Date: ca. 1850
Geography: Made in United States
Medium: Gold, jet, pearls, crystal, and hair
Dimensions: Overall: 1 1/8 x 1 5/8 in. (2.9 x 4.1 cm)
Chain: 4 5/8 in. (11.7 cm)
Credit Line: Purchase, Susan and Jon Rotenstreich Gift, 2000
Accession Number: 2000.557
During the second half of the eighteenth century, jewelers and miniaturists began to weave or plait human hair for mounting into brooches, lockets, bracelets, and rings or to be inserted into the back of framed miniatures. As a reminder of a loved one, whether living or deceased, hair was a durable material that could be treated in a decorative manner. Engraved inscriptions often indicate whether the piece was intended as mourning jewelry or as a token of love. By the mid-nineteenth century, hair was also being woven into three-dimensional forms for mounting as earrings, charms, or watch chains.
In this elongated oval brooch, plaited hair has been set beneath a crystal face and mounted in gold. A row of faceted jet offsets the inner pearl border. The back of the brooch is engraved with a memorial inscription that reads "Chas. T. Evans, / Obt. at sea, / Sept. 20th 1852. / AE . 39 yrs."