Friday, May 14, 2010

A Take on Mourning Jewelry

In Victorian days, when the common folk honored the Queen's lasting grief for the loss of her beloved consort, they adopted the strict royal rules of decorum for the ornament of those in mourning.  Jet, bog wood, subdued colors, deep sentiment all kept the lost dear one hovering near the heart in lockets, brooches and necklaces.  Here are some contemporary takes on that old custom, incorporating old objects that still hold sentimental, evocative power.

First, this necklace of festooned oxidized chain with a very old Czechoslovakian filigreed button, surrounded with gray freshwater pearls, above a "cameo" made of an antique schoolbook illustration set in resin.

And then, the next one, a bit more off-tradition, but still in the same vein, rustic white glass beads from India, my own hand made rose beads, tiny faceted oxblood-colored seed beads, and a rusted tin frame around the antique portrait of a school boy, with antique star-spangled button held pendant.  Modern in form, but still sentimental, which, perhaps, is no longer a modern thing.  Nevertheless, the heart has its needs.

Jewelry's first task was most likely as a social status indicator, to inform one's people of vocation, dedication, rank, events of one's life, such as arrival of puberty, birth, loss or victory.  It isn't a very long reach of time from the first strung shells to Victorian mourning jewelry, just the blink of an eye, really.

Out of the night that covers me,
    Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
    For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
    I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
    Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
    Finds, and will find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
    How charged with punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate:
    I am the captain of my soul.

"Invictus" by William Ernest Henley

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