Antique Mourning Rings Add a Touch of Mysterious Macabre to Your Jewelry Box

by Digby_Adams

A memorial ring or mourning ring with a loved one's hair gracefully woven into the design was the perfect way for a Victorian to remember their spouse or child.

If you've got a fascination with those who have passed on or just love to ooze mystery in the way that you dress, then you've got to include an antique mourning ring in your jewelry collection. A mourning ring was an important piece of mourning jewelry that was worn during the strict Victorian mourning period that lasted at least a year. During that time a woman wore black and she should have the jewelry to match. So you'd often see mourning rings designed with rich black onyx stones or deep smoky stones in deep reds or yellows. A lock of the loved one's hair was often woven into the design. You'll also often find the deceased person's initials incorporated into the design. Other important design elements could include a bible, coffin, or skull. But one of the mysterious antique mourning rings and you'll certainly have a conversation piece on your hand.

Golden Antique Mourning Ring

Victorian Mourning Ring with Finely Woven Hair
Victorian Mourning Ring with Finely Woven Hair

Pearl Mourning Rings

Take a close look at the gold mourning ring above. In the center the woven hair is actually the hair of the deceased. With the exception of some minimal gold scrollwork around the edge of the ring, there is no other adornment.

While this is certainly common in Victorian mourning jewelry, you will find more gemstones and embellishment. Of course all within Victorian standards. Often the pearls created cross patterns. They also looked great against the black mourning colors. Since Victorian men also wore mourning jewelry and rings, it's common to see band rings as well as the more typical gemstone lockets. These bands often had intricate geometric designs, that foreshadowed the Art Deco patterns of the 1930's.

Black hearts trimmed in gold with the deceased family member were also very popular. You'll find pearls decorating the heart and perhaps a few on the band.

Diamonds were another favorite mourning ring. You can see how effective the combination is to the right. The usually solitary diamonds really do pop off the polished onyx background. Mourning rings come in all shapes and sizes. From large bold rectangles to smaller circles. The scroll work around the edges is often the visual element that gives it its vintage or antique charm.

I think that mourning jewelry can be used today to remember a beloved family member or friend. If your Mother has passed on and she had a piece of jewelry with several gemstones, pearls or diamonds, consider having identical mourning rings made for close family members. It might be more well received that choosing a single person to receive the one piece of jewelry.

Don't think that your family's mourning ring has to be black and somber. You could include beautiful gemstones and then put her initials on the band. Of course you could make it a locket and carry a piece of her hair or some ashes, if you choose. I have a cousin who bought a locket and carries a small bit of her father's ashes in it.

Black Onyx Mourning Rings

Pet Memorial Rings

I also think that many of us feel the loss of pets. If your children are feeling sad after the death of their dog or cat, you might consider getting them a memorial ring. Get one for the entire family and it will be a wonderful shared way to share the loss and grief.

Vintage Mourning Rings

Updated: 08/23/2012, Digby_Adams
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JoHarrington on 09/05/2012

I was in Haworth at the weekend, which is where the Bronte sisters lived and died. In the exhibition, in their former home, there were several mourning rings. Most of them had Charlotte Bronte's hair in them.

I thought of your article, as I perused them.

Ragtimelil on 08/23/2012

Lovely idea. I wish I had known about these earlier. But then I'd have a ring on every finger and toe for my beloved dogs. I really do think they are beautiful though. Thanks for the article.

JoHarrington on 08/23/2012

I hadn't thought of it in terms of the bigger picture. Much to ponder on there. Thanks!

What was the book?

Digby_Adams on 08/23/2012

Thanks Jo, I agree with you. I just read this book about how we outsource so many of our own functions. Other people raise our children a great deal of the time, care for our sick, raise our food - that we ultimately become detached from ourselves.

JoHarrington on 08/23/2012

I sometimes think that the Victorians had a much more healthy attitude to death, than we have today. Today it's too sanitized. It happens somewhere else. It's like it can never happen to us.

I have encountered real life Victorian mourning rings before. They leave you very thoughtful indeed.

Great article by the way!

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