Pam’s Pictorama Post: I am devoting today to an article of jewelry I purchased several months ago, but have only just started wearing. When I purchased it I was rarely leaving the house except to run in the mornings so there weren’t many opportunities. However, it also seems so fragile (and special) that it took me awhile to get my head around wearing it even now that I find myself putting jewelry on again more frequently.
It was sold to me by a very thoughtful purveyor of jewelry on Instagram, @marsh.and.meadow. (Heather Hagans lives in the Midwest with her daughter Opal who appears, even at a young age, to have inherited her mother’s excellent eye as they travel the US trolling for items.) I began buying photographs from her on another account, but quickly morphed to jewelry as well. I have mentioned her in a prior jewelry post which can be found here. (A very wonderful Easter Bunny pin was one item featured, shown below, which I must dig out to sport over the next few weeks!)
This type of memorial jewelry took hold in the 1800’s and exploded into popularity toward the end of the century. Queen Victoria honored the memory of her beloved husband Phillip by wearing mourning jewelry after his death in 1861 which helped to entrench the trend further. It gets very elaborate and decorative, but to the extent I am interested in it I like the most personal pieces.
I own a few other pieces of Victorian mourning jewelry. Most notably I have a larger gold brooch given to me by a close family friend. Our family histories entwine over several generations and somehow it feels appropriately like family to own and wear that piece, which does sport a superlative decorative bit of braided hair within.
I have also acquired two memorial rings (one with my initials!) as well that just sort of crossed my path, which maybe I will consider further in a future post. It isn’t something I actively collect, but these objects were so lovingly constructed I suppose I feel it honors the memories they hold for them to continue to be worn.
I purchased this item because it was especially interesting and for something that isn’t even two inches long it packs a lot of history. On one side of the piece is the inscription, In the MO RP OE. I believe it is an abbreviation for, In the memory of RP OE, so probably Rest in Peace OE? OE could be another Latin abbreviation, but I cannot find reference to it. (OB for example would mean died as a bachelor according to one article I read which also said that some of these references are hard to trace.)
This side has a tiny window revealing a small snippet of hair. It is a black enamel paint on gold, the sides are crimped, as is the decoration around the window. It has a bezel for it to be a pendant and I consider this the front of the piece and the direction outward that I display.
The back, or what I think of as the back, is more unusual and very touching. Etched into the gold in tiny script it states, WBB, Jr. returned home April 1 and then below another window, this time tiny hair is tightly braided decoratively, it reads Obt April 5th…1842.AE 23 yrs. 2. mos. WBB returned home (from where we wonder) and died four days later in 1842. Died from illness? Wounds? Accident? For me it is also the notation of the two months after 23 years that is notable – each day and moment was precious and noted.
The object has an outer hinge, but the tiny window for the braided hair also has a hinge so small you don’t see it at first. It is beautifully constructed and I can only imagine how the act of engaging someone to make this, designing it, and then wearing it must have been for the owner. I hope the act gave her some solace as did wearing it hopefully.
Frankly I am somewhat puzzled by my desire to own this piece, although it is undeniably beautiful it is sad. There was just something so poignant about it and how lovingly constructed and designed it is however that it reached out to me. I think for me these pieces are a reminder not only about honoring those who are gone and remembering them, but to remember to embrace the moment of today as well. Meanwhile I am the willing steward of them for this period of time.