Thursday, January 27, 2011


Mourning Rings

Are you familiar with mourning rings? If not, they're exactly what they sound like: rings (and other types of jewelry, but mostly rings) you wear to commemorate the dead. They were especially popular in Victorian times, and although they can pretty much be anything, they're usually combinations of gold and onyx and/or porcelain (sometimes painted with urns or graveyard scenes), and many contain locks of the dead person's hair. Sometimes the hair is just loosely held in an openable chamber in lieu of a jewel, while other times it's woven into a pattern (you'll see).

I find mourning rings fascinating and lovely, and every so often I'll fall down eBay and other trusted vintage-jewelry portals searching for them, so I thought I'd put up a bunch of my favorite photos here, in case others were interested.

Also, mourning ring superstitions? Will my ring come with a ghost? Is she nice?

35 Comments / Post A Comment


Awesome. I totally want one now.


Nope, I'll stick to beautiful pictures and poems on the rear window of my truck.


And cameo mudflaps.


Infinitely better than the modern day version: http://www.lifegem.com/


I was going to post this, a girl on my masters program wrote her dissertation about lifegem/symbolism of diamonds/death memorials. a part of me wants to be that crazy great aunt who has her ashes turned into diamonds and then creepily wills them to friends and family.


Oh completely! Everyone I know will be getting one. And be forced to treasure it/me for ever and ever and ever.


yes! exactly!!

Jolie Kerr

@c.: So totally stealing your idea.


I was going to comment about this!!! I saw a thing on the Science channel about synthetic diamonds and then they just dropped in out of nowhere "and you can make one out of a dead person's carbon" and I'm like "whhhhha?!1??1?!?"

So yea.


On the cheaper end, check out mourning brooches. Many are made of gutta percha. Sometimes they're just generic, often cameo-like. There must have been a Victorian mania for hard rubber costume jewelry to spruce up the outfits of those who went into full mourning for months or years.


oh em gee, goodbye rent money. thanks, edith!




My current old timey jewelry obsession is "REGARDS" rings:


They spelled out "REGARDS" with the stones (Ruby, Emerald, Garnet, Amethyst, Ruby, Diamond, Sapphire).

Edith Zimmerman

Ohhh my god


If you like color-codes, you can also look for suffragette jewelry, which used the colors green, white and violet to signify "Give Women the Vote." It didn't look any different from the Victorian jewelry of the time, it just used those colors so that fellow women could understand while disapproving husbands were none the wiser. There are some seriously rabid collectors out there driving up the prices, so it's better to just keep an eye out for the colors and not search specifically for suffragette jewelry.

Also, Edith, you probably already know this, but white enamel in mourning jewelry means the deceased was either a child or unmarried (i.e. a virgin). Sad.

Have you seen memento mori jewelry? It predated mourning jewelry by one to two hundred years and featured skulls and skeletons and other fun creepy stuff... It was worn as a reminder that - while the trappings of wealth might be nice - death is an inevitability. So in other words, don't be gettin' too smug, yo. Here's an example: http://www.rubylane.com/item/20735-4916/Mourning-Jewelry-Memorial-Jewelry-White
Th Ashmolean's even got a signet ring in which the crest swivels around to reveal a carved skull underneath. AWESOMENESS.

I'll shut up now. (Sorry)

Queen of Pickles

Aaaaaa you are awesome

Edith Zimmerman

Yeah, this is an excellent comment, thank you! And I did NOT know that about the enamel. Sad, sad, sad.


I was so excited to see this post! There's so much amazing jewelry out there that people don't know about. I used to be the antique/estate writer for a jewelry magazine, so I got to wallow in this stuff all day long….but then I got laid off.


My dad has a memento mori watch! The minute and second hands spell out 'memento mori' and there are no numerals!


Years ago I worked in a jewelry store that carried an estate collection. Once there was a memento mori ring made of gold with what looked like an urn design sketched on the front, possibly with ash. The reverse was engraved with the date -- mid-1700s -- and the deceased man's name. I would show the ring to any customer interested in the estate jewelry; most of them thought it was so creepy. But I thought it was so beautiful.


Ohhh I forgot about these! I can hear the conversation now:

"Do you want to go out to dinner?"
"Sorry I just spent all of my money on a mourning brooch!"
"What's that?"
"So you are pinning a dead person's hairs on your boob."


It makes more sense than the insect collages which were popular during that era.

Patrick M

Crazy: I just read about Mourning Rings last night, because David Foster Wallace's wife has a section on her website called "Victorian Mourning/Morning Jewelry" (which is not jewelry and might be collages of DFW's writing over photos of his shoes but maybe not?). In conclusion, I am sorry anyone dies.

Lisa Ring

This seems a lot less expensive than http://www.lifegem.com/ !!

Bonnie Downing

I am really into antique rubber anything but somehow have never heard of the brooches. I've always loved the rings and the little frames hair picture-scenes, but how can I buy them? Yes, OF COURSE they come with a ghost, and no. She isn't nice.

Jolie Kerr

You know what's weird? I knew about the brooches but not the rings.

Bonnie, I think you're my flip side. !!


I have always wanted to be made into a diamond when I'm dead. I don't get what's so creepy--I think it's totally awesome! Way better than rotting underground, to be sure. But now I have backup that this is a totally legit thing to do. Why are you so against them amuselouche?


@Megan, if it's any consolation, I totally agree. :)

Actually I've been saving all my abortions in jars and once I save up enough $, I'm going to have them micropave'd in a little frame around me (I'll be Asscher b/c it's classy) on a platinum Tiffany setting when I die.


These are to die for.

The skeleton ring fills me with epic want.

tiny dancer

What's the story with the first one? It's my fave and I didn't see it on the links. But maybe I'm just tired?

Alpine Joe

The Metropolitan Museum in NYC has an exquisite piece; a bracelet woven out of human hair. Amazing and grim.

Fig. 1 (formerly myfanwy)

Some of my parents' neighbours have hair wreaths, made from dead relatives' hair. They are as creepy and disgusting as you can imagine.


y'all are creepy. no thank you.


One time in high school my sister and I were at a park and found a briefcase. We were the only ones in the park so we decided to investigate. In the briefcase was a manuscript, a picture of a naked baby and nunchuck with braids of human hair at each end. One side was blonde. One side was brunette. A ninja's answer to a mourning ring?

BØø'y C'éLósȍ@facebook

ooh nice, Special Discount Prices Opal Rings

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