Queen Victoria’s Adore of Jewels Went With Her to the Grave

Queen Victoria took her jewelry obsession to the grave. On her deathbed, she picked stacks of bracelets, layers of necklaces, and rings (a person for every finger) for her burial, and the items she selected included the British monarch’s cherished mourning jewels, the mementos she commissioned to try to remember lost loved types, and passionate pieces from her partner.

Which is the electric power of jewellery. It is generally weighed down with significantly extra than gold and stones it embodies love and decline and is a tangible memory of a little something treasured. Now, there is renewed curiosity in commemorative jewels—and even a comeback of locks of hair encased in items. The more individual, the improved.

It can be a pattern that the jewelry-loving Queen Victoria embraced when she famously turned her loves and tragic losses into jewelry mementos. Acknowledged as the monarch of mourning, she shrouded herself in black outfits when her husband Prince Albert died in 1871, and she commissioned jewellery inscribed with his identify and text of adore and established with locks of his hair, and she did the very same when her daughter Alice died in 1878 at age 35. She also had parts created to remember happy events, this sort of as her terrific enjoy affair with Prince Albert and births of her youngsters.

“Jewelry is a gorgeous tool to rejoice everyday living and reduction,” claims British designer Shaun Leane, who has created a great number of sentimental commissions for shoppers and buddies like designer Sarah Burton and filmmaker Sam Taylor-Johnson. One particular of his most significant pieces was a signet ring produced for his shut mate the designer Alexander McQueen, which he established in honor of their good friend Isabella Blow who died in 2007. It showcased an engraved quartz stone in excess of glass which encased a lock of Blow’s hair. “Lee (McQueen) wore the ring just about every working day,” claims Leane, “and we buried him in that ring.”

A mourning bracelet with plaited hair crafted by Shaun Leane.

Courtesy of Shaun Leane

Over the earlier two yrs, Leane claims requests have appear pouring in from mates and purchasers who needed sentimental jewelry to rejoice the men and women and animals they dropped and loved types who they could not see because of to COVID constraints. These types ended up impressed by Victorian-period concepts, such as locks of hair encased in glass roundels and Latin-inscribed scrolls with concealed messages, which he remade in modern day types. The layouts are element of his expanded Memoirs selection that will be debuting up coming calendar year.

Leane is an professional in the artwork of Victorian-era jewelry. As a young apprentice in London’s Hatton Garden, he specialised in antique restoration and worked on both of those sentimental mourning jewels and even earlier memento mori jewels that showcased macabre symbols of death, like skeletons and cross bones (memento mori, following all, interprets to a reminder that you will die).

shaun leane pendant
A pendant by Shaun Leane showcasing plaited hair.

Courtesy of Shaun Leane

Leane was schooled in the artwork of Victorian period hair jewellery, finding out to plait hair specially for the jewelry, and encase it in glass. He’s lower and plaited the hair of liked kinds who have passed absent, and also the hair of the young children of a number of mates to rejoice their births. He even built 3 bracelets for himself that commemorate his cats, each individual with symbols of their personalities and their hair encased in glass roundels.

Hair seems like a macabre substance, but it has been made use of in jewelry for generations. “I’m fascinated by the thought of applying a little something instantly from a human being in a piece of jewellery, and the emotion that is carried with it,” he suggests. “When you keep people roundels, you really feel shut to that human being. These turn into a person’s most treasured and valued items of jewellery.”

Antique jewelry dealer and designer Ashley Zhang was also inspired by Victorian era mourning jewellery for her new selection of symbolic items. Following losing her father, she came throughout Victorian mourning pieces that had been so stunning they impressed her to produce layouts reimagining the traditional motifs in stylishly feminine items. These include black and white enamel bands with willow and scroll motifs, and inscribed with individualized names and dates, and pendants with urns and in the condition of lilies of the valley, which can be a lot more subtle symbols of death.

ashley zhang pendant
A pendant made by Ashley Zhang, which attributes an graphic of an urn.

Ashley Zhang

Which is specifically what Queen Victoria was making an attempt to accomplish with her individual symbolic commissions—something quite and poignant.

Even in dying, the British monarch produced jewelry fashionable and significant. When she handed on January 22, 1901, she was adorned with dozens of jewels and buried with other sentimental mementos, as she had dictated, which includes a plaster forged of Prince Albert’s hand, her lace marriage veil, and a image of her particular attendant John Brown (who was rumored to be her lover) together with a lock of his hair.

She proved you can, in fact, consider it with you.

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