Memento Mori is Latin for, ‘Remember that you have to die’. I swear it’s not as morbid as it sounds. It’s different from traditional mourning jewelry in the sense that it’s not mourning at all. It’s accepting the idea that death will come. It allows the wearer to be reminded of his or her own mortality and the afterlife.
Memento Mori jewelry was most popular during the 1600s and the first half of the 1700s. By the mid-1700s the trend began to die off (pun intended).
This Georgian heart shaped Memento Mori pendant was handcrafted in England, around 1730. It holds 38 faceted paste stones that border a motif, set behind clear crystal. Behind the glass is a gold foil wheat sheaf, symbolizing everlasting life. The wheat sheaf is in front of a woven lock of hair, typical in Memento Mori jewelry. This piece weighs 1.8 grams and measures 28 x 13 x 5 mm.
The wheat sheaf symbol is based in Christianity from when Jesus Christ broke bread and gave it to his disciples during the Last Supper. In terms of Memento Mori pieces, it can also be considered part of the divine harvest which would eventually be reaped. This expresses the ending of life and the resurrection of the soul.
This type of jewelry was not meant for grief or lamentation. Simply, it acknowledged that death was inevitable. I love finding early pieces like these. It clearly meant a lot to the wearer as it’s swimming in symbolism and culture.
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