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.

Some of the most interesting examples of mourning jewelry included hairwork, which describes bracelets, necklaces, 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.

Other pieces, though, are clearly classifiable as sentimental. For example, acrostic rings, in which the first letters of multiple stones spelled out words like “dearest” (from left to right: diamond, emerald, amethyst, ruby, emerald, sapphire, and topaz), were exchanged by lovers and partners who were very much alive.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Art of Mourning

Art of Mourning

Australian historian and collector Hayden Peters' handsome site is a great resource for fans of memorial, mourning,… [read review or visit site]

The Scrap Album

The Scrap Album

Malcolm Warrington’s The Scrap Album is a handsomely organized site, as you’d expect from an articulate champio… [read review or visit site]

All About Jewels Dictionary

All About Jewels Dictionary

This incredible reference dictionary on jewelry, from Enchantedlearning.com, is both beautiful and comprehensive. S… [read review or visit site]

Stevengraphs Bookmarks and Postcards

Stevengraphs Bookmarks and Postcards

Malcolm Roebuck's tribute to the ornate silk picture bookmarks and postcards ('Stevengraphs') produced by Thomas St… [read review or visit site]

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Jewelry collectors, feast your eyes on this internet gem! It's a goldmine of jewelry information featuring all styl… [read review or visit site]

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

With its vast galleries featuring clear images of jewelry and style, this site really covers it all! Divided up by … [read review or visit site]

Jewel History

Jewel History

Since March of 2007, readers of Lori Ettlinger Gross’s Jewel History blog have been treated to her weekly (someti… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Victorian Whitby Jet Mourning PendantAntique Victorian Era Large Gold Mourning Ring In Shield Signet W Plaited HairFine Antique Georgian 15k Yellow Gold Hair & Pearl Navette Mourning Ring~nr!Victorian Silver? Mourning Brooch With Hair In Tact Both Sides Behind GlassAntique Victorian Enamelled Mourning Locket, With Photograph And Hair18ct/ 18k Gold Rare Victorian Diamond Lucky Horse Shoe Mourning Ring, 750Victorian Gold Backed Black Enamel Mourning Brooch For Little Girl .....poignantNo Reserv 1812 Named Gold Enamel Mourning Brooch & Hair Hairwork Vintage A EllisRare Georgian 1809 Antique 18ct Gold Hair Mourning Ring - Black Enamel (a99)No Reserve 1852 Named Enamel Mourning Brooch & Hair Hairwork Vintage W BarnardAntique Victorian 9ct Rolled Gold Pinchbeck Mourning BroochVictorian French Jet And Gold Mourning BroochAntique Solid 9ct Gold Victorian Mourning Hair Front Pin BroochAntique Victorian Mourning Woven Hair Pin Memorial Edwardian Brooch JewelryVictorian Mourning Brooch (b5)Antique Vintage Victorian English Carved Whitby Jet Coral Bead Necklace Pendant Antique Victorian 14k French Jet Mourning Hair Photo Locket PendantFine 9ct/9k 375 Back And Front Victorian Mourning Locket Antique Solid 9ct Gold Victorian Mourning Hair Front Pin BroochOld Antique Gold-filled Mourning Brooch With HairVictorian Black Enamel And Gold Plate Mourning BroochVictorian Silver Mourning Brooch - Original Box - Vgc (a20)Victorian Heart Shaped Mourning Locket (c5)Antique C. 1850 Victorian 18k Gold .39 Ct Colombian Emerald Mourning Pin PendantMourning Locket ,pendant Plus Chain 835. 24 Inch Victorian Vintage EnamelFine Antique Plaited Mourning Hair Bow BroochElegant Antique French Enameled Gilt Brass Button W/woven Chestnut Hair Center* Antique Victorian Mourning Hair Wreath *Fine Gold Cased Victorian Mourning Locket 9k/9ct/375Antique Victorian Whitby Jet Mourning Angel Coral Shell Cameo Pendant Antique 1800's Vintage 9k Gold Mourning Brooch Pin W/ Braided Hair Antique Victorian Mourning Brooch Gold Coloured Black Enamel With Woven Hair AfBeautiful 9ct Gold 1800's Mourning Pendant With Sepia Urn Seed Pearls & Enamel9ct Gold Antique Victorian Mourning Locket Pendant Antique Victorian Nouveau Gold F 5 Genuine Diamonds Photo Locket Pendant NrMourning Brooch With Tintype Photo & Hair 1860sFine Antique Coin Silver Love Token Engraved Necklace Pendant Mourning CharmVictorian Diamond Mourning Locket/brooch In 14k Solid GoldVictorian Whitby Jet 9ct Gold Seed Pearl Mourning LocketLot Of 4 Antique Childs Mourning Pin Broochs Stars 3 Marked 10k GoldVintage Brass Heavy Lion Head Mourning Glass Cabochon Cuff Bracelet Bangle R136Stunning Vintage Estate Signed Laguna Black Jet Glass Mourning Necklace!!! 6191sGorgeous Victorian Solid Gold Necklace W/ Enameled Mourning Locket No Scrap 16g Antique Victorian Mourning Bar Black Onyx /16 Seed Pearls/gold Estate Pin BroochAntique 18k Gold Mounted Spinning Memorial Mourning Hair Locket Lavalier Pin YqzVictorian Pressed Horn Mourning BroochVictorian Vintage Beaded Hair NetVintage Victorian Mourning Hair Art!Pretty Vintage Sentimental Heart Shaped Mourning Locket PendantVintage - Columbus Jet Black Mourning Pins W Box~victorianVtg High Quality Gold Tn Mesh Mourning Deco Rhinestone Choker Necklace R81Vintage Victorian Mourning Hair Art!Vintage Victorian Mourning Hair Art!Antique Sweet Mourning Wreath Portrait Pin BroochAntique Mourning Brooch Pin , Ebony Wooden Hand Vintage Estate Signed Germany Ind. Knotted Jet Glass Mourning Necklace!!! 6183nFine Estate Antique Victorian True Jet Goddess Athena Mourning Pendant NecklaceAntique Victorian Gutta Percha, Morning ,necklace, Carved Roses Vintage Victorian Mourning Hair Art!Vtg Cut Out Coin Mercury Dime Necklace Pendant Charm 900 Silver Unknown Date Nr