How people mourned has changed over the centuries. For instance, the Georgians (from 1714 to 1837) did not necessarily wear black clothing when in mourning and frequently wore white. Rings and pendants with romanticized mourning scenes painted in sepia and macerated hair were common. Rings that became popular during the late Georgian period comprised a wide gold band, enamelled around in black or white, usually with the words ‘In Memory of’ in Roman capital letters. Information about the deceased person was often inscribed inside the ring. Many people left similar rings to friends and family in their wills.

Corder ring 1IMG_1146
Victorian 18ct gold and enamel mourning ring with locket compartment, 1859 (on Ruby Lane)

Simple rings with hair compartments surrounded by seed pearls were also common.

Georgian mourning ring 2IMG_1152
Georgian mourning ring with pearls and hair compartment, 9ct (on Ruby Lane)

In the Victorian era, widows were required to mourn their husband for two and a half to three years. There were three stages of mourning. The first stage, one year, required women to wear complete outfits in black, layered with black crape, including head veils. The second stage, which lasted six months, still required all black outfits but the layers of crape could be removed. For the third stage of the mourning period, women could wear gray, mauves and purple. Only jewellery made from jet (or its imitations such as bog oak, gutta percha and vulcanite), black enamel or onyx could be worn during the first stage of mourning.

Whitby locket1IMG_1432
Victorian Whitby jet locket (at Shop 5A, Camberwell Antique Centre)

Tortoiseshell, horn, ivory, lava, iron-work and niello could be worn in the second stage, while cameos, pietra dura, coral and pearls were acceptable in the third stage.

Victorian lava cameo Whitby jet brooch (on Ruby Lane)

While husbands only had to mourn for six months, they also has mourning jewellery, ranging from tie and stick pins, studs, cuff links, fobs, and rings, using in jet, onyx and black enamel hairwork watch chains.

Antique enamel and seed pearl mourning pin (on Ruby Lane)

Hairwork jewellery was popular in both the Georgian and Victorian periods, either as curls and woven hair placed under glass in brooches, pendants and rings, or braided into watch chains, bracelets and earrings.

Fancy pearl pin1IMG_2160
Antique seed pearl set mourning brooch (on Ruby Lane)

For anyone interested in mourning jewellery, a fabulous site to explore is the Art of Mourning at