Thursday, February 21, 2008

Victorian Hair Jewelry

The Victorian period was a very sentimental time. This was evidenced in the popularity of jewelry made from human hair. Often, upon a loved one's death, a lock of the deceased's hair was taken and preserved by being chemically treated. The braided or woven lock was then set in a metal frame.

The American Civil War increased the popularity of this type of jewelry. A soldier going off to war could have a lock of his hair woven into a brooch or other piece of jewelry for his wife or sweetheart, so she could keep a part of him with her. Likewise, a woman could send a piece of her hair off with her husband or beau.

Beside brooches, hair was woven into rings, watch chains, necklaces, fobs or charms.

"Hair was boiled in soda water, then sorted by lengths and divided into working groups of about 20-30 strands. Palette work was done on an artist's palette... When the piece was finished it was sent to a jewelers for mounting." The Citizen's Companion, August 2006, p. 54.

'Godey's Ladies Book' and 'Peterson's Magazine' ran ads for hair jewelry.

Sources: Who Wore What? Women's Wear 1861-1865 by Juanita Leisch
'Jewelry: What should a Reenactor Know?' by Anita Lauramore, The Citizen's Companion, August 2006. p. 54

Here are some links where you can view photos of Victorian hair jewelry:

http://www.morbidoutlook.com/fashion/historical/2001_03_victorianmourn.html
http://www.morninggloryantiques.com/JewelChatVictJwl.html
http://victorianhairartists.com/HairworkTechniques.html

4 comments:

Kristin-Marie said...

Nicely detailed as Mourning was an official and respected state. The pictures on the resources links help to visualize.

Marlene said...

Very interesting information, Susan. I have a brooch that belonged to someone in the family, but I can't remember who. I think it was my grandmother's. I have often wondered how it was done. Thanks!

Nicole McCaffrey said...

I can never decide whether hearing about this grosses me out, LOL, or fascinates me. I think a little of both! It certainly is interesting and amazing how our mourning traditions have changed over the centuries.

Great blog, Susan. As always, I came away having learned something!

Susan Macatee said...

Yeah, Nic. Something about dead people's hair...but they also took photos of corpses.

Anyway, it is fascinting subject and shows how sentimental those Victorians were.