The Art of Victorian Hair Art and Mourning Jewelry

November 12, 2016

Creating unique pieces of Jewelry and Art from human hair has been seen throughout history as a way of honoring loved ones either deceased or separated from their families.   Many myths and legends have swarmed around the unique art. One that I have always found interesting is from an old Swedish book of proverbs that read "rings and bracelets of hair increase love".

 

Although hair jewelry existed prior to the Victorian era, it was this period that saw it flourish as a trade and private craft in Mourning Jewelry. The Victorian Period saw a rise in mourning practices due to its popularity through Queen Victoria, and wearing hair jewelry was seen as a form of carrying one's sentiments for the deceased. Unlike many other natural materials, human hair does not decay with the passing of time. Hair has chemical qualities that cause it to last for hundreds, possibly thousands, of years. Additionally, by the 19th century many hair artists and wig makers had too little employment after the powdered wigs, often worn by noblemen of the 17th and 18th centuries, went out of fashion. The period of sentimentality, characteristic of the Victorian era, offered these craftsmen a new opportunity to earn their income working with hair. Early hair jewelry was usually made for the higher classes in cooperation with goldsmiths, producing beautiful and expensive creations of hair mounted in gold and often decorated with pearls or precious stones. Pieces constructed with precious materials by artisans were naturally very expensive and it wasn't until the middle of the Victorian period, when instructional guides became available, that hair jewelry became popular with the lower classes.

 

In contrast to the expensive pieces of hair jewelry crafted by artisans, many women of the 19th century began crafting their own hairwork in their homes. In America, popular magazines of the period, like Godey's Lady's Book, printed patterns and offered starter kits with the necessary tools for sale. Book of the period, like Mark Cambell's Self-Instructor in the Art of Hair Work offered full volumes devoted to hairwork and other "fancywork," as predominately female crafts were known at the time.

*exert from wikipedia

 

 

There are a several different methods of Victorian Hair Art and Victorian Mourning Jewelry and each one provides a unique look as versatile as they are beautiful. 

 

* Palette Work- most versatile of the methods. It can make pictures and designs both large and small and can be used to create various designs including pictures.

* Sepia Paintings- uses hair as a painting medium. It is brushed thinly on the background of choice just like paint. Most sepia paintings are created using a combination of both the sepia technique and the palette work technique. The sepia painting can be layered to form depth and dimension.

*Table Work- created using a custom made table and bobbins with specially designed weights. The hair is woven around a form to make the desired shape. This technique requires much longer hair than the palette or sepia techniques.

*Hair Flowers-Hair flowers require long hair also. The hair is wound around a wire and securing it with wire to make very long lengths of looped hair. The hair is then shaped into petals or leaves and other shapes as desired.When several shapes are wired together a flower can be formed and many very large wreaths were made using the hair from groups of people. Sometimes an entire church would make one using the hair from their members. A family would make one using the hair from all of their family members. These pieces could be very large and ornate.

*Nesting- a modern day way of preserving various lengths of hair in shapes with protective glass like coatings. 

*exert from the Hair Work Society

 

I have noticed that now in the year 2016 that many people are reaching out to find artisans that have experience in this fine art. It is now held as a unique way to not only mourn the loss of a loved one, but also as a way to memorialize precious moments like a childs first hair cut. 

 

 Click on image to see more Victorian Hair Art from More than Memories Keepsakes

 

 

 

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