Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Victorian Mourning Jewelry (Part 2)

Victorian Mourning Jewelry
Photo Source: Coco Loves Vintage Blog

by Angela Magnotti Andrews

Following suit with Queen Victoria’s obsession with death, English society turned toward what Michael Wheeler calls the "Victorian Death Cult." The majority of England became sickly fascinated with death and mourning, and funeral rites transformed from ritualistic to sentimental and showy. 

With this trend toward fascination with death and the macabre, the antique jewelry and fashion followed suit. Prior to Albert’s death, the code dictated six months of deep mourning and another six months of half morning. Upon the Prince’s death, Queen Victoria restricted her household to full mourning for one year and half mourning for one year. Deep mourning customs dictated black and grey dresses made from crepe (a lusterless material) and very little jewelry.

To the relief of many, on March 10, 1863, Queen Victoria declared an end to the mourning period for England, making for the most colorful spectacle seen on English soil for two years. Despite her grand gesture, she remained heavily in mourning, purveying the ceremony from a private box shrouded in what Helen Rappaport terms her “widows weeds.” She also refused to lift the ban of half-mourning from the female members of the Household. Her daughters wore dresses of mauve, lilac, and grey.

If Princess Alexandra hadn’t come as “a breath of fresh air to blow away the mid-century cobwebs,” (Tisdall, 1954) the jewelry industry may have collapsed. Thankfully, after 1863, the jewelry industry turned toward the Princess for inspiration, and although white diamonds and pearls continued to dominate the jewelry scene into the early 1900s, jewelers began to introduce a little more romance and whimsy into their designs over the following decades.
1. Essortment. "Victorian Mourning Customs." Accessed June 13, 2012. http://www.essortment.com/victorian-mourning-customs-63807.html.
2. Spark Notes. "Queen Victoria: The Years of Mourning." Accessed June 13, 2012. http://www.sparknotes.com/biography/victoria/section5.rhtml.
3. Smith, S. E. "What was Victorian Mourning Like?" wiseGeek. Accessed June 13, 2012. http://www.wisegeek.com/what-was-victorian-mourning-like.htm.
4. Britton, Natalya. "Victorian Death Worship and Literature." Literary Culture @ Suite101. June 29, 2012. Accessed June 13, 2012. http://suite101.com/article/victorian-death-worship-and-literature-a255829.
5. Burnett, Ann. "Perkin's Purple." Writer and Tutor, Ann Burnett. Accessed June 13, 2012. http://www.annburnett.co.uk/perkins_purple.html.
6. Wikipedia. "Mourning." Accessed June 13, 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mourning.
7. Nadelhoffer, Hans. Cartier. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd., 2007.
8. Rappaport, Helen. Queen Victoria: A Biographical Companion. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2003.
9. Tisdall, E. E. P. Alexandra: Edward VII’s Unpredictable QueenNew York: J. Day Co., 1954.

*Clip art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

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