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Title: Mourning Ring
Identifier: 2005.2.12
Donor: Marjorie Chambres
Item Date: 1828
Image Creator: Museums of Mississuga
Creation Date: 2005
Location: Benares Historic House

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Description: A pearl and gold mourning ring. A gold band with a pearl inset in the centre and surrounded with a black enamel band. The band is wider at the front and has two indented lines on each side. Where the band narrows there is three engraved lines. “Hannah Greg died Feb. 18, 1828, aged 61 years” is engraved inside the ring.

History: This artifact was donated by Miss Marjorie Chambres. Miss Chambres inherited these items from her aunt, Mona Kay. Mona Kay was born December 22nd, 1888. She was the second daughter of Georgina and Charles Kay of Iowa. Mona and her family moved from Iowa to Streetsville and later to Erindale where they had a farm on the north side of Dundas Street. The Kays belonged to St. Peter’s Anglican Church and it was here that Georgina and Mary Harris became friends and Gwendeline Kay, Mona’s sister, married Philip Chambres. Mona never married and became a companion/caretaker for Mary Harris in the 1940’s. Mona helped to cook, clean and look after Mary Harris who died in 1954. Mona stayed on at Benares after Mary’s death helping Naomi Harris to look after her home. Mona and another caretaker, Miss Trail, stayed at Benares with Naomi until her death in 1968. Mona died in 1980 at the age of 92.
Miss Chambres spent a lot of time at Benares visiting her aunt and later helping her to look after the grounds. Miss Chambres recalls that her aunt was a “most amazing lady who could do things that others couldn’t do”. She also recalls that her aunt would often take her skating at Oughtred’s farm in Erindale where she used to work picking seasonal fruit before becoming Mary’s companion.
Mourning jewellery served as a memento of a lost loved one. In time, it also served as a status symbol. Dating back to the 15th century and reaching its height during the Victorian era, mourning jewellery consisted of rings, lockets, brooches, bracelets and necklaces. Early mourning rings depicted the Death’s Head motif (skull) and were presented to grieving family members upon an individual’s death. By the 17th and 18th century, the ring was an indication of status. Wealthy individuals left instructions in their wills dictating the design of the ring, the number of rings to be produced, and to whom the rings should be delivered.
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