Thursday, February 11, 2021

Victorian Methods For Creating Human Hair Mementos

Creating jewelry and crafts as mementos from human hair was extremely popular during Victorian times, but the practice actually started much earlier. 

Mortality rates–especially infant mortality rates–were very high in the 17th and 18th centuries, so crating a memento from a lock of a loved one's hair–whether it be from a child, family member, a husband or son sent to war, or a lover–was not just a beloved keepsake, but was a popular pastime.
After all, we are all eventually taken back to the earth, but hair can remain for centuries. But it's important to note that human hair jewelry was also created from the living as a memento for love or friendship.
Sometimes the hair was braided or woven into an intricate lace-like pattern and then turned into brooches, bracelets, or other jewelry. Other times a miniature scene was created from the hair, with images such as flowers and trees created from tiny loops of hair expertly handcrafted with great precision. Some fine examples of this type of work can be found in museums and private collections.

Imagine my surprise when I accidentally stumbled upon an antique patent from 1891 explaining a method of producing human hair scenery and ornaments. The patent was by Alford E Jarvis and had an illustration and written directions, and I read them with interest.

Of course I did not understand some of the terminology or process techniques described in the patent, but someone who lived during that time period who had some knowledge of the craft certainly would have understood the directions and techniques mentioned. Below is the patent, and a peek into the past.

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Article copyright Laura Beth Love 2021 and may not be republished in print or other media without express written permission from the author. For any link updates or corrections leave correct info in comment area.