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Title: Mourning Ring
Identifier: 2005.1.15
Donor: Geoffrey Sayers
Item Date: 1792
Image Creator: Museums of Mississuaga
Creation Date: 2005
Location: Benares Historic House

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Description: A 15 carat yellow gold mourning ring. It has a navette top with a miniature depicting 18th century funeral motifs of a woman crying at a tomb with an urn and angel. The background is white and may be made of ivory. The painting is black. The eye shaped ring has an inscription on the back that reads “ Marg(aret) Eliza(beth) Draper, ob(it) 11 June 1792, 50” .

History: The engraving is probably 'Marg(aret) Eliz (abeth) Draper'. The Harris family married into the Draper family with the marriage of Annie Harris to Beverly Sayers in 1906. Beverly was related to William Henry Draper (1801-1877), Canada’s first colonial politician to be styled 'premier', and who was instrumental in establishing the Conservative party. He supported the Family Compact, which attempted to create an aristocracy linked by family, patronage and political and social beliefs to the professional upper middle class. See: George Metcalf, 'William Henry Draper', “The Canadian Encyclopaedia, Year 2000 Edition” (McClelland and Stewart, 1999), 693.

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. The use of jet as mourning jewellery became popular with the death of Prince Albert in 1861, when Queen Victoria instructed only jet jewellery was to be worn at court for the first year of mourning. Hair as jewellery dates back to the early 1800s, when young Scandinavian girls departed their economically depressed region to tour Europe, teaching and selling their art of hairwork. Hairwork soon became a Victorian pastime. Books instructed individuals on patterns to make brooches, bracelets, necklaces, cuff links, earrings and even watch chains out of hair.
Copyright: Museums of Mississauga
Rights & Permissions: Museums of Mississuaga
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