As our previous post about Buckle Jewelry touched on, the Victorians were a sentimental lot. They were accustomed to losing loved ones to disease, workplace accidents, and war, and so they built a culture that helped them to cope with these losses.
In addition to buckle jewelry, lockets and perfume buttons were worn in remembrance of a departed loved one. Or in the case of wartime, they were exchanged between a soldier and his long-distant sweetheart, as a token of fidelity and reassurance during indefinite periods apart.
Lockets enfolding the countenance of one’s beloved or a lock of their hair were fashioned into various items of jewelry to be worn openly or tucked in secret close to the heart.
Perfume buttons usually consisted of a small scrap of velvet overlaid with decorative pierced brass. During the Civil War, a woman would stitch one of these perfumed buttons under her man’s uniform collar, so that far from home and in the midst of great danger, he would be comforted by the familiar fragrance of his beloved. (Perfume buttons were also worn by women generally in those days because the perfumes of the Victorian Era were oil-based and therefore easily stained clothing. Perfume buttons not only eliminated this risk, but also lent staying power to a dab of perfume).
Another popular Victorian mourning custom was the wearing of hair jewelry, made of intricately woven and coiled locks of hair encased in glass or metal mesh to form brooches, bracelets, watch fobs, necklaces, and rings.
While these customs may seem a bit morbid nowadays, they still speak to a universal and timeless need to honor and remember those who have touched us with their lives. And for this reason, we say the tradition of Victorian memento jewellery is one well worth bringing back.
“About Antique Perfume Buttons.” Olde Made Antiques & Collectibles. <http://www.auntjudysattic.com/About_Perfume_Buttons.htm>.
“History of Lockets.” Uneak Boutique. < http://www.uneakboutique.co.uk/pages/history-of-lockets>.