The intricacy of design that led to unique and unusual jewellery designs is often at the inception of a new art or fashion movement that can pre-date a set style. Most jewels in mourning and sentimental are mass produced or designed to a set style, ordered from a catalogue or simply following a form that is generally acknowledged as a style which denotes love or grief. These jewels, while still as unique and completely sentimental in their way, are the standard for which an historian or collector can gauge age, style and the social status of the person who commissioned it, yet there are other jewels which use common elements and rise above the rest. This locket is one of those jewels.
Remember that mourning was a social necessity, something engrained in society through court decree and the industry built around it fed upon that necessity, so the affectation of mourning not only represented the self and the family’s reaction to mortality, but was the basis for industry and fed the families of those who sold goods based around it. That’s why, when a jewel such as this is constructed, it reflects completely upon the status of the person who commissioned it.
Firstly, let’s look at the following jewels:
> An Eternity Knot in a Crystal Heart Pendant
> Mourning Crystal “Georgian” Heart
> 18th Century Ribbon Motif Pendant
> French Ribbon Pendant, 18th Century
> Hairwork Bow/Ribbon Pendant
> Rien Sans Amitie, Cabochon Garnet French Mourning Locket
> Merit Claims Esteem/Bow Heart Locket, 18th Century
> Embellished Georgian Heart Love Pendant
Note their style. The Rococo movement and its use of the ribbon motif led to many jewels with gems encrusting the ribbon itself, leading to a free-flowing skeleton of a design that had intricate interiors or hairwork compartments. At the time these jewels were constructed, society was more mobile than ever before, but the Industrial Revolution and the changing economy that it would bring, as well as its change to society, where people could now learn skills outside of their social-geographical region would not impact the mass quantity of production in jewels until the early 19th century. These jewels, with their use of gems and presentation to society as a fashionable item, clearly denoted status.
Often with this style, we have the heart as the primary motif, but here, we have the urn and the heart. The three-dimensional urn is constructed with the locket compartment opening via a clasp at the reverse, has the impressive element of the pearl-ribbon crossing over the front of the compartment, providing access to the wearer a way of replacing the hair. This is an element that would normally be relegated to the jeweller placing, or weaving, the hair into the compartment, but this allows for complete access. With this wonderful dimensional quality, we have the unique construction method of the time, using elements that have been popularised, but advancing on them and making them much more than the regular design.
Courtesy: Barbara Robbins