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Memories, Mourning and Craft: Hair in Jewelry and Art

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lbutterworth

In one of my lit classes in college, our professor had us read a short story by Margaret Atwood called “Hair Jewellry.” I no longer remember the plot points, but I do recall that it introduced me to a tradition I’ve been morbidly fascinated by since: using human hair to create intricate designs for rings, bracelets, brooches, and even wall decorations.

The resulting pieces are often stunning — both aesthetically and in their craftsmanship — and have just the right amount of macabre to make them doubly intriguing. I think Helen Sheumaker explains it best in her book, Love Entwined: The Curious History of Hairwork in America: “Hairwork asserted the importance of the individual in a physical and emotional way,” she writes. “Today, when we encounter hairwork in the odd bit of jewelry on display at a museum, or in a novel, or in a hair wreath at the local historical house, or in the loose bit of hair in an old letter, we confront a relic of the living, breathing reality of someone long deceased.”

According to Sheumaker, hairwork was advertised by jewelers in England and France as early as the first half of the 18th century. The tradition spread through Europe during the Victorian era as mourning jewelry flourished: people used the hair of the deceased to create wearable mementos of lost loved ones. It should come as no surprise, since the locks of a lady were held in the highest regard during the time. “While women’s hair, particularly when it is golden, has always been a Western preoccupation, for the Victorians it became an obsession,” writes Elisabeth G. Gitter in “The Power of Women’s Hair in the Victorian Imagination.” “In painting and literature, as well as in their popular culture, they discovered in the image of women’s hair a variety of rich and complex meanings, ascribing to it powers both magical and symbolic.” Tresses were such a loaded attribute, many women would go their entire lives without a singe haircut. So for someone who had lost a wife, a mother, or a sister, weaving strands of their hair into an intricate miniature bouquet to wear as a brooch, or braided and twisted to be worn as a bracelet, was akin to honoring their very essence, and keeping it close in the most aesthetically pleasing way possible.

In America, it gained popularity during the Civil War, when soldiers would leave a lock of hair for their wife before going off to fight. During the latter half of the 19th century, the trend took on a DIY element with magazines providing instructions for at-home hair jewelry creations. It was a tradition based on sentimentality. As women’s monthly Godey’s Lady’s Book suggested circa 1850 (according to Daily Life in Civil War America), “Hair is at once the most delicate and lasting of our materials and survives us like love.” It was this overt pathos, in addition to changing fashions and 20th century ideas about “cleanliness,” which led to the demise of the practice. “The popularity of hairwork, which was at its peak from the 1850s to 1880s, was affected not by new technology (such as photography) or national traumas (the Civil War) but by issues of labor and production,” Sheumaker writes. She explains that America’s cultural shift toward “realism” and the mechanization of production led to sentimentality becoming an outdated notion by the end of the 19th century.

The fact that hairwork is no longer practiced makes the tradition all the more compelling, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Leila Cohoon began collecting hair art over 60 years ago, and now proudly displays over 1,000 pieces in the Independence, Missouri, museum she built in 1990. As she describes in Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, her collection contains “necklaces, earrings, brooches, chains, watchbands, watch fobs, hat pins, buttons, pictures, and postcards.”

While wreaths made from the hair of twin sisters (featured in Cohoon’s museum) are exemplary of vintage hairwork, there are a number of artists and jewelers putting a contemporary spin on the tradition. Philadelphia-based artist Melanie Bilenker uses strands of her own hair to render miniature, line-drawn vignettes, which she then sets in epoxy resin. Bilenker was inspired by Victorian mourning jewelry, but rather than existing as memorials, her pieces depict the familiar moments in life, like a woman brushing her teeth or pouring milk into her morning coffee. Columbian artist Zaira Pulido embroiders portraits of her friends using pieces of their hair as thread. The finished pieces are simultaneously compelling and off-putting.

Modern hairwork isn’t relegated only to the art world. There are a number of Etsy sellers interpreting the practice in a much more wearable way. Australian jeweler Polly van der Glas uses human hair to create striking knuckle rings set with a single long lock. But if you’re squeamish about flaunting someone else’s tresses, she also uses plaited hair to create casts from which she makes wonderfully textured, braided rings. Or get the look sans possible ick factor with a piece from eelewis; she uses synthetic hair to make edgy but elegant earrings and necklaces. Of course, eliminating the human aspect diminishes the gravity that authentic hairwork carries. As Sheumaker writes, “When you hold a brooch made of hair, you hold in your hand a memento of an individual, her life, and her emotions.”

Lisa Butterworth is a writer and editor soaking up the eternal sunshine in Los Angeles. When she's not on the hunt for the latest and greatest in girl culture as the West Coast editor of BUST magazine, she's flea marketing, taco trucking, and generally raising a ruckus.

4 Featured Comments

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  • StringBeardCraftery

    Stephanie from StringBeardCraftery says: Featured

    Something about the idea of hair art speaks to me. It's peculiar, creepy, and personal in all the best ways. I don't know that I'd have the courage to rock a piece of jewelery made from hair, but I have mad respect and adoration for those who do.

    1 year ago

  • 108ways

    108ways from 108ways says: Featured

    I've collected memorial jewelry for many years and am always struck by how many people think hair is creepy, unless it's actually still being grown by its "wearer." I love hairwork for the way it invites us to bridge the distance between our love of life, and our ambivalence about the body that carries us through it. Stroking a loved one's hair is such a loving gesture ... on the other hand, hair in the bathtub drain is not something most people want to touch, no matter how much they love the person who shed it. At what moment does the body of the person we love become repulsive to us? And why? And does it really need to be like that? I'm excited to check out the artists mentioned in this article, and look forward to reading more comments.

    1 year ago

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat from mazedasastoat says: Featured

    I just find it a bit creepy that anyone would want to keep MY hair after I'm dead, even though I don't get creeped out by other hair mourning jewelry. What's really mindboggling is the level of art & dexterity needed to transform hair into such beautiful & intricate weaves. As someone who has trouble doing a basic plait (braid) in my own long hair, I appreciate the skill of these craftspeople!

    1 year ago

  • thewomensrepublic

    Sara Brazil from SararaVintage says: Featured

    I have also always been fascinated by mourning jewelry as a form of cultural expression. As an anthropology major studying rituals and practices of various societies was really interesting and Victorian mourning jewelry was among those subjects which came to my attention. It is interesting to me how today such practices are seen as taboo. For Victorians as the article noted it was a rich artistic expression of mourning, love, life and loss.

    1 year ago

  • SyntheticInnocence

    Lauren Sugrue from SyntheticInnocence says:

    I totally had every one of these as favorites already

    1 year ago

  • TheBerryPress

    Wendy Hogue Berry from TheBerryPress says:

    I've seen victorian hair wreaths and they are amazing. Not sure I'd want one on my wall. The jewelry really is beautiful though. Thanks for sharing.

    1 year ago

  • StringBeardCraftery

    Stephanie from StringBeardCraftery says: Featured

    Something about the idea of hair art speaks to me. It's peculiar, creepy, and personal in all the best ways. I don't know that I'd have the courage to rock a piece of jewelery made from hair, but I have mad respect and adoration for those who do.

    1 year ago

  • SyntheticInnocence

    Lauren Sugrue from SyntheticInnocence says:

    I'm a collector of memento mori so I was thrilled to see you write about the wonderful pieces here.

    1 year ago

  • SecondEditionJewelry

    Emily Clayton from SecondEditionJewelry says:

    Very interesting stuff. I have seen some jewelry pieces from hair in museums, but it wasn't very pretty. These more modern pieces are really neat!

    1 year ago

  • LivingVintage

    LivingVintage from LivingVintage says:

    Interesting! Always seemed a little morbid.

    1 year ago

  • amberike
  • OuterKnits

    OuterKnits from OuterKnits says:

    Gotta love the Victorians. Interesting concept.

    1 year ago

  • lcarlsonjewelry

    Liesl Carlson from lcarlsonjewelry says:

    I love this. I love the idea of using hair. I have thought of using some in my work in the past. I might revisit the idea. Thank you so much for sharing.

    1 year ago

  • leeyapeeya

    Lea from GrandmomsPennies says:

    Love this!

    1 year ago

  • BlackberryDesigns

    Dea Shelton from BlackberryDesigns says:

    Years ago in my great grandmothers attic, she was born in the late 1800's I found letters with pieces of hair tied in ribbons, and hair in jewelry. I was told that many people did not have the time or money to travel so when babies were born and people died a piece of hair was sent to them. Also when loved ones died a piece of hair was kept as a memento, particularly in lockets, which is what I had found. Thanks for this great article.

    1 year ago

  • SimpleJoysPaperie

    Lana Manis from SimpleJoysPaperie says:

    Interesting article! It's nice to see old crafts and customs talked about on the Etsy blog.

    1 year ago

  • lulusdressingroom

    lulusdressingroom from lulusdressingroom says:

    Love this article. Mourning pieces are a lost art of the past.

    1 year ago

  • atinyforest

    Kimberly from atinyforest says:

    Fascinating - thanks for sharing!

    1 year ago

  • tigersanddragons

    tigersanddragons from TigersandDragons says:

    Memorial jewellery is an interesting concept, recently I fused some ashes in between layers of glass for a family who lost their son, brother. or years I've kept a snippet of fur from two beloved cats, but until now had never considered what I could do with them. I know a few people (living)who have saved their long hair after cutting it off. My cousin kept her blond childhood braids, which I found fascinating when I was little since I could never grow that volume of hair.

    1 year ago

  • eclectivist

    Kasia from Eclectivist says:

    This is very, very interesting... Thanks for the article, work of both artists mentioned is inspiring!

    1 year ago

  • GoldenSpiralDesigns

    Lola Ocian from GoldenSpiralDesigns says:

    Fascinating... I had no idea people did this. It's funny because my boyfriend collects hair from various times in his life. He has little vials of hair from when he cut his beard when we met, one from his daughter when she cut her hair short, even a little twist of my hair when I last cut it. I figured it was just a quirk of ours - I didn't realize that other people kept hair, let alone made art with it. Amazing!

    1 year ago

  • TypothecaryPress

    Megan Zettlemoyer from TypothecaryPress says:

    What an interesting article! Thanks so much for sharing it!!!

    1 year ago

  • 108ways

    108ways from 108ways says: Featured

    I've collected memorial jewelry for many years and am always struck by how many people think hair is creepy, unless it's actually still being grown by its "wearer." I love hairwork for the way it invites us to bridge the distance between our love of life, and our ambivalence about the body that carries us through it. Stroking a loved one's hair is such a loving gesture ... on the other hand, hair in the bathtub drain is not something most people want to touch, no matter how much they love the person who shed it. At what moment does the body of the person we love become repulsive to us? And why? And does it really need to be like that? I'm excited to check out the artists mentioned in this article, and look forward to reading more comments.

    1 year ago

  • TheNorthWayStudio

    Maria S. from TheNorthWayStudio says:

    Such an incredibly interesting article! I never really knew about Hair Jewelry, but it seems fascinating! Thank you:)

    1 year ago

  • gossamer531

    Gossamer Tearoom from TheGossamerTearoom says:

    I'm fascinated by this article and by the comments so far! I only found out about this practice very recently. I was completely intrigued when my father-in-law died and my husband asked me to clip a small bit of his hair to add to a note that he tucked into his father's pocket at the funeral. I had never known of anyone to do this, but found it touching in an odd way. Having lost my parents recently myself, I am very interested in the questions posed by 108ways: When and why do these things become repulsive to us? It's thought-provoking!

    1 year ago

  • Zaheroux

    Megan Weber from Zaheroux says:

    I've known about mourning jewelry with hair for years and I find it such an intriguing and beautiful way to remember someone! I've always concluded that if something happened to my husband (who has really nice long hair) I would have something like this created. Thank you for sharing this article, it adds much more insight to a really unique aspect of jewelry and history!

    1 year ago

  • truthbeautyandlove27

    Colleen O'Neal from truthbeautyandlove27 says:

    creepy and awesome all at the same time! I have my sons golden blond hair from his first hair cut. I think I am going to figure out a way to incorporate his hair into a piece of jewelry. Its funny in the etsy features the artist is always asked where their inspirations come from, I have to say that many of my greatest inspirations have come etsy's article and sellers! Thank you Etsy!

    1 year ago

  • Rembrandtrocks

    Celena McMahon from Rembrandtrocks says:

    I have- recently lost my Sweet Nephew -the sweetest boy 191/2 in the world-literally- In Afghanistan, He was an army medic wanting to come back and become a surgeon. He died A Hero jumping to save a lady and he did= I do my site because of him and pass on the joy with Boxes of Hope to injured soldiers with what ever I sell on Etsy. I am extremely moved by this form of art. It tears me up so much to even think of my sweet Nephew but If I could have more of him, I would, I know this art form would remind of Him in heaven smiling down on us all! Thank you for This piece=moving. Smiles.

    1 year ago

  • studiorandom

    Dana Seilhan from studiorandom says:

    I'm not sure why hair is supposed to be disgusting, assuming it's clean and there are no bugs in it. It's a part of us that we shed anyway, not like a finger or a kidney. Certainly no worse than, say, feathers, and I see stuff with feathers in it sold all over Etsy. (Which also does not bother me.) But I've always been a little bit weird that way, I guess.

    1 year ago

  • ArtsyFlair

    Michaela Stephens from ArtsyFlair says:

    Great article! Thanks for sharing!

    1 year ago

  • CafePrimrose

    Amanda Gynther from CafePrimrose says:

    Such a nice article! cafeprimrose.com

    1 year ago

  • Nikifashion

    Natalia from Nikifashion says:

    Awesome!

    1 year ago

  • Sudio143

    Susan Norwood from GreenleeAndVine says:

    This was very interesting! Thank you for sharing it!

    1 year ago

  • dreaminMama

    dreaminMama says:

    There's a small and wonderful museum in Kent, Washington that we love to visit. It is filled with so many treasures. One of the docents pointed out a pocket watch to us. He said a wife created it for her husband out of her hair... The 'chain' is the most delicately woven cord made from her hair! This was while they were both living, and what a token of love. We have 3 daughters, and I've always saved little snips of their hair through the years! Many people save their baby's hair. I've heard of people saving fluff from their dog's fur to knit (it gets washed just as wool would).

    1 year ago

  • myvintagecrush

    Kathleen from myvintagecrush says:

    "The finished pieces are simultaneously compelling and off-putting" - exactly my thoughts ..intriguing artwork.

    1 year ago

  • dreaminMama

    dreaminMama says:

    Oh, also we were just at MOHAI (Museum of History and Industry) in Seattle yesterday, and they have a Victorian wreath made from human hair.

    1 year ago

  • bedouin

    bedouin from bedouin says:

    I have a snippet of mine as baby and saved a piece from our daughters as well. The birds seem to take the dog fluff for their nests.I think there is something a little bit symbolic ~ hence the growth, the shedding, the ability to grow like a chia from a bald state.

    1 year ago

  • thenosuchdisco

    Dave from thenosuchdisco says:

    its very interesting, if not a little out there... i think its cool to say keep a lock of hair in a locket, but I'm not sure i'd want my lover's hair round my finger... not 24/7 anyway. Still you can't deny the craftsmanship on these, truly awesome!

    1 year ago

  • mrsbenny

    Denise Benoit says:

    It's creepy until you realize why it was done, and that some of the hair work is actually from living "donors." I have a gorgeous hair wreath in my Victorian living room, and am always interested in the art. The attention to detail and fine, minute stitches are amazing. Imagine a time when people HAD the time to devote this much attention to their art and weaving pieces of their loved ones into memorial objects. It's fascinating .... and you find a lot of it when you look for it.

    1 year ago

  • sonyarasi

    Sonya Rasi from sonyarasi says:

    Very interesting!

    1 year ago

  • lizzy01423

    LC Chapman from Colorspiration says:

    Great article and nice reminder of other ways to hold on to our loved ones who have past. Thanks for sharing.

    1 year ago

  • IlluminatedPerfume

    Roxana from IlluminatedPerfume says:

    How interesting! I have a "pony tail" from when my hair was cut as a child, its such a powerful relic from childhood.

    1 year ago

  • luvsandpiperx11

    Joey says:

    Interesting. I saved my son's hair, who is 11 now, from his first birthday when we cut it for the first time. I now have some ideas thanks to the article. I only wish I had cut some of my beloved Corgi, Piper's fur before I had to release him from the pain of lymphoma. I was in too much grief to even think of it at the time. Hopefully if someone reads this and has to do the same, they'll remember to do what I didn't think to! I don't find it repulsive at all, especially if it brings comfort to the one left behind! Thanks for writing about it.

    1 year ago

  • auntjanecan

    Jane Priser from JanePriserArts says:

    Wow. I didn't know about this subject on human hair. I did have a violin bow with horse hair and a bracelet made of elephant hair.

    1 year ago

  • thevicagirl
  • WingedWorld

    Vickie Moore from WingedWorld says:

    What a fascinating article on an almost-lost art form. Hair can still carry so much emotional weight. I still have curly brown locks from my daughter's first hair cut, and snippets of my son's white-blonde hair. My daughter's hair has straightened as she's grown older, and my son's hair — based on family history — is bound to darken up, but I will always have those mementoes of their early childhoods.

    1 year ago

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat from mazedasastoat says: Featured

    I just find it a bit creepy that anyone would want to keep MY hair after I'm dead, even though I don't get creeped out by other hair mourning jewelry. What's really mindboggling is the level of art & dexterity needed to transform hair into such beautiful & intricate weaves. As someone who has trouble doing a basic plait (braid) in my own long hair, I appreciate the skill of these craftspeople!

    1 year ago

  • MegansMenagerie

    Megan from MegansMenagerie says:

    Kind of strange but interesting! Thanks for sharing!

    1 year ago

  • QueenofCuffs

    mary from QueenofCuffs says:

    Love mourning jewelry so much. You can still find beautiful antique pieces of hair art jewelry at markets. The amount of memories within these items is as preserved as the hair itself.

    1 year ago

  • fbstudiovt

    Laura Hale from fbstudiovt says:

    I found my older sister's baby book when I was a young kid rifling through my mother's drawers and was fascinated by the locks of golden yellow hair tied with ribbons pasted to the pages titled "first haircut". It was such a tangible link to my sister, who no longer lived with us. A few years later I watched Antiques Roadshow (I was a PBS obsessed child) and learned of Victorian hair jewelry. It immediately took me back to fingering my sister's tresses in that book and I was so relieved to hear about others who had had this experience. It was unfortunately only a year later that a close friend died suddenly, and her mother gave me a lock of her hair. I kept it in my jewelry box for years. Just seeing it when I opened the box immediately brought her memory alive again. When the woman who raised me as her own passed away, I again received a lock of her hair, which is one of my most treasured possessions today. I would have never expected locks of hair to have such potent power, but there's something about touching a part of someone close to you that is unreplicable - especially after they've gone.

    1 year ago

  • AnnaBear200

    Anna Woehling from JewelsByAnna says:

    this kind of creeped me out

    1 year ago

  • RenataandJonathan
  • KrystynPecora

    Krystyn Pecora from QuirkAndSparkle says:

    I absolutely find Victorian mourning jewelry fascinating. The Lightner Museum in St. Augustine has an absolutely amazing collection that even has little dioramas made out of hair. It is truly a wonderful art form - if a bit macabre for some.

    1 year ago

  • Neia84

    Neia84 says:

    Leila's Hair Museum is in Indepedence, Missouri (MO) :). It's near where I grew up and the idea of a building with hair everywhere always creeped me out. This story was fascinating though, and I may go check out Leila's at some point.

    1 year ago

  • handandheritage

    DueAmici from handandheritage says:

    Love everything.

    1 year ago

  • atticcupboard

    Leslie Maryann Neal from AtticCupboard says:

    Really interesting. I have hair from my mother at different stages of her life. My grandmother kept locks in little brown envelopes that I found among her things when she died. Anyone know of a good way to sell human hair?

    1 year ago

  • martiff

    martiff from InRareFormVintage says:

    A wonderful momento. I have a couple of pieces myself! Someone needs to master the art of these intricate braids once again!!! If anyone knows of anyone who does I would love to see their work!

    1 year ago

  • caseysharpe

    Casey Sharpe from caseysharpe says:

    I love Melanie Bilenker's work- I was reading the article and hoping you'd mention her! She's an alumna of my school too, and a really lovely person as well!

    1 year ago

  • Iammie

    iammie from iammie says:

    Interesting idea.

    1 year ago

  • WickedDarling

    WickedDarling from WickedDarling says:

    I love this article! Just to be able to hold a small fragment of a life lived so many years ago. To me, it is touching and thought provoking. Love the fab shops featured here! Amazing jewelry! There is a wonderful site on mourning traditions and jewelry: http://artofmourning.com Thanks so much for sharing this!

    1 year ago

  • Katypeaches

    Naylors Oasis from NaylorsOasis says:

    i love this article. sounds morbid but this is actually something that my family still does. when a family member dies a piece of their hair is kept in a locket, which is placed inside and old family wall clock.

    1 year ago

  • riorita

    Irith Mashiah from rioritajewelry says:

    I can see how saving the hair of someone you loved is a way of keeping a closeness to him. I had a beloved cat, I used to brush her long fur daily, when she passed away, I kept some of her beautiful fur in a lovely small box.

    1 year ago

  • DecadenceandDecay

    jordan from DecadenceandDecay says:

    i think my favorite piece of sentimental jewelry from the era is queen victorias bracelet made of her childrens baby teeth. it started a trend (albeit esoteric) of people wearing teeth (human baby teeth) in jewelry. i've only seen one of these pieces in person, a stick pin, very simple, gold (color, maybe actually gold?) with a baby tooth stuck in it. it was over 3k in a small antique show. this is an 1850s era enamel and baby tooth brooch that was commissioned from prnce albert to queen victoria featuring their daughter princess vicky's tooth: http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2010/03/12/article-1257493-08B1B105000005DC-46_468x488.jpg also "victory tooth" jewelry became popular because of this, wearing teeth in jewelry from animals you have killed. (deer, tiger, whatevs) lol-- the more ya know.

    1 year ago

  • shuqi

    Emily Lim from shuqi says:

    Great article. Especially the hair jewerly. Just stunning works:) Like it.

    1 year ago

  • NativeElements

    NativeElements from NativeElements says:

    I love this article!! I'm fascinated by Victorian mourning and hair jewelery... I think this is a beautiful tradition.

    1 year ago

  • PalomaAccessories

    Kelly from PalomaAccessories says:

    Muy romantico.

    1 year ago

  • LittleWrenPottery

    Victoria Baker from LittleWrenPottery says:

    I'm not sure hair work is for me I find it a bit creepy, theres an element of momento mori about it too...

    1 year ago

  • paulamcgurdy

    Paula McGurdy from paulamcgurdy says:

    Really interesting! I did my disertation on Memento Mori and use hair stitched into paper on some of my works. Was so thrilled to see this piece featured!!

    1 year ago

  • accessoryalamode

    Deborah McGovern from deborahmcgovern says:

    Ineresting way of keeping a memory. Very nice article. :)

    1 year ago

  • accessoryalamode

    Deborah McGovern from deborahmcgovern says:

    Interesting way of keeping a memory. Very nice article :)

    1 year ago

  • MissJiggle

    K Daniel from MySilentSpace says:

    If you have ever read this poem: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/pigtail/ you will understand how evocative hair can be.

    1 year ago

  • kadydesigns

    Denise Vining from kadydesigns says:

    Very interesting artticle, I had heard of this but I've never really seen anything like these. Their very pretty but not sure I would wear them. Thanks for posting always nice to learn something new!

    1 year ago

  • rivahside

    rivahside says:

    I had heard of hair mourning jewelry but didn't realize it was an artform. My mother kept a snip of hair from each of us children and kept it in her jewelry box wrapped in tissue. As morbid as it might sound to some, when she died we all took our little pieces of hair and put them in her casket-so that a part of us could be with her. My aunt had long, dark braids growing up and she cut them and saved them for many, many years. When her parents died she put one of the braids in each casket.

    1 year ago

  • BeeKai

    Deb Boyle from BeeKaiArtisanJewelry says:

    Memorializing is a personal and in depth tradition for me personally. I have a lock of all three of my daughters hair preserved in their Baby Books. Now that they are grown and gone so to speak, I am grateful for these keepsakes and the multitude of photos taken.

    1 year ago

  • stellasavestheday

    Jennifer Shingelo from stellasavestheday says:

    Thanks so much for this, Lisa! Hairwork is what inspired me to make keepsake lockets which I now sell here. It is so rewarding and lovely to receive cherished family photos from people all over the world and place them in a locket for them so they can carry their loved ones with them. Prior to starting my Etsy shop, I spent 10 years using human hair in my fine art work here: http://jennkristen.blogspot.com/ Check out some of the Chinese hair embroidery (moxiu) artists as well...it started in the Tang dynasty (618-907) when young girls embroidered hair into silk to create images of the Buddha to show their devotion. Now you can find people like Professor Wei Jingxian who embroidered all the American president's (and other famous people's) portraits in human hair!

    1 year ago

  • lmouer

    Lynsey from lmouer says:

    I love the rings!

    1 year ago

  • guziks

    Stephanie from Phylogeny says:

    This is amazing. Hairwork is such a piece of someone, it really is a link to the past and of the person who once had the locks. Very interesting article!

    1 year ago

  • jorgensenstudio

    jorgensenstudio from jorgensenstudio says:

    I am completely enthralled by mourning jewelry - I find it amazing and facinating. the craftmanship of the delicate patterns are so wonderful and they exude both a melencholly and a sweetness of lives and loves past. I too was inspired by the morning jewelry to create a locket of keepsakes under glass. I have done pieces that contained locks of hair for departed loved ones, and the feeling of reverance that comes over you handling it is sometimes overwhelming emotionally especially when you are told the story behind it. Holding in my hands locks of hair from three young girls lost tragically, weaving them together and placing them in pieces for their family was a special expierence for me that really humbled me. Its hard to explain how your work takes on a completely different dimension, when working with something so personal. It is both extremely emotional and gratifying.

    1 year ago

  • dlsack

    Dave Sack from Oddacious says:

    I love this stuff. I have also found a wonderful awesome shop on Etsy selling mourning items. It is a must see. Its called Good Mourning Shop. http://www.etsy.com/shop/GoodMourningShop?ref=af_you_favitem

    1 year ago

  • lisby

    lisby from lisby says:

    I am a longtime collector of mourning jewelry and have recently put my collection online at Flickr. If you would like to see the pieces and the accompanying research, this is the link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/60861613@N00/sets/72157624187710531/ Nothing here is for sale. This is just a passionate collector sharing her toys. :)

    1 year ago

  • JoyousCrafts

    Heather Salzman from JoyousCrafts says:

    I downloaded "The Power of Women’s Hair in the Victorian Imagination" and I'm going to read it! :D I have long hair, so it will be very interesting read, I am sure.

    1 year ago

  • lollyjodesigns

    Stacey B from lollyjodesigns says:

    Really interesting! Had no idea this was an artform. Its odd that looking at these pieces does creep me out though... My sweet great-aunt whom I was very close to (the "lolly" part of my shop name) passed away a few years back and left her punch bowl set for me. When I opened it, there was a piece of her hair stuck to the box. It was very emotional for me (didn't creep my out- I left it there!), so I guess I can understand these mourning pieces in a way. Its like having a piece of that loved one..

    1 year ago

  • GoodMourningShop

    Maizee Dewgood from GoodMourningShop says:

    I'm a lover of all things mourning, especially the jewelry. It actually led me to open up a shop dedicated to the Victorian mourning era (with a few other pieces I love.) I have a few hair pieces and other pieces with the hair missing and ready for reuse. I hope you will come by. Maizee

    1 year ago

  • MissesFishes

    Nikol Wikman from NikolWikmanArt says:

    What an interesting article! Thank you :)

    1 year ago

  • KatiesBeadsOfHope

    Katie Louise Leach from HopeForBinati says:

    A little creepy...but mostly awesome! That is so creative! Ha :)

    1 year ago

  • suny458

    AnnaB from suny458 says:

    I've always had an attraction to mourning jewelry. As you stated in your article you start to think of the person whose hair is in the jewelry and the one then who wore it. Thanks so much for this great article. Who knew there was a mourning jewelry museum close by! Will have to definitely make a trip there.

    1 year ago

  • melscreations2

    melscreations2 from melscreations2 says:

    This is a fantastic idea for memories, I have always wanted to get my kids hair made into a baby hair brush it's like a calligraphy brush made from babies first hair, oh well one day I will get around to it. Very interesting read.

    1 year ago

  • OnceUponAGem

    Madi from OnceUponAGem says:

    Love, and love......

    1 year ago

  • mediumstomasses

    Sarah from mediumstomasses says:

    What a great article! I've been interested in hair work jewelry myself and researched it a bit while in art school, but this is so thorough and well written! I look forward to checking out the links...

    1 year ago

  • TheLittleRagamuffin

    Jenny from TheLittleRagamuffin says:

    My mother-in-law recently bestowed upon me some of my husband's childhood things -old report cards, photographs, nursery school drawings. Among the treasures I found a lock of his hair in an envelope she had labelled "First haircut." Tears welled in my eyes and I tucked the envelope away in a safe place, grateful for my mother-in-law's forethought. Now I know just what to do with that downy lock.

    1 year ago

  • AlinaMart

    Alina Mart from AlinaMartDesign says:

    Great idea and it looks fabulous!

    1 year ago

  • LaComtesseDeTalaru

    Melanie Dooley from LaComtesseDeTalaru says:

    I own quite a lot of mourning jewelry and some of it contains hair - I find it neither creepy nor gross - it is often the result of fine craftsman(woman)ship and great sentimentality. People often only had hair to remember their loved ones, before the time of photography. In fact people often bequeathed various types of hair jewelry in their wills - the most intricate and valuable pieces went to the most beloved and admired survivors, and the more basic pieces went to the more distant connections of the deceased.

    1 year ago

  • DebbieDolls

    Debbie Campbell from YarnDeBelles says:

    Last summer I visited a Civil War encampment. One of the stands had hair jewelry. I got to see how it was made, which was really cool.

    1 year ago

  • peshka

    Peshka from Peshka says:

    Creepy

    1 year ago

  • thewomensrepublic

    Sara Brazil from SararaVintage says: Featured

    I have also always been fascinated by mourning jewelry as a form of cultural expression. As an anthropology major studying rituals and practices of various societies was really interesting and Victorian mourning jewelry was among those subjects which came to my attention. It is interesting to me how today such practices are seen as taboo. For Victorians as the article noted it was a rich artistic expression of mourning, love, life and loss.

    1 year ago

  • elleestpetite

    Donna Thai from PetiteCuisine says:

    This is such an interesting and meaningful subject. When someone you love passes away, they may be gone in a physical sense but a lock of their hair will remain everlasting. So it's like a piece of them lives on forever.

    1 year ago

  • julietdiyjewelry

    xiu qing zhu from julietdiyjewelry says:

    i'm loving it

    1 year ago

  • affordablevintage4U

    Polly Curtiss from affordablevintage4U says:

    Thank you for reminding me that I had a similar piece in my collection that I have now added to my store!

    1 year ago

  • smilingbluedog

    Angie from SmilingBlueDog says:

    I never saw, or heard of this before, but am intrigued and inspired. Sure wish I'd kept a lock from my mom & dad, just never thought of it.

    1 year ago

  • SenoritaJoya

    Dorottya from SenoritaJoya says:

    Hi, As a jeweller I was quite surprised when I have seen first hair-jewelry pieces in a beautiful antique auction catalogue many years ago. Although they were amazing items, great craftmanship, I felt, OMG... I wouldn't like to wear any of them! ;))) Have a beautiful day! xoxo

    1 year ago

  • GraysonDesigns11

    GraysonDesigns11 from GraysonDesigns11 says:

    Sometimes I think I must live under a rock! This is completely new to me and I think I may now be morbidly fascinated as well.

    1 year ago

  • amirshani1

    Amir Shani from AmirShanibook says:

    Very nice

    1 year ago

  • MiniatureRhino

    Jessica Marquez from MiniatureRhino says:

    I've been fascinated with mourning and hair jewelry for awhile, especially after reading Forget Me Not by Geoffrey Batchen. It's about photography & remembrance and where I think I first saw hair work combined with the image of the person whose hair made the piece! Love, love love t Melanie Bilenker's work. I would love to commission a ring! Great article Lisa!

    1 year ago

  • allmyhobbies

    Erin McPherson from MacGillicuttys says:

    Brilliant! What a simple, yet personal and creative way to honor a loved one's memory with style.

    1 year ago

  • noner

    Winona Morris from noner says:

    My dad passed in February, and was cremated before I even got to see him to say goodbye. I think right now I woudl love to have a locket with a lock of his hair in it. What a great Idea I wish I had seen/learned about before.....

    1 year ago

  • uglyartdotnet

    Ugly Shyla from uglyartdotnet says:

    I have always loved hair jewerly I saw some in a flea market when I was a kid and I have been obsessed ever since.

    1 year ago

  • mousersmom

    Carole DeLong from TheMousersHouseArt says:

    I must agree that hair jewelry is quite "unusual"....But after George Washington died, Those paying homage to Mount Vernon, were often given a "souvenir" of Geroge's hair in the form of a locket or pin. Historic Woodlawn, the home of Martha's granddaughter, Eleanor Parke Custis Lewis and her husband, Lawrence Lewis has such pieces in their collection. The most "interesting" piece is the hair wreath that we always used during our Huanted History evens. Creepy, but always a special gift from Martha Washington and her family.....

    1 year ago

  • woods2010

    Michelle Woods from PaperFolkGlasgow says:

    I can understand why some may find jewellery created from hair a little bit on the creepy side but in some ways it's so unique and beautiful. I really like the personal aspect of hair jewellery which feels much more secret than wearing a locket with a photograph inside. Also the skill required to manipulate and weave the hair into a beautiful object is amazing.

    1 year ago

  • rtatem

    REGINA TATEM from PURRBUG says:

    I have saved pieces of my deceased cats hair and put them in a locket.Ive seriously thought of making something out of my Maine Coons fur.There is a LOT of it! I wish I had a lock of each of my parents hair to keep.I like the idea of hair jewelry.Hmmmm,I think I need to take the scissors to my husbands hair now......

    1 year ago

  • BigGirlStudio

    Danit from BigGirlStudio says:

    Thank you so much for a beautifully written, interesting and inspiring article. While taking a class at the Savannah College of Art and Design, I came across Memento Mori jewelry. I found hair pieces (and teeth pieces) to be simply fascinating. I was inspired to create a self portrait that utilized items from my childhood and hair that I saved for almost 30 years. Saving all these things finally made sense. Next time I see my parents I will have to save a little bit of hair...

    1 year ago

  • stinnovation

    ST Innovation from stinnovation says:

    This is a fear and pursuit of the way with somebody, this is best way to keep best love person with you together to the end, brave, encouraged, missing, lonely, memories, love...... all in a little bit hair, this is ture thing with your love or bloodshiper, the feeling different from pictures give it, this is human's special ways to keep memories signal only......

    1 year ago

  • VintageNecessities

    VintageNecessities from VintageNecessities says:

    Interesting to see this and such wonderful timing! I've collected hair jewelry for years, and recently started collecting framed hair pictures. I was lucky enough to purchase a very large wreath in the shape of a lyre made with hair of multiple family members. It even has a hair butterfly! I returned just yesterday from France with three new pictures with names and other writing from the late 1800s. Remember that not all hairwork was for morning. The large wreath was a sentimental piece most likely made from living members; a bit like a family photo at a reunion.

    1 year ago

  • VintageNecessities

    VintageNecessities from VintageNecessities says:

    I meant mourning, of course. I have an extreme case of jet lag!

    1 year ago

  • StarTribe

    Penelope Neil from StarTribe says:

    I always loved hair jewelry- I thought it was beautiful and touching. Then my mother died, and my brother (a Victoriana freak!) keenly asked for a lock of her hair to make jewelry from and I also asked for some for the same notion. When it came in the envelope from the funeral home, I couldn't touch it. I'm not one to take this attitude toward death, after all I spent some time with her body after her soul had checked out- but this somehow crossed a line in me. It still sits in it's envelope at the bottom of the box of family photo albums, and i don't think I'll ever be able to open it. This whole experience has changed hair jewelry for me, but i think it's fascinating the social and emotional associations we have with hair- ours versus someone elses, on the head versus under our arms, living versus dead. We're a funny lot, us humans.

    1 year ago

  • MedusasLair

    Naomi Farber from MedusasLair says:

    This article is wonderful, I have always loved hair and the personal and sensual depth it carries. I am in awe at the beauty involved in the mourning jewelry. My family has always saved locks of hair for memories, while we were growing up and still alive. My father kept locks of our first major haircuts and then didn't see us for 16 years (five girls). When we reunited, he still had them. I lovingly gave my husband a gorgeous Shirley Temple curl that just seemed long and out of place in our daughters hair. I also plan on making jewelry out of that and the lock of my own hair I gave to him.

    1 year ago

  • liddysopretty

    liddy sopretty from liddysopretty says:

    Interesting...

    1 year ago

  • Nubiajewelry

    Nubiajewelry from Absynia says:

    My first reaction is to recoil at the idea of wearing a stranger's hair. Even the idea of human hair extensions gives me chills. I'm not sure why. However I find the idea of wearing your child's hair in a locket or having it cast in silver, sweet. I'm fully aware this is just socialization. I think faced with mortality in a much different way, Victorians interacted with and were comfortable with their bodies in much different ways than we are today.

    1 year ago

  • Shaynil

    Shayni Lipman from ThePaperCutzBoutique says:

    Talk about having some incredibly unique products! Wow!!! How amazing! Keep up the great work.

    1 year ago

  • jbarkiewicz

    Jamie from ScorpioChild says:

    I first heard about this on the tv show "Oddities" and, like you, have been obsessed ever since. Something about wearing someones hair makes it that much more personal-whether you knew the person or not. Great article! <3

    1 year ago

  • jbarkiewicz

    Jamie from ScorpioChild says:

    PS. After clicking on the links above I found jewelry made out of actual human teeth! I have worked in the dental field for 12 years and Im pretty damn sure selling/ not properly disposing of human teeth is illegal. That is one thing I find GROSS! Never in MY life. But, to each their own. =)

    1 year ago

  • kimvmorris

    kim morris from KMOriginal says:

    I have been blown away with the requests I have received to create a piece with such great meanings...The funny thing is most of what I create when worn no one would really know what it ment unless they asked. Thats why my Motto is EVERY NECKLACE TELLS A STORY....KM Original

    1 year ago

  • metroretrovintage

    metroretrovintage from metroretrovintage says:

    Thank you for a lovely article. I am a hairwork collector and have a few Georgian pieces as well as several Victorian ones. However, there is an error -- hairwork is indeed still between taught and practiced -- in Sweden. Which is interesting, since the Scandinavian countries have always eschewed it. Also, every year in the States, there is the Annual Hair Ball, for collectors to reunite and get together. Another thing I'd like to add is that women did not save their hair specifically for this jewelry as stated, but rather for having a wig made of their natural color, once they achieved an advanced age. This is why we used to have 'hair receivers'. It's also important to note that much of the hair saved for a memento mori piece was thrown out by the hairwork maker, who would often substitute better hair they kept in stock or intertwine it with the original hair, or simply incorporated horse hair. All of this hair had to be pretreated with special powders and insecticides, so that it would last. It's a fascinating and wonderful old craft, and I'm glad to see a blog article about it.

    1 year ago

  • armadaantiques

    armadaantiques from ArmadaAntiques says:

    Such a unique idea, great article. May not be for everyone but is definitely original.

    341 days ago

  • OurDecay

    Amanda Joe from Osteal says:

    i love mourning jewelry! i've made several pieces inspired by victorian era mourning jewelry - some with human hair and some with horse hair : https://www.etsy.com/listing/129862413/pythonissa-conjure-up-a-bit-of-strange

    285 days ago

  • punkfunkgrrrl

    Carrie Young from ThinkBeforeYouStink says:

    this is so awesome!!! i've been looking for ideas for something to make with my mother's hair - she is still alive but recently went through breast cancer. I saved the first chunk of hair that she lost thinking I could make something with it. This gives me some ideas!!

    264 days ago

  • punkfunkgrrrl

    Carrie Young from ThinkBeforeYouStink says:

    Does anyone have any idea how you could make your own version of the victorian hair brooch that is braided in the picture above? I want to make one but can't find anything online that is similar to this that would allow me to take it apart and put my own hair in. email me at info@thinkbeforeyoustink.com if you have any ideas. thank you!

    264 days ago

  • VisionRoxanne

    VisionRoxanne says:

    When my folks passed away in 2007 I found a lock of my Mother's hair in a little paper packet.... I now have it next to the lock of my own hair I have had since she gave it to me. It is from when I was three months old. I'd love to find a way to bring them together.

    54 days ago

  • iankidd1223

    Ian Kidd from ianstore says:

    Wonderful :) welcome to my shop If you need lovely chains. https://www.etsy.com/shop/ianstore

    29 days ago

  • roxannregenstreif

    Roxann Regenstreif says:

    I would love to find someone who makes hair jewelry. I'm interested in a locket with braided hair designs. Anyone know of someone who could do this for me? roxannregenstreif@me.com

    4 days ago