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It Has Existed since Victorian Times! What Is Memorial Jewellery?


Due to the effects of the coronavirus infection and the situation in Ukraine, with rising oil prices, raw materials costs, and stagnant consumption activities countrywide, the economy is in a downturn, and the global environment surrounding us is changing drastically.

Nowadays, the funeral service costs a lot. Moreover, amongst the younger generation, the concentration of the population is in urban areas, and the difficulty in visiting graves in rural areas has also become a social problem.

In addition to traditional memorial services at graves, keeping in mind the people who cannot come from far-away places to visit the graves, a method called " keeping a part of a person’s ashes in one's home or inside a pendant, etc. as a portable memorial service" is becoming more and more popular.

One of the most commonly known ‘portable memorial service’ offerings is “memorial jewellery” which creates jewellery designed with the cremated remains or hair of the deceased person. Recently the demand for memorial jewellery has become wide-ranged. It is not limited only to ‘ jewellery intended for keeping remembrance of loved ones, but also for memorial jewellery made for marriage anniversaries, anniversaries with partners such as registration anniversaries, memorial jewellery for children’s birth and memorial jewellery for pets. In this article, we will introduce memorial jewellery and its history.

What is memorial jewellery ( jewellery made from the cremated remains of the deceased)?

Memorial jewellery is jewellery intended for keeping remembrance of loved ones and this jewellery is designed and made by putting a part of a loved one or pet into a pendant or ring.

Typical examples include accessories made from the cremated remains of the deceased. When a loved one passes away, one might get into deep grief. At such a time, by putting the deceased’s hair or cremated remains into an accessory and making a memorial in close vicinity by keeping a part of the deceased person’s cremated remains in one’s home or inside a pendant, one can walk with the deceased for the rest of the life, freeing the person from painful grief and bringing peace to the heart.

Furthermore, there are some people who make memorial jewellery on their wedding anniversary or any other occasion with their partner’s hair or other items inserted and carry it close to them.

Also, the grief of losing a pet is similar to losing a human being. As the term "pet loss" suggests, the importance of pets is increasing these days. jewellery containing the cremated remains of pets is becoming popular as a way of having a memorial for your pet. By making a memorial, the soul of the pet will dwell within the jewellery, and you will be able it will be able to spend a lifetime with the pet even after its death, which will reduce your sadness and loneliness.

The history of memorial jewellery

In Europe, memorial jewellery has been worn since olden times as a means of offering a memorial. Amongst memorial jewellery, “Mourning Jewellery”, which is worn for mourning, has existed since the Middle Ages. After that too, with the passage of time, jewellery for various types of memorial services was created.

This section introduces the history of such memorial jewellery.

Mourning Jewellery was originally known as something to be worn during periods of mourning. The meaning of mourning is sadness or mourning and expresses grief. In Europe, it was a custom to wear mainly black designed clothing with black jewellery during mourning or at the time of the funeral service.

An antique victorian diamond mourning ring
An antique victorian diamond mourning ring

If one goes back around 400 years, in the mid of 17th century, England was in the midst of a civil war at that time, and King Charles 1 was executed. After that, the people who missed his reign wore hair jewellery and other items containing his bereaved hair with the purpose of wearing a memorial, and this led to the creation of mourning jewellery. In Europe, at that time, many people suffered from epidemics and wars, and death was close at hand. By wearing hair jewellery that contained a part of the deceased’s hair as a memorial, people felt a sense of security.

Mourning jewellery became increasingly diversified with the changing times and reached its golden period in the Victorian era of the 19th century. In England, after the death of Prince Albert in 1861, Queen Victoria actually mourned for a period of 40 years.

This led to an increase in the opportunities for the public’s exposure to mourning jewellery and black gemstones and designs, which gradually also became popular amongst the general public. Later, with the rise of the middle class during the Industrial Revolution, the demand for gemstones and sophisticatedly designed jewellery increased, and people wearing mourning jewellery even outside of the mourning period became more and more popular.

Mourning jewellery of that time was made of black enamel or jade and the motifs in the jewellery were:

  • Name of the deceased

  • the age of the deceased

  • the date, etc.

These jewellery motifs were engraved with the name, age, date, etc. of the deceased, and many pendants, bracelets, and rings were made with these designs.

Also, the main jewellery designs that were popular at the time included engagement rings that had motifs of a snake-like there was on the ring that Prince Albert had presented to Queen Victoria when he ascended the throne at the age of 18 years, and also included delicate jewellery based on natural themes like flowers or birds that included messages for their loved ones. These days, the mourning jewellery of those times is attracting attention and it fetches a high price as an antique piece.

In Europe, hair jewellery, in which the ashes of a loved one or hair of a deceased family member is placed inside a piece of jewellery, has been a favourite since the Middle Ages and was actually popular even during the Victorian era. Since durability and hair quality does not deteriorate with the passage of time, it is possible to use hair in hair jewellery for hundreds of years. Since the funeral in the olden times was also done by the burial method, it led to the creation of hair jewellery.

Meanwhile, in Japan, around the Meiji period, influenced by British jewellery, the imperial family and aristocrats also began wearing memorial jewellery of such designs. It is said that the reason that today's Japanese people have a habit of wearing black clothes for funerals is due to the influence of this period.

The memorial jewellery introduced above, such as mourning jewellery and hair jewellery, jewellery can be worn for occasions linked to religious beliefs and at the time of marriage, and jewellery is worn largely for important ceremonies or milestone occasions and other such reasons, are generally referred to as “Sentimental Jewellery”.

In this way, we can see that people have been putting various feelings into sentimental jewellery for hundreds of years.

Antique-style soul jewellery made from cremated remains-green diamonds
Antique-style soul jewellery made from cremated remains-green diamonds

Types of modern memorial jewellery

So far, we have introduced the history of memorial jewellery since its birth. The jewellery culture, which is filled with feelings, has transformed into various shapes and forms with the changing times and has been passed down through the generations to the present day. Well, did you know that there are many different types and designs of jewellery that are memorials, depending on the brand of accessory? Currently, the most popular types of jewellery are pendants (necklaces) and bracelets, while rings (rings) and brooches, etc. are also popular to a certain extent. Also, memorial jewellery has an inner pocket (storage function) that can be used to enclose hair or other items. And since there are many designs and materials to choose from, it is possible to make jewellery to suit your choice and liking. Amongst accessories brands that are memorial, “Soul Jewellery” is one of the most recognized brands of accessories that are memorial. The brand colour of Soul Jewellery is red, which represents a strong bond with the one we love the most. Soul Jewellery has distributors throughout Japan.

Currently, not just hair but even cremated remains are enclosed

The memorial jewellery introduced so far are mainly close-at-hand memorials that enclose the deceased’s hair. In recent years, however, with the spread of cremation, there has been an increase in the number of accessories containing the cremated remains of the deceased in jewellery designed as a memorial.

Normally, diamonds are made from carbon extracted from the cremated remains, ashes, and hair of the deceased for memorial purposes.

A Swiss brand LONITÉ™ specialised in turning cremated remains into memorial diamonds, has and helped many people who have lost loved ones.

LONITÉ™'s distinction is its ability to process a variety of memorial jewellery such as memorial diamond earrings, pendants and rings. Another appealing feature is the ability to create your own custom-made jewellery, where you can choose the colour of gemstones and design according to trends.

Recently, the demand for memorial jewellery is increasing.

Bottom line

When we think about the happiest moments in our lives, many of us still come up with memories of spending time with our loved ones. The days spent with a loved one are undoubtedly an irreplaceable personal treasure.

The reasons for having memorial jewellery, such as mourning jewellery and hair jewellery different for different people, varying from the happiest moments in their lives, such as marriage, to having memorials from cremated remains of their loved ones.

However, they are all the same in the sense that they all want to put their memories of their loved ones into jewellery and designs.

It can be stated that what people really want is to spend as much time as possible with their loved ones. By having a piece of jewellery designed to express such feelings for a loved one, the story of two people can continue till eternity.

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