Brooches 04.08.2014

A ‘Recuerdo’ Brooch and Mourning/Sentimental Value

"Recuerd" Brooch with Turquoise, Doves and Forget-Me-Nots

“Recuerdo” Brooch with Turquoise, Doves and Forget-Me-Nots

‘REGARD’ is a term used for both mourning and sentimental jewels; a term which crossed cultures and was embraced for its uniform status of love and memory. Fidelity is at the very heart of what love as an emotion can convey, as it goes beyond the simple need for someone to be surrounding them into the realm of completion that a person can feel with a loved one. It is through this that jewels make use of proud sentiments, be they written underneath or the reverse of a jewel, to become the very nature of the jewel itself.

In this ‘Recuerdo’ brooch, we see the complete manufacture of the brooch becoming its entirety. The latter 19th century and early 20th century was the product of a Western society that had changed paradigm from being under immediate rule of Church and Monarch in a very rigid structure, to the questioning of these beliefs in the 18th century, to the Industrial Revolution and the revenue that would flow on from this. People were more mobile, borders were rapidly being created and moving through war and colonisation and the money which drove much of this came from the birth of a new wealth which could afford to invest in artists, rather than being granted through the Crown.

And through cultural mobility comes the values of new identity and thought that permeate through borders to allow for fashion to bloom. Challenging faith had bought about much of the English and American jewels that permeated through the world in colonisation and touring, based upon a Protestant conceit without the centralisation of the Pope. Catholicism in mourning and sentimental jewels tends to be part of religious ritual, with the regional culture adding its etiquette, be it for French, Italian or Spanish colonies. Rosary Beads in black costume for formal wear or more broadly based community ceremonies that are celebrations of prayer rembrenace (Día de Muertos, All Souls Day) generate completely different affectations of mourning, yet they all are related in terms of being forms of remembrance.

From an historical standpoint, the Restoration (Restauración or Restauración borbónica) of Spain restored the monarchy under Alfonso XII with the conceit of rotating Liberal and Conservative parties through government. Spain became a constitutional monarchy with two houses or parliament under a Constitution in 1876. The Restoration itself began in 1874 and lasted until 1931. This is concurrent from when this brooch was made and relative to the turmoil that can happen to a country without the questioning of its faith belief. Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Spanish colonial destabilisation of the Southern American region occurred and jewels such as this brooch appeared. Along with ‘souvenir’ jewellery, which was quite closely related to the English and American jewels of the same time, a new level of mourning and sentimentality was driven by the new wealth that was being created globally. Fashion, in terms of mourning, could carry over from sentimentality, as keepsakes given from a loved one during life could be worn during death for their sentimental purposes. This is a fashionable choice (not court mandated) which still happens today. Tokens of love are worn for their emotional connection, be it the watch chain worn around the neck of a loved one when a partner goes to war (WWI), or a ‘Regard’ jewel worn to memorialise a loved one.

Mourning Fashion in the Mid 19th Century

Queen Victoria in mourning, half length directed to left, almost in profile; in widow's outfit, with white crepe cap; in oval; with Royal Coat of Arms at bottom.

Queen Victoria in mourning, half length directed to left, almost in profile; in widow’s outfit, with white crepe cap; in oval; with Royal Coat of Arms at bottom.

Crepe was the primary material used in mourning fashion from the 19th century, being non-reflective and symbolic of the first stage of mourning under court mandate. Widows had to wait one year and six weeks, with the first six months in black wool. Lord Chamberlain and Earl Marshall both ordered shorter periods of mourning in France and England respectively. By the 1880s in Britain, twelve weeks of mourning were ordered by the death of a king or queen, six weeks after the death of a son or daughter of the sovereign, three weeks for the monarch’s brother or sister, two weeks for royal nephews, uncles, nieces or aunts and ten days for the first cousins of the royal family. Foreign sovereigns were mourned for three weeks and their relatives for a shorter time. Mourning was divided up into First, Second and Court mourning.

It was on the 7th of November, 1817 upon the death of Princess Charlotte that Lord Chamberlain ordered official Court mourning: ‘the Ladies to wear black bombazines, plain muslins or long lawn crepe hoods, shammy shoes and gloves and crepe fans. The Gentlemen to wear black cloth without buttons on the sleeves or pockets, plain muslin or long lawn cravats and weepers [white cuffs] shammy shoes and gloves, crepe hatbands and black swords and buckles.’ For undress wear, dark grey frock coats were permissible. The Second stage was decreed two months later, with the allowance of black silk fabric, fringed or plain linen, white gloves, black shoes, fans and tippets, white necklaces and earrings, grey or white lusterings, damasks or tabbies and lightweight silks for undress wear. Men’s dress was unchanged. The third stage allowed women to wear black silk and velvet, coloured buttons, fans and tippets and plain white, silver or gold combination coloured stuff with black ribbons. Men could wear white, gold or silver brocaded waistcoats with black suits. The rules set by Lord Chamberlain crossed Europe, the United States (from the 1860s / 70s) and colonial territories, but Court mourning was longer than General mourning. General mourning was growing in popularity due to the accessibility of mourning costume and the cost.

A young couple in mourning dress, looking sorrowful as they discuss the inscription to be engraved on a tombstone; the stonemason stands on the left, gesturing at it; after Jones.

A young couple in mourning dress, looking sorrowful as they discuss the inscription to be engraved on a tombstone; the stonemason stands on the left, gesturing at it; after Jones.

Though there had been growing small scale social mobility from the late 17th century, the late 18th and early 19th centuries saw the middle classes having the opportunity to promote through society with the accumulation of wealth. Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, a designer, architect and convert to Catholicism, saw this Industrial Revolution as a corruption of the ideal medieval society. Through this, he used Gothic architecture as a way to combat classicism and the industrialisation of society, with Gothic architecture reflecting proper Christian values. Ideologically, Neoclassicism was adopted by liberalism; this reflecting the self, the pursuit of knowledge and the freedom of the monotheistic ecclesiastical system that had controlled Western society throughout the medieval period. Consider that Neoclassicism influenced thought during the same period as the American and French revolutions and it isn’t hard to see the parallels.

Machine power was the proponent of having mourning fashion be affordable and attainable. George Courtauld, in conjunction with Joseph Wilson, converted a flour mill in Braintree, Essex, to manufacture silk yarns and crepe gauzes. This was established in 1809-1815, with silk-throwing, steam-driven machines being tested in 1827 leading to 2,000 local workers being employed and notorious for a fine coloured silk known as ‘aerophane’. Between 1835 to 1885, profit grew from £40,000 to £450,000. Courtaulds employed a great number of women in the Finishing Department of the process and was notorious for its labour force, which also employed children  against the 1833 Factory Act.

Portrait of Queen Victoria with a Royal Princess standing in churchyard; both dressed in mourning, the Queen holds handkerchief and wears veil; the Princess with hat and muff; standing next to grave of Prince John, son of Prince of Wales; illustration from unknown publication (1872). Wood engraving

Portrait of Queen Victoria with a Royal Princess standing in churchyard; both dressed in mourning, the Queen holds handkerchief and wears veil; the Princess with hat and muff; standing next to grave of Prince John, son of Prince of Wales; illustration from unknown publication (1872).
Wood engraving

Their decline came in 1886, with the 1880-82 period of fabric being ordered at 46,000 packets of fabric to 30,000 in 1892-94. This is a steep decline that relates to the end of the mourning industry and its fashion. The entire mourning industry was in a decline from the mid 1880s – an entire generation of a culture with once fluid fashion changes had been living under the shadow of mainstream mourning culture from 1861, due mostly to a queen perpetually in mourning. By 1887, for Victoria’s golden jubilee, she had started to lessen the mourning restrictions and re-emerge in public, but there was even a cultural shift that had begun with women who lived as the centre of household mourning starting to rebel against the older ways. Style had remained largely consistent with little movement since the 1860s, though women’s clothing had lost the heavier crinolines, bold mourning jewels remained bold and prominent. This female paradigm shift had started to become an outward rebellion, with some women even wearing their veils backwards as an act of defiance. The Art Nouveau movement emerged as a breath of fresh air, with its opulent, organic, styles, using nature as its dominant motif, rather than retroactively mining the past for revival styles. Jet was not conducive to this new art movement and did not adapt. Black stones used as a material following this period in Art Deco were often onyx or glass, which became, and remains, popular to this day.


Dress Adorned With Jet

On the continent, however, much of the exports of Courtaulds’ sales were to France, as in 1899, more packets of crepe, known as ‘Crepe Anglais’, were sold than had been previously seen. Courtaulds offered a softer crepe, which was popular, rather than the stiffer fabrics, and was advertised as such. By 1921, ‘Latin Countries’ were the major exporter of crepe, which speaks to the change in dominating mourning styles from the ecclesiastical to the fashionable. Being in popular fashion, mourning was challenged; not something that was mandated as it had been, particularly through the period of the First World War and its high mortality. The pomp surrounding mourning reduced to be personal. Mourning and its stages weren’t enforced and not an indictment on the family, so what a person felt was more allowable to be presented within society for mourning ritual. As to the crepe and its exports, this was more popular in Catholic cultures, which still retain formality around public mourning.

Two young women holding flowers stand outside a closed door, one holds the doorknob as if about to enter the room; from the 'Illustrated London News', 11 June 1864, p.565. 1864

Two young women holding flowers stand outside a closed door, one holds the doorknob as if about to enter the room; from the ‘Illustrated London News’, 11 June 1864, p.565. 1864

Being two pieces of hair art related to individuals, these are the personal and reflect the nature of what the value system of the family was. Being pieces that can connect cultures through their symbolism and methodology open them up to being grand statements of the 19th century. Simple elements connect to grander thought and identity, leading to how and why people undertook the mourning rituals.

Leading to The 1920s

Australian 1911 Mourning Ring

Australian 1911 Mourning Ring

From 1900, there was a significant split in jewellery styles. Court-worn jewels were still based around the Rococo Revival style and using highly privileged, material-based gems, such as diamonds. This was normal around European Courts and remained consistent from the 19th century. In Europe, the organic influence of Art Nouveau and its use of coloured gems and enamel became popular. The Arts and Crafts movement flourished in Britain as a response to mechanisation; bringing back a return to traditional crafts. This remained consistent up to the beginning of the First World War.

Exposition Universelle

Exposition Universelle, 1900

South African diamonds produced 90% of the world’s diamonds in 1890, with a slight interruption by the Boer War in 1899-1902. White gold and platinum were used to enhance the look of the diamond, leading this to become one of the most popular styles in fashion for the time. Its influence can be seen today, with ‘white’ jewellery being more popular than the silver influence of the 1880s simply because diamonds were enhanced by the white colouring of the metal and diamonds themselves were cheaper and more accessible.

Mrs Jay Gould, 1903

Mrs Jay Gould, 1903

‘Garland’ style jewellery was made popular by Cartier, which referenced Louis XVI style, featuring garlands of laurel leaves, lace patterns, ribbon bows and tassels. This style resonated throughout Europe and America, but only in high wealth. Art Deco had its origins in this style, with Boucheron, Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels all experimenting this style, but adding gems and exploring its development.

It was the financiers who made this development possible. At a time when new wealth could define new styles, going beyond the previously established family-based old money, Americans began to spend their money in Paris, leading to the rise in jewellery production houses and their proliferation. Tiffany & Co. developed by this money and presented their quality work at the Paris Exhibition in 1900. Notably, their contribution to jewellery development was the Tiffany Setting in 1886; a diamond setting above a ring which lets in as much light as possible to the stone. René Lalique, whose influence to Art Nouveau is exponential, was awarded a Grand Prix at the Paris Exhibition, leading to the popularity of delicate, organic styles in jewellery design and development. Methods, such as the Plique-à-jour enamel work (meaning ‘letting in the light’), were fundamental in how jewellery design was reacting to the previously consistent styles that had represented the late 19th century.



This is why the Paris Exhibition was so fundamental in disseminating new styles throughout mainstream culture. Wealth from America and driven by industry was empowering artists to go beyond the Court/aristocratic styles that hadn’t had the early 19th century monetary drive and lockets such as this ampersand piece could thrive. Look to the design of this piece; the Nouveau elements, from the organic curve to the floral outcrops.

Neoclassical Revival Pendant, 1920

With the high level of accessible and affordable travel in the early 20th century, there was a rise in sentimental tokens being produced in high quantities to be given to loved ones while travelling, or bringing home as a remembrance of the voyage. Combined with the new Romantic movement that looked towards the 18th and early 19th centuries, many jewels were reproduced to represent those that had come before.

Various levels of quality reflect these jewels, with new methods of production and transit leading to higher mobility between cultures for their global population. Establishing these production methods created standardised love token representations that are still relevant today. The Neoclassical representations of love and affection, in this case cupid with the bow and the cherubs, with the temples and different displays of the female, underpin modern jewellery based around sentimentality. Indeed, even cameos can be identified to their era by the contemporary hair and fashion styles. Here, we have a lady displaying her ankles and raising her skirt, with low-cut bustling and tied hair. The poorly defined floral elements flank her, but attention has been given to her costume’s lace.

Neoclassical Revival Pendant, 1920

Marcasite was a popular element of jewellery in the early 20th century, moving its interpretation from being a diamond substitute to becoming a popular element in its own right. You can see this used as the border of the piece. Surrounding this are faux pearls, with the damage to the north of the piece.

Identification can be an issue for many of the jewels produced during the early 20th century. With the Romantic period using many of the early 19th century elements of love and affection, so many pieces that would not seem in fashion were created during a time when emerging art forms, such as the Arts and Crafts / Art Nouveau development, dominate the perception of the time. Love and sentimentality didn’t change overnight since Queen Victoria’s death, but evolved with fashions that certainly did look more organically to the world around. This piece shows an adaption of the old and the new, but still tells a tale of love.

Mourning and sentimentality are cultural as much as they are personal. The ways in which death and love are represented have more to do with how a person wishes to represent their value system in public. Through the 20th century and its high cultural mobility, singular mourning and sentimental beliefs are cross-pollinated. With one of the few catalysts for a public display of love or grief being a message which is conveyed by the highest level of media. This influence for change by the media and its display of a tragic event or fashion can influence the lives of those who have access to that media. This can throw cultures into a dominate style or concurrent mindset on a broader scale than a traditional culture that has carried on its core system of beliefs since early-modern times.

Because of this, the symbols that were revived and those that remained through the late 19th century are the ones we identify with today as being the symbols for mourning and sentimentality. Those that had fallen behind, such as the use of hairwork, are approached with modern mindsets that may consider wearing hair to be morbid, whereas it was a fashionable material for its time.

The dove is commonly found in sentimental miniatures of the Neoclassical period and would often be seen being held, or sitting near two lovers? This is because the dove represents peace, love, purity and gentleness.

From an ecclesiastical standpoint, the dove represents the Holy Spirit, hence why it is quite commonly found in cemeteries of various Christian denominations. The white dove is referred to in the story of baptism of Christ. “And John bore record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him” (Bible, John 1:32). The descending dove is a very common motif on grave memorials. Seven doves are representative of the seven spirits of God or the Holy Spirit in its sevenfold gifts of grace. Purity, devotion, Divine Spirit. When shown with an Olive Sprig it means Hope or Promise.

Romantic Neoclassical Miniature

It should be noted that the bird in relation to a sentimental image is also important; if the bird is a dove, then it can be further detached from the subject and more inclined towards a neo-classical ideal of peace/hope/heaven, if the bird a sparrow then love (dedication, trust), if the bird is a swallow, there’s motherhood or children involved. There are many neo-classical images of the woman holding the bird with a man looking upon her or involved with her (hand upon shoulder or body) which allude to motherhood, futurity and the prospect of a child. Many of these bird subjects often come back to the nature of the child.


Forget me not symbolism victorian ring

Flower symbolism conveys messages that are engrained within our culture, through the last two centuries of re-enforcing their statement as symbols. The 18th and 19th centuries Romantic movement helped establish a push away from the paradigms of ecclesiastical and traditional worship, while putting the focus back upon the natural world around and the passions of the human experience. Hence it is only natural (pun intended) that as the 19th century absorbed much of the cultural shift back to traditional values during the Gothic Revival period, that many of these concepts would remain and be elaborated upon, but not revolutionised. What do I mean by this? Simply that the interpretation of flora into symbolism was aesthetically pleasing, symbolically safe (often with roots back to religious concepts) and were easy to interpret in jewellery design. The motifs worked well within the Christian concepts and symbols, so where many other symbols may cause the viewer to think twice, flora was defined and catalogued for easy interpretation and use.

“Forget-me-not, O Lord!” is what a poor German knight shouted as he fell into a river. He and his lady were picking flowers by the side of the river at the time, no doubt enjoying the beautiful day around them, and yet as fate would have it, the knight’s armour dragged him down to the bottom as he fell in. Upon his cries to the Lord, he threw the blue posy of flowers to his loved one and promptly drowned. This little tale reportedly dates to around the 15th century, but no doubt had different permeations along the way, as romantic stories often do. Hence, the concept of remembrance, eternal love and faithfulness grow from this.

Chalcedony brooch forget me not

Another fable is that of the baby Jesus playing magician with his mother Mary. He was quite an articulate lad and thought how wonderful it would be if everyone could see her beautiful eyes forever. He touched her eyes and waved his hands over the ground below and then the magnificent blue forget-me-nots sprung from the earth. Relating back to my earlier points of how floral symbolism was safe in the context of religion, here we have the eternal memory symbolism not only implied with its name, but infused with solid Christian concept.

Now that we have the tales out of the way, the symbolism of the forget-me-not is obviously implied within its name. It should also be noted that the flower grows quite ubiquitously in Europe, America and Asia. Its first use in English literature is reportedly from c.1532 and is otherwise named Myosotis (mouse’s ear). Interestingly enough is the rise of the flower’s popularity c.15-16th centuries. This is what we, as jewellery historians, need to understand. From this, we have the popularity of the posy ring and its use as a love token in jewellery. The posy (poesy, posie, posey) emerged at a time when modern society was developing through a shift back to the personal and emerging from the middle ages and its strict adherence to ecclesiastical living. Giving a ring with an inscription on the inside as a token of love was a profound statement, it showed that relationships were increasingly interpersonal and not decreed before god. It was between the couple. Hence, the forget-me-not was used as a decoration (often crude) in some of these rings to denote its message of love and remembrance.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, the use of the forget-me-not didn’t change, however, it did blend in well with the Rococo and Baroque excess of design well enough that it could balance with other flowers and leaf motifs. By the time of the Neoclassical period, its use was relegated more towards being a footnote in memorial jewel depictions painted on ivory. During this time and the rise of hairwork weaves becoming mainstream and popular, the forget-me-not did become a symbol used to create floral depictions from hair.

forget me not 20th century

Silver Locket

The 19th century is when the forget-me-not truly found its place as a central motif. Many rings, bracelets, brooches and mourning/sentimental peripherals showcased the forget-me-not as a primary motif, often boldly displayed on enamel. Often, other symbols (buckle/belt/serpent/cross) would complement the forget-me-not, rather than it being a symbol used as a design flourish or in repartition. Where the flower was used in more decorative areas of jewellery was in the Rococo Revival period, especially the latter 19th century, and lasted into the 20th century with its reliance on its romantic roots. Its use in the 20th century became much softer; in the Edwardian period, the romantic movement adopted the symbol and applied it (often in enamel) to lockets and by the time of the First World War, its relation to the remembrance of soldiers (carried through by poetry) and into the Second World War was assured.

Today, the forget-me-not is still as resonant as it was one hundred years ago and you can still find it as a popular motif in jewellery to give to a loved one.

Turquoise and Sentimentality

Turquoise stickpin hair buckle

‘Prosperity’, ‘youth’, ‘innocent love’ and ‘fortune favours thee’ are the sentiments with which turquoise would be used within a jewel. When looking at these jewels, you see two different reasons for their form; one is a stick pin, the other is a brooch. Both contain identical materials and symbols, but both were worn prominently in places which would be viewed (torso and head). From the turn of the 19th century, turquoise had risen in popularity and was seen quite prominently in memorial and sentimental jewels, combined with the knot motif.

The expression ‘tying the knot’ is thought to be where the couple had their hands bound in an endless knot as part of the wedding ritual, however, there are several other explanations for this related to the wedding ceremony itself. One of the more enticing explanations from E., M. A. Radford’s The Encyclopedia of Superstitions is that:

“In the seventeenth century, one or two of the bride-favours were always blue. These were knots of coloured ribbons loosely stitched on to the wedding gown, which were plucked off by the guests at the wedding feast, and worn as luck-bringers in the young men’s hats.”

Note the use of blue. Blue turquoise used as a token of betrothal to be worn relates back to its use in jewellery. ‘Something that’s blue’ in the turquoise and the garter being tied are all relevant symbols for marriage and are reflected in how these pieces would be perceived when worn by a lady.

When combined the with the rise of floral styles within jewellery design, turquoise was a decorative material for its colour and how it could embellish gold design. The adaptation of the floral style was one that resonated with the language of flora and fauna. The Illustrated Language of Flowers by Anna Christian Burke categorised over seven hundred elements of flora and fauna, which gave the Victorians a resonance of design elements to represent their emotions in jewellery and ephemera designs for gifts towards others. Even more symbols were built upon this, increased only by the discovery of challenging thought in a time where science and religion were becoming equals, to make the smallest element of design important to represent a relationship in society.

Turquoise brooch hair buckle

Looking to the rise in peripheral styles of the 19th century, La Belle Assemblè, a fashion magazine, referred to the French hairwork artist Limmonièr in a revolutionary light and the mention of turquoise shows just how important the material was to popular styles:

“…the new hair jewelry made by Limmonièr is an ornament for all times and places. He expands it into a broad ribbon as a bracelet and fastens it with a forget-me-not in turquoise and brilliants; weaves it into chains for the neck, the flacon, or the fan; makes it into a medallion, or leaves and flowers; and of these last the most beautiful specimens I have seen have been formed of the saintly white hair of age. This he converts into orange flowers, white roses, chrysanthemum and most charming of all, clusters of lily-of-the-valley.”

Turquoise transcends its meaning to become an ideal mineral for relationship status, interpreting an organic design into jewellery and also denoting the statement of love or mourning. Importantly, it introduced colour in mourning. For the stages of mourning, one of the most important factors is colour. For example, turquoise was often used as a during the half half morning stage, post Third Stage (or Ordinary stage) as a mourning material, with its influx of colour. This stage was introduced after twenty-one months, involving 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.


"Recuerd" Brooch with Turquoise, Doves and Forget-Me-Nots

“Recuerdo” Brooch with Turquoise, Doves and Forget-Me-Nots Reverse

In a brooch with so much history, there are so many elements to understand. From its symbolism to its materials and its meaning within society and history, we see a narrative of modern human history. Jewellery is one of the most important fashion items to reveal just how we became what we are. It was worn and displayed to a public who judged (and still do). For methods of mourning and sentimentality, the reasons of wearing a jewel in public are far more delicate than simply being an affectation. This brooch transcends cultures and represents a style of modernity and love that is aesthetically pleasing and quite of its time.

Courtesy: Sarah Nehama, Jean Papin