A peek inside a Victorian-era jewelry box might reveal intricate pieces made of gold, gemstones, enamel … and hair. The DAR Museum collection includes many examples of hair jewelry dating from the 18th and 19th centuries. Whereas most Early Victorian examples feature a lock of hair captured under glass, the circa-1870 bracelet and brooch shown here exemplify the elaborately woven designs of the Late Victorian period, in which the hair itself gives structure to the piece. These were often memorial pieces, but not always. In the Victorian age, hair was simply a sentimental memento, sometimes kept in friendship albums and other times made into jewelry.
The ambitious Victorian woman might attempt to follow instructions for braiding her own hair jewelry, but many sent hair to be professionally crafted. Such businesses advertised in ladies’ magazines and faithfully promised to ensure that the correct person’s hair was used and returned.