Very Edwardian in style, these earrings show delicate forget-me-nots with pearls, resting on onyx. Onyx became a popular feature, taking the place of black enamel by the turn of the century.
It was used along the continent in memorial pieces during the 19th Century, but it was by the Edwardian period where the line between fashion and mourning began to blur. Rings with onyx shields, earrings and brooches can be considered fashionable rather than for mourning unless indicated on the piece or with significant symbolism.
What is most important to note about this era was just how much the sentimental and the mourning symbolism had bled through the mainstream psyche in terms of how understood a physical symbol was to its sentimental interpretation.
Many of these values are what have established our understanding of what we classify as symbols of love and affection today. The 19th century, through its romanticism, reinterpretation of classical literature and set, which, defined through the filter of the traditional ‘Christian’ family values imbued through the reign of Queen Victoria are much of the fundamental qualities of Western culture today. From weddings and the wearing of white, to the very symbols of flowers and even what symbols are inscribed on many tombstones were solidly defined through the 19th century.
Then we have how that relates to these earrings. The forget-me-not is still a motif used in mainstream jewels and as a love token, but the association of also being a singular mourning symbol isn’t its primary function. Here, we have earrings which are highly fashionable for their time and also quite beautiful, but as the mourning culture had fallen out of fashion from the turn of the century, the style had been adapted into the popular lexicon of fashion and would remain so through to the 1930s.
As mentioned, the display of onyx on the bezel as the central point of focus with an interior set diamond or pearl was quite a common style for jewellery of the time, but it was one of fashion. Unless there is a dedication, it’s hard to decide what its true purpose was. This isn’t the same as how specific jewels were in the 19th century; there was a necessity of mourning that needed to be adhered to, but this had become a family tradition, rather than a mandated one by Court in the 20th century. The most telling aspect of this is World War I, with an estimated thirty-seven million casualties, yet a mourning culture that didn’t remerge.