Mourning cameos have been set in jewellery from the mid 18th Century as popular items. Different materials have been used, such as shell, but onyx has always been a more popular choice.
French memorial items widely used onyx in the 19th Century, as did many areas along the Continent. This was not necessarily a response to the jet trade, but simply a fashionable material.
Jewellery that borders on memorial in the early 20th century depicted the onyx shield, often with the centre of a pearl or diamond, inside a bezel that would be commonly used as a signet. The overt symbolism of mourning was toned down to be the simple use of the onyx itself; even rarely the inscription inside was used for the dedication to the subject.
Mourning jewels were not in fashion during the early 20th century (particularly when the onyx shield rings were typical), hence it can be difficult to try and define the subject of the use of the onyx. It was a fashionable material and not just one used for memorial purposes.
In the use of the cameo of this 19th century ring, the cameo depicts the broken column and the forget-me-not – a life cut short. This symbolism was much more popular during the 18th century, its use in the latter 19th century (without the overt religious context of a cross or dedication of mourning) is considered an anachronism (but not very difficult to discover), considering the society was much more ecclesiasticly based than it had been during the Neoclassical movement.
> Symbolism Sunday, The Column
> Symbolism Sunday, The Forget-Me-Not
> An Onyx Urn and Weeping Willow Ring Forever After
> Join Me with a Look at a 19th Century Sentimental Cameo Brooch of Artemis Featuring Hairwork
> Bold, Simple, Clean – Design on a Mid Victorian Brooch
> Louis XVI Royalist Supporter French Ring