Popular from the 16th to 18th century, a tradition arose whereby jewels and other trinkets were commissioned in memory of a deceased family member – these were known by the Latin phrase Memento Mori, which translates to the grim expression ‘remember that you must die’.
Typically featuring skulls, urns and other symbols of death, these jewels were frequently enamelled in black and white, and inscribed with the names and dates of the deceased. In many instances, hair and occasionally skin from the deceased was incorporated in to these designs. Certain gemstones were also closely associated with mourning – pearls for instance, were said to indicate the loss of a child.
View memorial jewellery in our current collection