The Joy of Research

by Lauren on November 14, 2011

For most people, incessant babbling about trivia is the bane of their existence. However, I’m the kind of person who thinks facts about things are interesting and cool and I will ALWAYS look up facts about things just for the fun of it. Because of this strange character trait, researching the art and customs of mourning jewelry has been just so much fun to me. I know, I know, research/work/etc is supposed to be boring, but I’ve found some gems.

My favorite:
Hair Memorium (unknown date, unknown author).
It’s literally a book of hair, braided much like that of mourning jewelry. This book is a rarity because much of  the actual pieces that were created in memory of someone have been lost. In fact, in another one of the books I found which was published in the early 1900s, the author claimed that only approximately 200 or so hair pieces exist at that time.

Here are some pictures of the Hair Memorium:

And my personal favorite, or the best and most intricate hair braid I’ve seen:


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Lance Lazar December 8, 2011 at 3:09 pm


Your investigation of memorializing beloved friends and relatives through the preservation of hair (which does not decay like the flesh), is fascinating. It reminds me how human beings have always sought to touch, see, and hold onto our loved ones, even after they have passed away. Sometimes that desire can result in some unexpected forms, such as the elegant hair braid you found, or as a reference point which always sticks out in my mind, the Capuchin Ossuary underneath the Baroque Church of Saint Mary of the Conception on the Via Veneto in Rome.

This is a “memento mori,” that is, an artistic presentation of death and the dead, as a reminder for the living of our own mortality and the need to live well. This tradition reached its most elaborate expression in Europe during the Baroque period, in the 17th century.

I attach a link to the Blog page of Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley, which contains some excellent photos of the ornate decorative arrangements of the bones of Capuchin friars contained in the crypt of the church (during a visit the cardinal made to Rome in 2008; scroll down to find the photos of the Ossuary). It also includes a view of the tomb of Cardinal Antonio Barberini, who financially supported the church and the order (as a nephew of Pope Urban VIII). The inscription on the tomb reads: “Hic jacet pulvis, cinis, et nihil” which means, “Here lies dust, ashes, and nothing.”

I hope you might enjoy these images of a related devotional sensibility, akin to what you discovered in your ‘Hair Memorials.”

Prof. Lazar


Lauren December 9, 2011 at 5:19 am

Wow, this is great! I’ve heard of the Sedlec Ossuary in Prague but not this one! As morbid and creepy as they may look, they’re absolutely beautiful.

Thanks for this!


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: