Giving hair in jewelry is a sign of affection. Be that affection for a family member, friend or spouse. Many pieces containing hair were not mourning jewelry, but love tokens given between lovers. It was customary to give these little tokens of "High Esteem" as Jane Austen would say during courtship. Courting lasted longer in the 1800’s and people didn’t hop into bed after the third date. They had to do SOMETHING with all that pent up energy, so men would give the women they were wooing little gifts that basically said, “Hey baby. I can’t wait ‘til we’re married. Wink wink.” These gifts often came in the form of "Regard" jewelry.
Before I delve into that type of Sentimental Jewelry, I promised to tell you of a really gross way that lovers expressed their affection for one another in the last post… Well here it is! Evidently, 16th Century English Knights “were given lockets containing wreaths or hearts woven from lover’s pubic hair”. I kid you not! I’m quoting directly from Mary Brett’s book, Fashionable Mourning Jewelry, Clothing & Customs”
There’s a reason for all the hair giving that was going on in the past. Mary Brett’s book also contained a wonderful bit of information stating that it was an ancient custom for people to be buried with locks of hair from a lover, spouse, relative or child. It was a long held
belief that a person would need to be whole before the final Judgment of Judgment Day. If someone had a lock of hair, the giver was not whole and would need to find the last part of his or her body, thus having to also find the loved one who was in possession of it. These two people could then see each other one last time. I’m not sure how that developed into the custom of giving hair as a token of love, but it’s something we still do today. Do any of you have a locket with hair from your children? How about a locket with hair from an old romance? Today we leave out the hair, but we still wear lockets and give them as gifts of remembrance. The photograph has replaced the hair. What will we do in the digital age I wonder?
This cameo locket was given to me by my Great Aunt Ann. It keeps the hair of a man who proposed to her sometime after the war. I love all the little bits of family history our jewelry reveals. If it weren't for the locket, she would have never had a reason to tell me about this proposal before she accepted my Uncle's hand in marriage. How many of you have learned some family secrets from jewelry?
Coming Next: When jewelry that contains hair actually IS mourning jewelry. Join me for one more post where I’ll show you some things that you’ll expect and some things that you may
find shocking. Some images may just haunt you for the rest of your life. What could be better for Halloween?