Memento mori is a Latin phrase meaning “remember that you will die.” It also describes mourning jewelry and trinkets popular from the 16th through the 18th centuries. Those mourning the dead would wear these items both to memorialize the dead and keep reminders of one’s own mortality. Here’s a look at some beautiful and haunting antiques.
1. This Victorian-era ring is devoted to the memory of one’s parents, including hair from the deceased.
2. Although we may find it scary now, skull imagery was a common motif in memento mori jewelry.
3. Here’s a post-mortem photo in an ornate case, a portable memento.
4. This brooch from 1838 also uses hair from the dead, and the inscription on the back tells us this piece commemorated the life of a 3-year-old.
5. A locket containing hair arranged in decorative spirals.
7. Here’s a rare Georgian design…”woven entirely from cat gut.”
8. This Victorian item comes with a teeeeeny tiny skull atop thatched hair.
11. An example of a weirder Victorian tradition — creating domed memento mori, using the dead’s hair to make landscapes.
13. This mourning ring from 1728 shows a skeleton in a coffin — a reminder that everyone dies, and our bodies decay.
14. Dating back to the mid-1800s, this human hair-woven item is actually a delicate ring.
15. If you look closely at this Victorian post mortem brooch, there’s a hand on the man’s shoulder.
16. The incredible detail on this 1747 mourning ring includes death imagery popular at the time — a skeleton, grave digger tools, an hourglass, and crossed bones.
17. This brooch would have been a comfort after tragedy.
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