[Thanks to Anna Waymack who arranged for the owner of a collection of pre-Victorian mounring jewelry to share images and information with readers of the Victorian Web. If you have photographs or other material about Victorian mourning jewelry you wish to share with this site, please contact the webmaster.]
Before the Victorians, the hair used was always that of the deceased. Later, especially in the Victorian period, hair itself was a fashionable material. Hair work became quite a little industry and was not only used in mourning ornaments but adopted for all kinds of adornments: earrings, neck chains and elaborate framed "pictures" representing flowers. Women were paid good money to sell their hair, a testament to the use of hair beyond that of mourning ornaments, since the hair that was used for was unknown to the buyer, and of course the hair was that of a still living person!
Hair work of the Victorian period can be likened to lacemaking. One can only assume that the transformation from hair as a personal token of a deceased person, known to the wearer, to a fashionable material, can be ascribed to Queen Victoria's influence and her extended mourning of Prince Albert. I believe she set the example that the more public, and florid, expression of grief, the greater the piety of the person. It did not really matter if you had actually lost someone so long as you looked the part!
Last modified 30 September 2011