Dissertation Sur Le Memento Mori Jewelry

Freeman’s is delighted to offer the Memento Mori and Mourning Jewelry collection of the late Anita and Irvin G. Schorsch in the Nov. 15 American Furniture, Folk & Decorative Arts auction.

This remarkable and extensive collection of over 150 tokens of mortality, grief, commemoration and remembrance, represents over 200 years of private and public expressions of death. The collection vividly documents western societal changes: from graphic symbols of skulls, skeletons and hourglasses of the rock crystal slides of the 17th century, to the Neo-Classical depictions of idealistic perfection and heaven in lockets and rings from the late 18th century.

As collectors and historians, Anita and Irvin Schorsch did not limit themselves to the traditional areas of Americana collecting of furniture, decorative arts, needlework, textiles, fine arts and silver. Their interest in all tangible aspects of American and English life and craftmanship, from the 17th to 19th centuries, led the couple, especially Anita, to a passionate immersion in the study and collecting of the artful expressions of mourning.

Anita’s intense scholarship in the area lead to the 1976 publication, “Mourning Becomes America, Mourning Art in the New Nation.” The publication was released in conjunction with an exhibition of the same name at the Pennsylvania State Museum and the Albany Institute of History and Art. Ultimately, the Schorsch’s established the unique, Museum of Mourning Art for their collection at Arlington Cemetery in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania in 1990.

The January 2016 auction of the Schorsch’s collection of furniture, decorative and fine arts from their famous Hidden Glen Farms home was a landmark event. Freeman’s Nov. 15 auction of the Memento Mori and Mourning Jewelry is expected to be equally paramount, as the sale may be the largest public offering of mourning material to-date.

The auction also includes 19th century mourning costume and accessories for men and women, a child’s mourning costume, presidential  mourning ribbons and props and furnishings exhibited at the Museum of Mourning Art.

View the American Furniture, Folk and Decorative Arts Catalogue.

Mourning Jewelry

Mourning Jewelry is an almost forgotten Victorian practice that dates back to the late 1860s. It is said that when Queen Victoria became widowed she threw herself into a forty-year lament over the loss of her husband. She would only wear mourning dress, and insisted that those around her do so as well. Victoria's influence created a trickle-down effect of fashion, whereby the craft of mourning jewelry was born. A small lock of hair was cut from the deceased and would be inlaid as part of a ring or brooch. The jewelry served yet another purpose by functioning as a Memento Mori-a reminder that all life is fleeting and that we should enjoy each day we have.

At Undertaking LA we are extremely lucky to work side-by-side with a wide range of wonderful artists who cherish the lines between tradition, art, and death. This line of jewelry is madefor exclusively for us by Order of the Good Death's Angela Kirkpatrick, a post-mortem jewelry designer and silversmith. Each piece is custom made and can have either your loved one's hair or cremated remains placed beneath the stones so that you can always keep a little bit of your loved one close to you. These make exquisite gifts and can ultimately be an heirloom and tradition you can continue to pass on for generations to come.

If you would like to order a ring please send us an email letting us know: which option you would like, if you are using hair or remains, if purchasing a a ring the size you would like, your mailing address you will be shipping the remains from, and any engraving you would like. The cost for a ring or necklace is $150. Please understand that because these are delicate and handmade that there will be a lengthy turnaround time.

To get started click here for an order form. Please fill it out and email it back to us at mementomori@undertakingla.com

*It is legally required to have all cremated remains shipped Priority Express which costs $30. If it is hair then the cost is $12. Please note that this does slightly increase the overall price of the keepsake items that we offer, and we hope that you understand the need for the extra security and peace of mind for all parties involved when shipping such precious cargo.

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