Souvenir jewellery are one of the more interesting peripheral styles of jewels made for sentimental and memorial purposes. Notice the use here of ‘memorial’ purposes over ‘mourning’. Both are not mutually exclusive, but one denotes a more personal reflection on the mortality of a loved one, and their proximity to the person whom has passed on, while the other reflects a larger movement in society. Be that a movement of cultural significancy which could reflect a populace celebrating a military victory, the wedding/death of a monarch or simply a moment in time when a culture can be defined through a technological/social advancement, then these jewels were employed.
Often, the question is asked ‘what is the difference between ‘mourning’ and ‘memorial’? This jewel is a representation of this. As stated, it’s about the proximity of the jewel to the wearer and the point of why the jewel was created. Jewellery was allocated in the will to many of the loved ones in a family and friends. This is quite common and why most mourning jewels are dedicated to that particular loved one in multiple pieces. Even Shakespeare had an allocation in his will for family members to have a jewel of remembrance, yet this was before the court decree of it being a necessity. Mourning was a factor of three stages that needed to be honoured by the family to present themselves in society.
The distribution of rings had been written into wills of the late 16th and early 17th Centuries. Most famously, William Shakespeare in 1616 declared that in his will that his daughter and wife should have rings stating “Love My Memory”.
More can be read about this at:
Which also details a donation of rings to three (such as Brubage[Burbage]) of his acting colleagues. The token of a mourning jewel as a device of remembrance becomes ingrained within a realm of society that had not needed a standardisation of a token of remembrance (as defined by court), but the thought had seeded its way into society.
But the necessity wasn’t standardised until the latter 18th century and heavily institutionalised by the 19th century. First mourning lasted one year and a day, outdoor garments for this would be shown by the plainness and amount of crape, jet jewellery was permitted. After one year and a day, Second stage was introduced. This involved less crape and its application to bonnets and dresses became more elaborate. It was frowned upon if this period was entered into too quickly and it lasted nine months in all. The Third stage (or Ordinary stage), introduced after twenty-one months, involves the omission of crape, inclusion of black silk trimmed with jet, black ribbon and embroidery or lace were permitted. Post 1860, soft mauves, violet, pansy, lilac, scabious and heliotrope were acceptable in half mourning. This period lasted three months.
It was the strict rules and lack of change which led to the decline of the mourning industry by the 1890s, however, with jewels that represent mourning in a souvenir aspect, the indoctrination of mourning facilitated their existence.
In this jewel, we have the female reposed upon the tombstone, looking upwards towards the heavens and the cypress (hope) in then background. As a similar piece, note the following:
Much like jewels constructed for Lord Nelson after the Battle of Trafalgar, society entered a period of mourning which led to the mass production of jewels to honour the man and the achievement. Ill-defined features and fast production methods alluded to the higher quality pieces of the time, but do not hold the closer scrutiny of finely produced miniatures with allegorical representations of sentimentality (popular during the latter 18th century Neoclassical movement).
This piece is surrounded by paste and has the popular ribbon/bow motif at the loop, more can be found on this symbol here:
On the whole, the souvenir jewel must look impressive, as it’s a presentation to society in fashion. From jewels that mourned the death or promoted the victories of Napoleon to the souvenir jewels worn by visitors to the Great Exhibition of 1851 (often filled with wood/plaster to give them heft), these were worn as a statement. A statement of pride or grief in a movement that reacted through society and society responded to. While mourning jewels that have a clear dedication relate from the person who has passed on to the self, these are more globally focused jewels.
From a design perspective, look at the interior border of this piece and view the following:
Souvenir jewellery is incredibly important for so many reasons across so many cultures. Often their meaning is specific and their reason is direct, but it unifies people on a much broader scale than a simple jewel would to reflect the self, or the family, in mourning.