From the Collection: Hair Memorial Jewellery

by Kiley Berringer (Summer Student)

A muff made from an albatross in the late 1800s. From the collection of the The Muse, Lake of the Woods Museum.

 

People have always followed a good trend, even during the Victorian era. While we might not consider it such a fashion statement now, in Victorian times, it was all the rage. It’s hair jewellery. Not jewellery to put in your hair, but jewellery with hair in it!

First popularized by people like Queen Victoria and her family, hair jewellery became the accessory that every lady, and even some men, had to have. It was more than just a fashion statement, it was a way to keep loved ones close. Unlike most natural fibres, hair can take years to decay. In our picture, which shows a lock of hair in the bracelets charm, it still looks brand new despite the fact that it’s over 100-years-old.

The jewellery quickly became popular, at first something worn only by the upper class, it spread through the classes quickly, and then all over the world. There would be workers dedicated to just this one type of jewellery, and they would even travel from village to village cutting peoples hair in return for a small reward. Soon, not only were small jewellery items made with hair, but whole portraits to be hung in peoples homes.

Hair jewellery is a strange trend nowadays and, while it is a little gross, it was very important to the Victorians. People often had very little to their names then, and could die without warning. Sometimes, all people had to remember their loved ones with was a lock of their hair. This bracelet even has the words “In Memory Of” engraved on its face. When you think about it though, the Victorians would find our own trends just as strange. Not wearing a three piece suit and long dresses everyday would be as strange to them as their own trends are to us.

Did you know?

Kenora was once named Rat Portage. The name came from the Anishinabe name of the local portage site, which was Wauzhushk Onigum, which meant, “portage to the country of the muskrat”.

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