Last revised: April 19, 2018
Five Beautiful Stories of Diamonds in Ancient Mourning Jewelry Will Make You Understand Their Value Today
Mourning jewelry (necklaces, earrings, rings, and other pieces of jewelry designed to honor a deceased individual) has a rich history that goes back more than 400 years. Often, the materials used in these pieces has been dark and macabre (i.e. The preservation of blood or nails behind glass, and the use of dark materials such as jet).
At the same time, much of this jewelry is also beautiful and meaningful because it reflects the deep love the wearer had for the deceased. For example, memorial jewelry featuring hairwork (the intricate braiding of the deceased person’s hair) is often fascinatingly eye-catching. As jewels became part of the mourning jewelry (around the Victorian era), this type of funeral jewelry became even prettier.
Often, behind the beauty and uniqueness of specific pieces of remembrance jewelry is also a beautiful and unique story. While the people and stories behind some commemoratory jewelry have been lost forever, there are some historical pieces that are made even richer because of the circumstances we know surrounded their creation.
Here are just five of these beautiful stories. Understanding them, and the role diamonds played in making each piece as unique as it is, will help you to understand why today’s versions of memorial jewelry (cremation jewelry, specifically that made from a cremation diamond) is such a meaningful alternative to other ways of preserving the memory of a deceased loved one.
The Antique Suffragette Diamond Pendant uses gorgeous old cut diamonds and a decorative picture to honor the life and work of a well known suffragette.
In the late 1800s, women undertook an active campaign to win the right to vote in Great Britain. One of the leaders of this movement was Sybil Margaret Thomas, who held the title Viscountess Rhondda. Most specifically, she served as the President of the Welsh Union of Women’s Liberal Associations, an organization dedicated to advancing women’s rights and, in particular, the woman’s right to vote.
Her death in 1941 was commemorated by a beautiful pendant. This piece of jewelry is distinguished by a hand painted representation of the Viscountess and by the presence of more than 2 carats worth of old cut diamonds (diamonds cut with a square or circular girdle similar to a cushion cut).
The presence of the diamonds in particular serve to draw attention to the colorful and detailed portrait. Their presence there and along the loop intended to hold the chain make this pendant sparkling, stunning, and unforgettable as it serves its purpose of memorializing a strong suffragette leader.
The EH brooch boasts delicate diamonds setting off a beautifully twisted lock of hair as a way to enhance the beauty and centrality of the hair and as a way to further personalize a brooch created in remembrance of a beloved individual.
Another well-known piece of mourning jewelry is the EH brooch, which is thought to have been crafted around 1780. This brooch (or perhaps, pendant) showcases the individual’s hair, in keeping with the tradition of the time.
This piece of jewelry was clearly crafted out of love and a desire to keep the person’s memory close: The hair is tied in a lover’s knot, which has for centuries been associated with love and friendship, and the person’s initials, E.H., are engraved on the back against a backdrop of woven hair. The hair on the front is set within a striking blue enamel border outlined with tiny forget me knots shaped out of gold.
What makes this particular treasure stand out, however, is the band of diamonds that “ties” the hair together in the lover’s knot. The diamonds sparkle in the antique rose cut (A cut in which the diamond is cut into a rose-shape). Despite their tiny size, they add delicate beauty to the jewelry and serve to point one’s attention toward the centerpiece of the brooch: The loved one’s hair.
This piece of commemoratory jewelry shows the difference that can be made by adding a gem to a piece of memorial jewelry. The tiny jewels take the piece from an ordinary, slightly macabre representation of mourning jewelry and turn it into a truly beautiful brooch in tribute to a beloved individual.
In New England, a gold ring from 1860 uses silver and tiny diamonds to create a precious bouquet of flowers as a way of commemorating a deceased individual.
Flowers have long been used to communicate love and affection. When it came to remembering a loved one through the creation of mourning jewelry, one individual decided to show their love through a bouquet of flowers crafted from silver and diamonds.
A gold ring found in New England and thought to have been made in 1860 captures the love of the creator with this beautiful bouquet. The stems and leaves are made of silver, and the flowers are tiny diamonds, rose cut to make them look more like rose buds.
This beautiful ring’s creator and the dead person for whom it was made remain a mystery. However, the affection the creator bore for the deceased is evident in the care they invested into the creation of this creative, unique, and stunning piece of mourning jewelry.
In New England, a gold ring from 1862 similarly combines silver and diamonds to form a flower by which to commemorate the love the creator had for the deceased individual.
While finding memorial jewelry in the United States is more difficult than finding it in Europe, there is another ring, thought to be from 1862, which also boasts origins in New England. This delicate ring is similar to the one described above, in that it utilizes silver and diamonds to create a stunning flower.
In this case, the flower is a single plant instead of a bouquet. The silver again comprises the stems and leaves, while the rose-cut diamonds create the petals of the flower. This intricate design, set against black enamel, provides a reminder of the deceased individual’s sparkling life, even against the darker backdrop of their death.
A beautiful brooch boasting the initial “B” from the late 1700s, resembles the EH brooch but signifies the creator’s love for the deceased in a slightly different use of diamonds and enamel.
The fifth piece of beautiful mourning jewelry is a brooch similar in style to the EH brooch discussed above. Like the EH brooch, this one boasts an initial in the center (in this case, it is the letter “B.”). In addition, it uses blue enamel and tiny diamonds to demonstrate the creator’s love for the deceased.
This brooch, however, differs from the EH brooch in that it does away with the inclusion of hair in the brooch. Instead, it moves the blue enamel from the outside of the brooch to the inside, where it serves as the backdrop to the initial.
One of the highlights of the brooch is the presence of a border of beautiful diamonds, outside of which lies a border of pearls. These diamonds accentuate the initial that is at the center of the brooch and help to highlight the love that the creator bore for the mysterious, deceased B.
As you can see, diamonds have long served as a way to personalize and beautify mourning jewelry. Today, with the ability to make diamonds out of the ash of a deceased individual, they can add even more significance to a piece of cremation jewelry.
Cremation jewelry in modern times is increasingly embracing this kind of approach as a way to preserve the original intent of mourning jewelry in a way that is ever more practical, stunning, and appropriate for commemorating the life of a unique individual.