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A gold mourning brooch with a plait of the deceased's hair under glass

In the 18th and 19th centuries, many people with the resources to do so coped with grief by memorializing loved ones with jewelry.

Usually paid for by the estate of the deceased, mourning rings varied in complexity but were inscribed with the age, date of death and name of the deceased. The ring designs changed with the latest fashions, from the asymmetrical Rococo style to the geometric and symmetrical Republican and Neoclassical styles.

In addition to rings, mourners sometimes created brooches and pendants. Many of these pieces used the hair of the deceased in their design, either glued on, woven in glass compartments or mixed with paint. By the start of the 20th century, rigorous mourning etiquette had fallen out of fashion, and the growing availability of cheap imitation materials led people to mostly abandon mourning jewelry.


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