loved ones. Buckle rings have been worn as marriage rings as well as memorial rings, again symbolic of relationships that transcend the physical plane. Here is a side view of a Victorian mourning ring, also made in Chester, England, of the same era as the buckle ring above. The dainty rose cut diamond in the center is embraced by seed pearls representing the tears of the bereaved. You will often see black materials such as enamel, jet or onyx adorning mourning jewels. Pearls, diamonds and garnets were also popular stones for remembrance. As individuals came out of their period of deep mourning, colors such as amethyst might be added, with black elements being used more minimally. Another fascinating element found in mourning rings typical to this period was the inclusion of an interior locket so that the hair of the departed loved one could be placed within as a memento.
Finally, below is a photo of two of my favorite vintage finds, ones that I find very soothing to wear: a belcher set moonstone band and a mid-century moss agate from London. What I love about these stones is their unpretentious, gentle luminosity. They have nothing to do with mourning, but beauty feeds the soul. Do you have vintage or sentimental pieces of jewelry that are dear to you? Like me, do you enjoy wearing items that have a past? To me, each one has a story, known or unknown to me, and that is half the enjoyment.
Wishing you a meaningful Day of the Dead, and may the memories of your loved ones bring you peace.