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  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    1871 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gold, onyx and diamonds set in silver, with glazed interior compartments containing hair

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Monica Casswell, in loving memory of her husband, Thomas

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 125b, case 1

Object Type
Lockets, such as this superb quality mourning locket, were at the height of their popularity from the 1860s to the 1880s. They were even described as 'indispensable' in magazines in 1870 and 1871. They could commemorate a wedding as well as a death: in March 1871 Queen Victoria's daughter Princess Louise (1848-1939) gave a locket to each of her attendants at her wedding. E.W. Streeter, a leading London jeweller, offered a discount of ten per cent on bridesmaids' lockets when ordered in multiples of six.

Materials & Making
Onyx stained black was, like jet, bog oak and black enamel, an appropriate material for mourning jewellery. The black and white bands of the onyx of the locket have been cut so that a white oval frames the diamond-set initials.

Ownership & Use
Onyx mourning jewels found favour in the highest circles. In March 1861 Queen Victoria ordered a number on the death of her mother, Victoria, Duchess of Kent (1786-1861), and more after Prince Albert's death in December 1861. In 1872, to commemorate her half-sister, Feodora, Princess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, she gave a banded black and white onyx mourning locket to one of her granddaughters.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)


1871 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Gold, onyx and diamonds set in silver, with glazed interior compartments containing hair

Marks and inscriptions

Set with diamond monogram 'JE' and 'EE'; inscribed around the frames of the hair compartments '+Jarvis Empson, born June 28th.1793, died March 28th.1871' and '+Elizth. Empson, born 17th. April 1784, died July 24th.1867'


Height: 5.3 cm, Width: 3.5 cm, Depth: 1.6 cm

Object history note

Made in Britain

Descriptive line

Mourning Jewellery

Labels and date

British Galleries:

The strict observance of mourning during the reign of Queen Victoria led to an increased demand for black jewellery. The most expensive items were made of onyx or enamelled gold, but there was also a large market for cheaper jewellery made of jet, bog oak and glass. Lockets or brooches often contained hair from the deceased. [27/03/2003]


Death; Jewellery; Europeana Fashion Project


Metalwork Collection

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