Memento Mori Jewelry

With ghouls + goblins in the air, let’s take a look at some ancient momento mori jewelry. Memento Mori is latin for “remember (that you have) to die.” Popular in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, momento mori jewelry was  created as a reminder of the inevitability of death and the need to live piously.  Although it sounds quite morbid, memento mori jewelry is a beautiful way of celebrating someones life and death by carrying, or wearing a piece of jewelry to remember and celebrate them.

Enameled gold mourning ring, English, 1661. The ring is hollow, and a lock of hair curls around within it, visible through the openwork of the enamelled decoration of skulls and coats of arms. There are two coats of arms, one for Nicholets, of Herefordshire. Inscribed inside "Samuell Nicholets obijt [died] 17 July (1661) Christ is my portion".

Enameled gold mourning ring, English, 1661. The ring is hollow, and a lock of hair curls around within it, visible through the openwork of the enamelled decoration of skulls and coats of arms. There are two coats of arms, one for Nicholets, of Herefordshire. Inscribed inside “Samuell Nicholets obijt [died] 17 July (1661) Christ is my portion”.

A sixteenth-century skull-and-crossbones ring. (Victoria & Albert Museum)

A sixteenth-century skull-and-crossbones ring. (Victoria & Albert Museum)

Mourning ring, Birmingham Museum. Gold enamel and human hair. English, 17th c.

Mourning ring, Birmingham Museum. Gold enamel and human hair. English, 17th c.

A French sixteenth-century memento-mori pendant featuring a skull and crossbones, symbols of death.

A French sixteenth-century memento-mori pendant featuring a skull and crossbones, symbols of death.

English pendant, circa 1540-1550. Awesome! The latest fad of decorating with human skulls, isn't really a fad at all...looks like we've been adorning ourselves for quite awhile.

English pendant, circa 1540-1550. Awesome! The latest fad of decorating with human skulls, isn’t really a fad at all…looks like we’ve been adorning ourselves for quite awhile.

Gold memento mori fede-ring. gold, enamel, sapphire,ruby, emerald,diamond. 1526-1575

Gold memento mori fede-ring. gold, enamel, sapphire,ruby, emerald,diamond. 1526-1575

Rosary bead, c. 1500-1525 ‘Each bead represents the bust of a burgher or maiden on one side, and a skeleton on the other. The terminals show the head of a deceased man, with half the image eaten away from decay.’ - Metropolitan Museum of Art

Rosary bead, c. 1500-1525 ‘Each bead represents the bust of a burgher or maiden on one side, and a skeleton on the other. The terminals show the head of a deceased man, with half the image eaten away from decay.’ – Metropolitan Museum of Art

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