A Reliquary Pendant for Madi

  • Our sketch for Madi's two-sided vial pendant.
  • Her mother's rings "before."
  • One side of the locket, star set with sentimental stones from Madi's mother.
  • The reverse side, which is hand engraved with a special phrase from a book Madi's mom read to her as a child.
  • A special piece of jewelry is almost synonymous with an important life moment- used to celebrate weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, and more. Though more often associated with happy occasions, jewelry has also historically been used to commemorate loved ones who have passed. The tradition of mourning jewelry dates back as early as the Middle Ages, where gems were festooned with skulls, coffins and bones meant to remind the living to lead righteous lives. Also known as “Memento Mori” (or “Remember Death”), this style of jewelry was catapulted into popularity with the death of Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, in 1861. 

    The Queen was so distraught by her husband’s death (and the death of her mother that same year), that she went into a period of mourning that lasted decades. Naturally, the public followed suit, adopting HRH’s somber wardrobe of black and wearing Memento Mori jewels to commemorate their own loved ones. Mourning jewelry from this period included everything from black jet parures, lockets with painted portraits of the deceased to jewelry made from hair (the Victorians believed that hair held the essence of a person). 

    Though this style of jewelry largely died out in the early parts of the 20th century, mourning jewelry continues to be made as a way to honor those who have left us. We frequently reinvent jewels from lost family members, but Madi came to us with a slightly different request, wanting to make a piece of jewelry that could hold some of her late mother’s ashes. Madi inherited several rings from her mother, including a band made of emeralds (her mother’s favorite stone), that she also wanted to incorporate into the design. We showed her a variety of different locket shapes and options that could be worn as a pendant to keep her mother close to her heart. Madi selected a stylisted and streamlined urn-esque option, which we star-set with her mother’s stones on one side and engraved with a special passage from a book that Madi’s mother used to read to her on the other. 

    This was one of our most favorite projects to work on, and we were so touched that Madi trusted us to make this incredibly sentimental piece.