Sentimental jewellery -

Sentimental jewellery
mourning and friendship jewellery  



From the beginning of the 19th century it became fashionable in France to wear jewellery made with the hair of a cherished person.  The hair could come from a deceased person, in which case one can consider it to be mourning jewellery, or from someone living in which case it was worn by love or to feel closer to the other.  It's prudent to range all jewellery made with or containing hair into the category of sentimental jewellery.  There were shops specialised in making such jewellery and even framed artworks made with hair and the range is very complete with brooches, rings, earrings, necklaces, pendants and chains.  Sometimes mourning rings were offered to the persons present at the funeral by the family of the deceased.

There was a thriving market in France until the end of the nineteenth century for human hair, and buyers would scour the markets offering to cut and buy or exchange for lengths of cloth the hair of young women.  However, contrary to popular belief, the hair thus purchased did not enter into the fabrication of hair jewellery.  It was exclusively reserved for the making of wigs and hair extensions. An article in the magzine Le Petit Parisien from 1907 relates "one produces only three lengths of hair : for pony-tails, for extensions and for men's wigs and fringes.  The hairs too short are mixed with goat's hair to produce filter pads used in the clarification of oils.  The remainders are used as fertiliser". (1)

The catalog by J. Marcellin, maker of hair jewellery, held at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, gives only the prices of making up the hair jewellery based on the customer supplying the hair.  (2)  One can also read in the catalogue by J. Marcellin that the watch chain number 59, on the right-hand side of the page, was sold for 98 francs in gold, 22 francs in rolled gold or silver and 12 francs in "varnished for mourning".  (The latter signifies that the metal parts were painted black.




catalogue of hair jewellery by J. Marcellin of Creil, courtesy BNF - click on photo to enlarge






a hair buyer at work at a market in Brittany - magazine Le Petit Parisien, February 1907
double-click on photo to see in high resolution



The hair buyer in Brittany - bolts of cloth in exchange for hair



One cannot always determine with hair jewellery whether it was destined as mourning jewellery or as a token of love or friendship.   One would expect that a good proportion of the deceased would have had white hair, however jewellery made with white hair is extremely rare.  The presence of black enamel pleads for a mourning jewellery role however nothing is certain.  In the edition of Le Mode Illustré of 1857, we can read:  “With spring clothing, nothing looks better on a pretty wrist than a hair bracelet from Lemonnier.  Perhaps flat locks of hair, of a marvelous workmanship, closed with a catch set with tiny turquoises or rubies, perhaps finely woven spirals, closed by a richer catch.   The brooches, rings and chains by Lemonnier are works of art.  Soon it’s the marriage season, where each girl hopes to find in her trousseau some of these sentimental jewels, if we can name them thus.  One can switch between a bracelet made of the hair of the mother she’s leaving, or a ring with the hair of the fiancé she loves.”


The mourning period was very formalised in nineteenth century France, and a widow could not wear any showy jewels for a certain number of months, even years.  It was the same with clothes; there were mourning clothes and a mourning coiffe, followed by semi-mourning clothes and only after a respectable delay was it possible for the widow to recommence wearing ordinary clothes.

The death of Prince Alfred in 1861 and Queen Victoria's subsequent 40 years of mourning during which she wore only black, created a fashion for strict mourning procedures throughout Europe and it was not until her death in 1901 that conventions eased.  

Black was however not the only colour worn in France; depending on the region one might see blue or even red mourning dress.  The widow would usually wear black jewellery, generally set with jet, onyx or black glass or even tin jewellery painted black for the less wealthy.








mourning ferronière or forehead decoration of tressed hair, gold, pearls and enamel






mourning ring with plaited
hair behind glass, gold








"souvenir" ring in gilt metal




In 1929 Maximin Deloche, in his excellent book La Bague en France à Travers l’Histoire, wrote : Another ring symbolises the Grand Army (of Napoléon I), this time in the undercurrent of an action-packed life of the young.  It’s made of braided hair with a catch in metal, comporting either a monogram or an expression.  Its fashion, dating from 1799, lasted through the Empire period and it became the classic souvenir of ephemeral liaisons contracted during the military marches across Europe, between two battles, during the chance stopovers.  The commander Parquin has left us an admission.  The day the young and seductive officer was obliged to sacrifice his ponytail to a pitiless army rule, he took advantage of this mutilation to set aside a stock of hair destined for the rings which he habitually offered, with his goodbyes, to his conquest of one night. (3)

sentimental ring
made of gold and plaited hair

sentimental ring
made of gold and plaited hair

sentimental ring
made of hair, gold and enamel



sentimental ring in gold with a monogram made in hair and set behind glass


 "souvenir" ring in gold set with
a compartment for a twist of hair

mourning ring in gold and enamel

mourning ring in gold and enamel




souvenir ring in gold and tressed hair


mourning dress and necklace, woman from
Cauchoise region, Normandy, drawn 1819

  mourning dress from Saint Colomban des Villards, Savoy,
around 1907
, illustration by Estella Canziani




rare pair of mourning jewellery coiffe pins
from Normandy, in gold, enamel and pearls. 
There are three glass windows in each
pin-head behind which are placed hair

close-up of pin-head showing
hair behind window

(click on photo to zoom)




mourning ring of gold and black enamel


Bague de deuil en or, email et cheveux derrière verre
mourning ring with plaited
hair behind glass, gold

sentimental ring
made of gold and plaited hair

   mourning or friendship ring,
gold and black ename



sentimental bracelet of plaited hair with gold clasp


     sentimental bracelet of plaited hair with gold clasp



sentimental bracelet of plaited hair with silver clasp

  sentimental bracelet of plaited hair with gold clasp

  sentimental bracelet of plaited hair with gold clasp




mourning or friendship bracelet of plaited hair with silver clasp

mourning or friendship bracelet of plaited hair with silver clasp



mourning or friendship bracelet in gold and hair



mourning bracelet in gold and enamel, with an interieur compartment for a lock of hair



Romantic pendant set with a painted miniature of love symbols and with
tressed hair behind, gold mounting.  Not all hair jewellery is necessarily mourning jewellery.



Gold pendant set with a finely carved scene in wax behind glass on a background of woven hair. 
The scene depicts Cupid extending a rope woven with love knots to Saturn. Circa 1830. 
While the workmanship is extraordinary, it would have been even more so had it really been in ivory as announced in the auction catalogue......



gold pendant with a portait miniature and hair behind glass at the rear, a sentimental jewel


romantic gold
brooch with plaited hair in a love-knot design


The love-knot symbolises the two souls bound together and also the analogy that the harder one tries to pull them apart, the tighter they are brought together.



mourning ear pendants in gold plate and composition


mourning or friendship ring
of gold and plaited hair





One often see antique jewels in jet or black glass.  Though they might be mourning jewellery, and probably are in the case of brooches, black was a popular colour in the 19th century (as it was again between 2005 and 2010), the earrings are not necessarily mourning jewellery.



gold earrings set with jet

gold earrings set with black glass


gold earrings set with black glass





memorial made from hair with an ebony frame


memorial made from hair with an ebony frame "A ma mère"





mourning pendant in gold with a design made from hair

mourning pendant in gold  and onyx
with a design made from hair on the reverse



photo locket in gold, onyx and diamonds

brooch made of gold and glass set with hair


photo locket in gold, onyx and diamonds



sentimental watch in gold and enamel
with a hidden compartment for a lock of hair, closed

sentimental watch in gold and enamel
with a hidden compartment for a lock of hair, half-open



mourning ring in gold and enamel with
a secret compartment holding tressed hair (closed)

mourning ring in gold and enamel with
a secret compartment holding tressed hair (open)



necklace made of gold and tressed hair, the earrings have been attached



bracelet made of three different colours of hair and a gold catch



gent's watch chain made of tressed hair and gold-plated fittings - notice the hand motifs on the fittings



Mourning lockets were generally made of onyx or black enamelled gold or silver and had a photo on one side and a lock of hair behind glass on the other side.  The glass was sometimes replaced by a thin sheet of mica, a transparent and fire-proof mineral from the same family as asbestos.

mourning jewellery
photo locket in gold, onyx and pearls

mourning jewellery
photo locket in gold, onyx and pearls

mourning jewellery
photo locket in gold, enamel and pearls



Mourning ring or memento ring.  Behind each letter of the word SOUVENIR there's a compartment for a twist of hair


mourning cross in gold, glass and hair
  cross made of hair
  mourning cross in onyx, gold and pearls



gold photo brooch




tomb of Olivier Fouquet, died at six months, Normandy



New book - Traditional French Jewellery


Book - Traditional French Jewellery - order here direct from the author




Dear collectors, auctioneers, dealers and jewellery lovers,

You have visited the site which for twelve years now has listed all regional and traditional French jewellery, without advertising and without sales.
By popular demand, this website is now finally available as a book, much more complete and with many new photos and texts that are not on the site. I traveled more than 4,500 km in 2020 to visit the various collectors and museums of France and to photograph, weigh, measure and examine their jewellery.

Large format of 23.5 x 30 cm, 304 pages, hardcover and fully illustrated with over 1300 jewels in color, this book is the first complete book on French regional jewellery and corrects the many errors and gaps observed in the other references and presents other regional jewels hitherto unknown to the public. You will find eight full pages on Breton pins and fibulae and many other jewels in museums and private collections that are not on this website. Over four months of research has gone into making the chapter on hallmarks the most reliable ever seen - clear illustrations of hallmarks have been made especially for this volume. And for the first time, collectors will have access to a complete list of all the assay office symbols, small signs withn the hallmarks that identify in which city the jewellery was hallmarked. The opening and closing dates since 1798 of the hallmark offices are also listed for the first time, allowing, with the office symbol, to better date your jewellery.

The print run of this book is very limited, which is why I recommend you order early.  You will love this book I have had nothing but compliments and many clients have ordered more to offer as gifts.

To order, you can send a wire transfer or WISE transfer to Michael Fieggen - FR76 4061 8803 9700 0403 3233 171 – BIC – BOUSFRPPXXX - address Mike Fieggen, 280 rue Saint Honoré, Paris, 75001 France

Bank or wire transfer by in Sterling – Account holder - Michael Fieggen
IBAN - GB68TSBS30916200184462    BIC / SWIFT - TSBSGB2AXXX

Sterling cheques and PayPal welcome to address

Any questions ?  Contact me at or by telephone at + 33 1 4015 9000

One copy in French                               €75                             Postage and packing                  €9 for France, €8 for Europe and overseas

Two or more copies in French              €75 each                    Postage and packing                  €9 for the lot in France, overseas postage €8 each

One or more copies in English             £75 sterling each       Postage and packing                  £8 sterling each






(1)     Le Petit Parisien, février 1907, article "La Foire aux Cheveux en Bretagne"

(2)     MARCELLIN, J., Album illustré de dessins en cheveux par J. Marcellin, artiste dessinateur en cheveux, à Creil, 1888.  Link towards BNF

(3)     WALSH, Vicompte, Les Veillées de Voyage, R. Pornin et Companie, 1845

(4)     DELOCHE, Maximin., La bague en France à travers l'histoire, Librairie de Paris, 1929



Contact me with your suggestions, corrections et comments!




bijoux de deuil, bague de deuil, collier de deuil, bague en cheveux, bracelet de deuil, bracelet en cheveux, collier en cheveux, croix de deuil, bijoux en jais, boucles d'oreilles en jais, parure de deuil, broche de deuil, broche en cheveux - Les ouvrages en cheveux par Andrée Chanlot- Streeksieraden in Zeeland - antieke sieraden, bijou régional, bijoux régionaux, bijoux des régions de France, les bijoux traditionnels Français, les bijoux de France


Sentimental jewellery
mourning and friendship jewellery