Civil War Era Mourning Hair Broach - Gold or gold plated broach with locks of multiple colored hair inside, possibly belonging to several loved ones. Reverse contains pin and inscribed, "E.A. Weaner."
Victorian hair jewelry whether fashioned by a home crafter or professionally by a hair weaver or a jewelry maker was the height of the romanticism and sentiment that characterized the Victorian era. Some pieces were done as mourning pieces or "momento mori" ("remember you must die"). While some may find this morbid, for the Victorians death was a common and accepted part of everyday life especially due to the higher infant mortality rate of the time and the devastation of the Civil War. During the Civil War as the soldiers left home to join the fight, they would leave a lock of hair with their families. Upon the soldier's death, the hair was often made into a piece of mourning jewelry or placed in a locket. These were gold or black, and were sometimes engraved with "In Memory Of" and the initials or names of the deceased.
Godey's Lady's Book endorsed the fashion of hair jewelry and made it easy to acquire. The following excerpt extolling the virtues of hairwork is from c. 1850:
"Hair is at once the most delicate and last of our materials and survives us like love. It is so light, so gentle, so escaping from the idea of death, that, with a lock of hair belonging to a child or friend we may almost look up to heaven and compare notes with angelic nature, may almost say, I have a piece of thee here, not unworthy of thy being now."
In 1855, the magazine offered to accommodate any lady wishing hair made up into jewelry, upon receipt of the hair and the price for making it. The hairwork jewelry sold through Godey's was described as a superior product, graceful in design and durable in quality. The gold in the finely chased mountings was of a warm reddish tone which contrasted beautifully with intricate plaits of the hair.
Inventory Number: CAM 189