For a long time, I’ve wanted to make a jewelry design inspired by Victorian mourning jewelry. Mourning jewelry was worn both as a symbol of mourning and as a memorial to loved ones. It was usually made of black jet, and sometimes incorporated the hair of the deceased in intricate patterns. There are some fantastic surviving examples of rare pieces made entirely of hair.
Images from Flickr’s Creative Commons.
Mourning bracelet of hair, Mannum Dock Museum of River History.
Victorian hair art for jewelry, National Museum of Scotland.
Jet suite of mourning jewelry in the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh.
I love the intricacy of these pieces, and their simple, direct social significance. While the hair pieces were generally very intricate and delicate, jet pieces were frequently carved in a heavier, simpler chain pattern. They’re elegant, and eloquently symbolic.
My tribute piece doesn’t use hair, but I do have some beautiful old bone components for jewelry. When I set out to make my Memento Mori choker, I used those. For the jet component, I chose large vintage black glass rough cut beads. Rough cut (also sometimes called English cut) beads have smooth, irregular facets. They’re imperfectly shaped, but each facet is sharp and defined, and they catch the light so beautifully. They’re generally fairly small, so the larger ones in this piece are a bit rare. I love rough cuts for their imperfection, and their insistent personality. The ones I’ve used here seem both sedate and demanding, and I like the effect they create. The line of jet is broken on one side by a vintage bone infinity symbol, originally part of a clasp. The choker is finished with a vintage hand carved bone hook clasp, which is accented with an antique and very rare black tri-corner Czech pressed glass bead.
I’m really pleased with how this piece turned out, and I hope to do a few more pieces with the same feel. If you’re interested in mourning jewelry, you can check out some other photos I’ve gathered on Pinterest.
I spent most of the day yesterday at a memorial service for clowns. Here’s what happened. In 1918, a train wreck in Hammond, Indiana killed 86 people and injured many more when an engineer fell asleep and ran his train into a stopped circus train which housed the traveling Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus. Most of the people killed were circus performers and roustabouts. The victims of the crash are buried at Showman’s Rest in Woodlawn Cemetery in Lake Forest, IL. For the past several years, local chapters of clown guilds have gathered once a year to hold a memorial service and performance in their honor. Shana heard about this from a friend and got a group of people together to go and see the spectacle. I couldn’t resist.
Almost everyone I know is afraid of clowns. I’m not; they’re not my favorite part of the circus, and I think they’re a little creepy, but they don’t actually make me nervous. However, even I was uneasy a couple of times at this event. It felt so oddly voyeuristic to be there, watching what was essentially mourning for a very insular group of people. And yet, the voyeurism was encouraged and our attention was sought after with performances and prizes and trivia games – there was an actual program for about an hour and fifteen minutes, leading up to a procession of clowns laying flowers on the Showman’s Rest memorial.
The opening procession.
The world’s most adorable dog, apparently a mix of corgi and golden retriever. He turned out to be part of the show and is named Jelly.
Clowns were handing out goodies, including smiley face stickers and plastic cockroaches. Colleen was thrilled with her plastic bug, and less excited when she saw some real ants.
Man, wearing a white clown mouth.
The hat had a Minnie Pearl tag on it.
There’s something profoundly disturbing about a clown practicing his act in a graveyard.
I got bored after a while and lay down for a nap, earning myself a sunburn in the process.
Working out the details on the giant clown glasses.
The primary source of my discomfort. (He’s the one who was handing out cockroaches, naturally.) At one point, I was taking pictures of the show, and he walked right in front of us – about six inches away. I didn’t see him coming, and I think I stopped breathing for a second. I’d been trying to get a good picture of him for a while, and I think he’d noticed and was trying to unsettle us on purpose. It worked.
A curious memorial marker, the only one of its kind in the cemetery. I couldn’t make out what it said, but it seemed to be some kind of indicator for a section of Showman’s Rest.