Mourning jewellery was most popular during the Victorian era, from 1837-1901. Queen Victoria was deeply in love with Prince Albert, when he died in 1861 she entered a long and deep period of mourning. After his death, Queen Victoria spent the following four decades wearing all black dresses and mourning jewellery.
As an admired public figure that heavily influenced the styles of her court, many followed suite and started donning mourning jewellery for Prince Albert, but also for any loved ones they had personally lost.
Seeing as brooches were incredibly popular at this time, they became a firm favourite for those who wanted to memorialise their dead. Common materials that were incorporated into mourning jewellery were: onyx, jet, pearls, black enamel, and tortoise shell. White enamel indicated that the person who is being memorialised was either an unmarried woman or a child.
Another common material that was utilised in mourning jewellery was hair. The Victorians believed that hair had a very sacred property to it. They believed that it contained part of the essence of the person. Hair is also imperishable, therefore it symbolised immortality. By the mid-1800s, the United Kingdom was importing approximately 50 tonnes of hair a year in order to supplement that of the deceased.