M968.7.116 | Necklace
1875-1900, 19th century
8 x 4.8 x 55.2 cm
Gift of Mrs. A. Murray Vaughan
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Necklace (107)
Keys to History
Perhaps surprisingly, mourning became an occasion for increased consumption. It might seem much more natural to expect that the grief associated with the death of a loved one would result in indifference to any form of consumption. But such was not the case in Victorian Canada. Paradoxically this deeply private time gave rise to eminently public rituals. Death imposed a number of rules, the most important of which specified the details of permitted activities and dress. To abide by the constraints of deep mourning, mourning and half-mourning, for example, a widow had to have dresses, shawls, bonnets, gloves, handkerchiefs and underwear in strictly codified colours. For many months, only black jet jewellery was allowed. To those who followed the codes, mourning was a time of heavy spending.
This heavy necklace with a gothic cross and medallions decorated with small flowers, probably pansies, is designed for mourning. It is made of a synthetic material imitating jet, a black stone.
Jet is a precious stone found in abundance near Whitby, England. In the Victorian era, the town had many manufacturers of jet jewellery.
According to the rules of mourning, no jewellery was to be worn in deep mourning, the length of which depended on the degree of relationship to the deceased. Next came mourning, during which only jet was permitted, followed by half-mourning, when either jet or gold could be worn.
The owner of this necklace, who is unknown, was expressing her taste for the gothic, a style much in vogue in the 19th century. She also showed her very Victorian knowledge of the symbolic language of flowers, in which pansies represent thoughts.