The Victorian period was a very sentimental time. This was evidenced in the popularity of jewelry made from human hair. Often, upon a loved one’s death, a lock of the deceased’s hair was taken and preserved by being chemically treated. The braided or woven lock was then set in a metal frame.
The American Civil War increased the popularity of this type of jewelry. A soldier going off to war could have a lock of his hair woven into a brooch or other piece of jewelry for his wife or sweetheart, so she could keep a part of him with her. Likewise, a woman could send a piece of her hair off with her husband or beau.
Beside brooches, hair was woven into rings, watch chains, necklaces, fobs or charms.
“Hair was boiled in soda water, then sorted by lengths and divided into working groups of about 20-30 strands. Palette work was done on an artist’s palette… When the piece was finished it was sent to a jewelers for mounting.” The Citizen’s Companion, August 2006, p. 54.
‘Godey’s Ladies Book’ and ‘Peterson’s Magazine’ ran ads for hair jewelry.
Sources: Who Wore What? Women’s Wear 1861-1865 by Juanita Leisch
‘Jewelry: What should a Reenactor Know?’ by Anita Lauramore, The Citizen’s Companion, August 2006. p. 54
Here are some links where you can view photos of Victorian hair jewelry: