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Mar 6, 2010

MOURNING JEWELRY

I was contacted by the wife of a distant cousin (Hi Chris) about a piece of  jewelry she received that had been in her mother's possession. It was called a mourning ring. There was a name inscribed inside of it with the deceased's death date and age. 

She looked all over her family tree and can find no connection to the name and we have both done research to try and find out who this woman was but we have found nothing. Zero. 

The custom was to bequeath these rings to your friends and loved ones after your death. They were often made with black stones and had the deceased's woven hair under a piece of crystal. Sometimes pearls were added to symbolize tears. 

They also put hair into brooches and necklaces and some created pieces that were all woven hair. Women sometimes had little containers on their dressing tables to hold the hair that they removed from their hair brushes. I think Cass at This Old House has one or told me about them?? I can't remember for sure.

All of these photos are from the Colonial Williamsburg site. They have an amazing site filled with history and genealogy info. I envy those of you who may have visited there.
 

This ring with the two colors of hair are engraved "George and Martha Washington" and are believed to hold their hair.
 
Sometimes engraved in these rings were the Latin intials  AET that refers age at death or OBT which refers to the date of death.

 
Do you have any of these heirlooms in your home? Can you share any information or history about them?


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16 comments:

The Creative Hare said...

Wow the ring with the washington's hair is weaved together beautifully. What a treasure to have and behold and to pass on down for furture generations. Amazing!! Great post. Hugs. Tammy

Ali said...

Isn't that interesting. I recall reading that giving out black gloves of other small items as sort of favours at funerals used to be the norm. Waaaay back.

I think it's a nice memorial to the dead person.

Mrs. P. said...

We live near the Stuhr Museum of the Prarie Pioneer and they have a display of mourning art....beautiful works of art made from hair. What an interesting practice.

Blessings!
Gail

Tamara Jansen said...

I saved the lock of hair from my baby's first haircut. Maybe I should make them into rings :)

Keetha Broyles said...

At first glance, I thought "What a cool idea - - - a mourning ring." Then I saw all that hair, and well, then I thought "GROSS!"

Maybe if the hair was used in a more subtle way - - - -

But I just can't get past the idea of wearing the hair of a dead person.

Judy said...

The photos of the old jewelry are wonderful...I love old jewelry...Thanks for sharing

Gail said...

These are wonderful pieces of history. What a priviledge to be able to see them.

MiMi said...

I have nothing like that...those things are cool, but the Washington one, SORTA creeps me out. A little. I'm so immature.

underthegypsytree(at)gmail.com said...

Wow these are so beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

lindalee said...

These are interesting and no I have none nor have I ever seen them before. I have learned something new here today ;-) I would love to get to Williamsburg, too. Oddly, we used to spend the night there when the kids were young....on our way to the beach....we ended up always taking the boys to a water park nearby rather than visiting Williamsburg.

Kammy said...

Wow, what a history lesson....I learned something I never knew - if I find any at the thrift stores, I will let you know..LOL !
This was a very neat post !
Kammy

Sigrun said...

Interesting. On an aside note,my grandmother, who had very long hair, used to knit one long hair into any garment she made--supposed to give the wearer long life (unfortunately she died at 62--must have forgotten to knit a hair into her own garments.

Kathleen said...

Yes, I knew about this, and sometimes the hair itself was woven very intricately..an art form in itself..
Nope, none in my family..just a lock of my son's from his first hair cut in his baby book!

vignette design said...

I've never heard of mourning jewelry before. Sounds interesting. A little creepy though.

matron said...

i have seen this kind of jewelry but have never owned any.The history of them is very interesting but not sure I would want to own any,I too find them rather creepy.

Michelle said...

Although at one time Hair Art was popular, I find sort of creepy. But my Mom has my Great Grandmothers dish that she kept hair in cleaned from her brush. Still sort of creepy, why not just throw it away.

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