Victorian Mourning Jewellery

A couple of blogs ago I mentioned that after the death of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria sunk into a deep depression and stayed in seclusion for many years, rarely appearing in public. She mourned him by wearing black for the remaining forty years of her life. 

In the 40’s when I was growing up, I remember that my parent’s were very superstitious. Was this a legacy of the Victorians? If someone died in the house, the clocks were stopped to ward off more death and bad luck. 

From what I recall the dead had to be taken out of the house feet-first. I never understood why until, many years later, I consulted my  friend Mr Google He said that they had to be carried this way to prevent death from taking another family member. Mirrors were draped in cloth to prevent the deceased’s spirit from getting trapped in the glass. Neighbours drew their curtains in respect. The deceased lay in the front room and we trooped past paying our last respects. It scared me.

Trendy Victorian-Era Jewellery Was Made From Human Hair

Even today, it’s quite common to hold onto a piece of jeweliery from a dearly departed relative. But during the Victorian era, mourners didn’t just wear Grandma’s favourite earrings: they actually wore a bit of Grandma, herself. This  was a way to keep the dead person close-literally. 

Pieces of the deceased’s hair were often included in mourning jewellery either coiled under a piece of crystal in a ring, braided into a necklace, or placed into a locket like the one below found by a Scottish detectorist.

Found by a Scottish Detectorist
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Bachelor Button, Solitaire & Cufflink Fastener

Metal detectorists make finds from all ages and probably half of the total items recorded on the United Kingdom Detecting Finds Database (UKDFD) happen to be post-medieval. It is also a fact that much of this later material was minimal or non-existent prior to the advent of the hobby. Even now the identification and dating of relatively recent items is often more difficult than that of the ancient counterparts. That’s quite a thought.

In January 2007 I produced the first UKDFD newsletter, Borrowed Times. In the same year an alliance was forged with The Searcher magazine to feature some of the more interesting finds from the database. I started writing a regular column for the magazine entitled Just for the Record.

Header from The Searcher Column

In my first article I said:

If it were not for the published works of detectorists like Brian Read, Gordon Bailey, Edward Fletcher and others, we would have very little to go on. But I can assure you that the UKDFD is building on the foundations laid by these detectorists and is destined to become an important resource in its own right.

The risk of confusing material of one period with that of another is greatly reduced if we have knowledge of artefacts from both periods – Roman and Georgian is a good example. It is with this in mind that I have looked at the database and selected a number of post medieval finds which I think you may also find interesting.

What follows is a reprise of one of those finds I borrowed from the database.

Bachelor Button Spring Stud or Cufflink Fastener

I don’t wish to confuse you but the cornflower, the famous flower of many romantic legends, was often called the Bachelor Button. Why was this? I understand that years ago the bloom was worn as a signal of availability. The name, Bachelor Button, may have arisen during Victorian times when the flowers were often placed in the button holes of men’s suitcoats.

So, bachelor button flowers, often called cornflowers, are an old fashioned species once considered a weed of arable fields. The development of intensive agricultural practices nearly wiped out the cornflower in the wild. This delicate, blue flower is now most likely to occur as a garden escapee, as part of intentional wildflower seeding, or as the result of the disturbance of soil containing old seed banks. Its strongholds remain roadside verges, scrub, waste ground and farmland. It flowers from June to August.

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The Black and Blue Reviver


When the muse has left me, which is often these days, I sometimes raid the United Kingdom Detecting Finds Database ( UKDFD ) looking for inspiration. This hobby-based initiative was founded in 2005: take a look at the short promotional video.

Deceitful Liquid

In 2010 I looked at some fascinating advertising tokens on the UKDFD found by detectorists and constructed a short post. The token – shown below – was so interesting and I think worthy of a place in this new blog. I have also added further details.

Similar to UKDFD 16518 Found in December 2008 by John Kineavy …

An advertising token of the 19th century, issued by Thomas Pryce, oil and colourman, of London. (Colourman: one who prepares and sells paint.) Both addresses shown on the token (1 York Buildings and 12 [Northampton Place], opposite Surrey Place) are in the Old Kent Road. Thomas Pryce is known to have been in occupation of both premises in 1827, and of the latter until 1840, when Thomas Eastman Pryce continued the business. OBVERSE : T PRYCE OIL & COLOURMAN 1 YORK BUILDINGS & 12 OPPOSITE SURREY PLACE KENT ROAD (J H) LONDON. REVERSE: SOLE MANUFACTURER OF DR WINN’S BLACK AND BLUE REVIVER FOR RESTORING ALL KINDS OF FADED MOURNING.
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