Some of the hardest chapters of our lives are those that follow the loss of a loved one. As we allow ourselves the time and space to move through the grieving process, we can use memorial jewellery to honour and remember that special person.
One of the defining features of the grieving process is coping with loss. Using jewellery to remember a loved one can help us navigate the reality of their absence. That’s because keeping something that reminds us of them close by can soften the harsh edges of loss. Personal items and keepsakes in particular can serve as a great source of comfort. Thinking about them, what they looked like and the experiences we shared with them allows us to keep their memory alive as we learn to live without their physical presence.
In this memorial jewellery guide, you’ll learn why we use it to remember our loved ones and also discover all the different types of remembrance jewellery that can be used to help us through the difficult process of grieving. As the popularity of memorial jewellery continues to grow, the variety of jewellers making unique pieces has surged, allowing you to find the most meaningful piece to help you heal.
For centuries, humans have been using jewellery to remember those who have passed on. From fascinating ancient jewellery made using bones and teeth to rings inscribed with the name of the deceased, it’s no secret that we have been finding solace in jewellery for a long time.
While it originally dates back to the 1600s, so-called mourning jewellery soared in popularity some two hundred years later when Queen Victoria used jewellery to show her respect after the death of Prince Albert. After this, it became the custom for widows to wear memorial jewellery for up to two years after the loss of their spouse.
Though this aid to grieving was immensely popular during the Victorian era, the wearing of it later dwindled. By the twentieth century, it was really only memorial rings that were commonly worn.
The nature of remembrance jewellery has also changed over the centuries. In the Georgian era, darker depictions (which we would find unpalatable today) were often used in the jewellery. Pieces were fashioned into the likes of coffins and skeletons, the purpose of which was to remind people of the inevitability of death. Macabre as these images may seem, they served to remind others to live their lives wisely.
By the Victorian era, memorial jewellery was being fashioned into images such as angels, clouds, willow trees and the initials of the deceased. These intricate and ornate pieces were usually black in colour and often made from jet, vulcanite or gutta-percha. White enamel and pearls were used to represent the sad death of a child, while turquoise was included to signify that the wearer was thinking of their lost loved one.
Wealthier families were able to commission particularly beautiful mourning jewellery featuring precious gems, gold and silver. These pieces have become collectors’ items today as they not only showcase Victorian craftsmanship but also capture the traditions and emotions of the era.
Though the tradition of wearing remembrance jewellery has declined over the decades, it remains commonplace to keep the jewellery of a person who has passed away — whether to wear or simply to reminisce over. Today, as grieving relatives and friends find peace in the jewellery of those they have lost, the use of jewellery to remember a loved one has become more commonplace.
Restoring and repurposing jewellery can help with the healing process, as can purchasing new items of jewellery that allow you to celebrate the life of someone special to you.
Though we all have to experience grief at some point in our lives, it is never easy. Anyone who has grieved will know that the brain often struggles to comprehend the loss. One moment they are with us and the next they are gone. Wearing a piece of jewellery that memorialises them or was once owned by them can act as both a physical and emotional crutch, allowing you to keep a part of them with you.
Wearing an item of their jewellery at the funeral, in the difficult and raw weeks after the service, and for years to come can serve as a great comfort. When it is such a personal item, wearing it can really feel like having a part of that person with you. Though the memorial jewellery can’t bring them back, it can help ease the healing process by dampening the harsh reality of their absence from your life.
Whether you’re cleaning, resizing or adapting a piece of their jewellery or opting to purchase a new piece to remember them by, you’re allowing the love that you can no longer give them directly to still be channelled. You are showing them you still love them and allowing yourself to acknowledge the important place they still hold in your life. It offers a presence in their absence and gives you the peace of mind that they will never be forgotten.
There are no set rules when it comes to upholding your loved one’s memory with a piece of commemorative jewellery. You could select a ring, a bracelet, a watch, cufflinks or a necklace to remember a loved one. What you decide on may be an item that you have inherited. Or, you could purchase something new and personalise it in their memory.
Necklaces are a popular choice for remembrance jewellery. Symbolically, it can feel very comforting to keep your loved one physically close to your heart. Necklaces are also very visible. Other people close to the deceased will recognise an inherited piece and this can also bring comfort to them. If you’ve chosen a new necklace to remember them by, it can serve as a talking point, allowing you to keep their memory alive through conversation.
A ring that belonged to the person you lost can feel extremely personal too, having been worn on their hand for potentially many decades. Looking down at your own hand throughout the day and seeing their ring on your finger can be very soothing. A new, engraved ring can also feel very sentimental, allowing you to feel close to them whenever you need to.
Sitting on your wrist, a memorial bracelet or watch can feel very reassuring. Much like a ring, their position allows them to serve as a regular reminder of your loved one. Cufflinks are an excellent way to memorialise a special man in your life, too. When you later wear those cufflinks, the process of fitting them and the aesthetic they provide to your look will allow you to feel the essence of the previous owner. A form of memorial jewellery that feels full of respect and reverence, you can, in time, enjoy reminiscing about the special events and occasions when the cufflinks were previously worn.
It’s not uncommon to find that your taste in jewellery isn’t quite the same as your deceased loved ones. A specialist jeweller can thoughtfully adjust or repurpose the item, making it into something that you will enjoy wearing, while still keeping the essence of the original owner present.
If you don’t have an item of jewellery from the person you’ve lost, why not find a new and meaningful piece? You could opt for an item that looks similar to something they used to wear. Or, perhaps there is a specific type of flower or animal that you associate with your loved one which you could find in a pendant or charm? Many people feel they start seeing certain animals more frequently after they lose someone, such as birds or butterflies. This can bring reassurance and, therefore, wearing jewellery that depicts that comforting symbol can aid the grieving process.
Finally, it is becoming more popular to create memorial jewellery using cremains. Jewellers use a small amount of the cremains, incorporating them into a jewellery design that you find attractive and meaningful. This type of remembrance jewellery allows you to keep a part of them close to your whenever you wear it.
Bespoke memorial jewellery helps you to preserve the memory of someone important to you. It allows you to take a productive step during the grieving process, acknowledging and accepting their passing while still keeping their spirit alive.
Having input into a creative project such as an adapted or new item of jewellery will let you focus your strong emotions in a wholly positive manner. Jewellery can nurture that sense of closeness and, for those struggling with the jarring reality of grief, let you connect to the person you’ve lost.
When you lose a spouse, perhaps the most meaningful piece of jewellery you’ll be left with is their wedding ring. Though it is common for engagement rings to be passed down to the children of the deceased, a wedding band could also be used by the spouse as a memorial.
A wedding band can be resized by a jeweller so that the spouse can wear it on their finger. You could also choose to meld it with your own wedding band or hang it on a matching chain that is then worn close to the heart. Engraving their name, a meaningful quote or even something they used to say to you can make the ring feel all the more poignant.
Seeking out jewellers who offer personalised remembrance jewellery will give you plenty of chances to find the most meaningful bespoke piece to keep your loved one’s memory alive. There’s beauty in simplicity and you may enjoy the minimalism of an engraved heart-shaped or angel wing pendant, dog tag, disc or bracelet.
To make an engraving even more personal, some companies offer to recreate your loved one’s handwriting. This touching detail can evoke strong memories and make you feel close and connected to the person you’ve lost. Working in conjunction with the funeral director, some memorial jewellery companies even create fingerprint and handprint jewellery.
Cremains can be combined with coloured resin and fashioned into the likes of pendants or simulant gems for rings, charms, earrings and cufflinks. Both ashes and hairs can be added to the resin to create important keepsakes and, thanks to the nature of resin, all manner of shapes and cuts can be achieved. You could even choose to add a cremains resin stone to a piece of jewellery inherited from your partner, relative or friend.
Some companies will help compress cremains to produce a diamond – a stone that we have long held in the highest regard. The diamond can then be cut to your specification and set into your chosen jewellery piece to serve as an exceptionally beautiful reminder of your loved one.
Memorial jewellery is steeped in emotion which is why protecting it with the right jewellery insurance is so important. Here at TH March, we’ve been keeping personal jewellery safe with our specialist policies for over 130 years. Because we understand that jewellery can be precious to you for more than just financial reasons, we offer our customers a personalised service at every stage of the process.
Should you need to claim loss, damage or the theft of remembrance jewellery, you’ll benefit from a dedicated claims handler. We’ll always endeavour to replace or repair an item from the original jeweller and reunite you with a piece that feels just right. If you’d like to find out how we can help safeguard your most important items of jewellery, please reach out to us today.