Victorian Hair Jewelry and History


Hair art is jewelry and artwork created using hair as the artistic medium. It was created most commonly from the middle ages through the 1800’s. It was believed that hair jewelry increased one’s love if the piece was made using the hair of the living, and was seen as a way of wearing one’s love if the person was deceased.

Post Cards were even sent with hair on it. These were sold and the person would add their hair before sending it. You can see that this was still being done in 1906.

During the Victorian times, Queen Victoria wore many pieces of hair jewelry and it became very popular due to her interest in this old art. During this time mourning jewelry reached it’s peak of popularity and there was great sentiment attached to it. There are many fabulous pieces still in existence today created during that time.

Hair jewelry was mentioned in “Gone With The Wind” when Scarlett was only allowed to wear mourning jewelry since she was in mourning after the death of her husband. During the Civil War many women wore hair jewelry since so many men were killed in the war.

This is the top of an antique box that was created as a mourning piece. It has almost all the symbolism used at that time for mourning pieces.

Godey’s Lady’s Book was a magazine published in that time and it printed patterns and offered starter kits with the necessary tools for sale. Mark Campbell was the author of a book titled “Self-Instruction in the Art of Hairwork” and it has instructions on hair art and other crafts from that time period. (This book is available for sale even today). These instructions enabled the average person to learn and create these pieces on their own.

Hair jewelry was created mainly for the upper class who could afford to have custom made gold jewelry with precious stones. It wasn’t until the later 1800’s that the average person was able to find instructions and they could create these pieces themselves.

I’ve been told that the settings were at one time sold in the Sears Catalog. The design was pre-drawn on the background and the person making the pendant would then add the hair of their choice to personalize the piece for themselves.

This is an example of a watch fob created using the table work technique. This has the gold findings on it, and a charm in the middle where the initials were engraved. Both men and women wore jewelry made using hair.

The women of Mora, Sweden became experienced in hairwork and their creations made it possible for groups other than the very wealthy to afford hair jewelry. Since they did not have the money for the expensive findings, their jewelry was created with wooden beads that they covered with hair to form the shape. There are many examples of their work in existence today.

Most women had dressing tables and they had their powder box, comb, and brush set along with a hat pin holder, and other miscellaneous grooming items. The hat pin holder looks like a tall salt shaker with the holes at the top where the hat pins were placed for storage. Usually all these matched and were made of porcelain or ceramic.

Close-up of a Hair Receiver.

After brushing their hair they would save it. They would remove the hair from the brush and place it into the hair receiver to save it for making jewelry at a later time. The lid has a hole in the center to easily add the hair to the collection and it lifts off to easily remove the hair.

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