Mourning Jewelry

Your Budget, R.I.P. - WSJ

These extravagantly priced - with a design influenced by the tradition of Victorian mourning jewelry - are something we dream about owning

By: Rebecca Malinsky


King and Queen Cachette Beryl Vert Earrings, Dior Fine Jewelry, PHOTO: F. Martin Ramin for WSJ

King and Queen Cachette Beryl Vert Earrings, Dior Fine Jewelry, PHOTO: F. Martin Ramin for WSJ

Nothing creates buzz quite like a royal wedding, as the recent news of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s engagement made amply clear. But a royal death runs a close second: A few generations back, Queen Victoria caused a similarly seismic stir with an elaborate display of grief after the passing of her husband Prince Albert in 1861. Limiting herself to somber black dresses for 40 long years and placing a lock of his hair into her locket, she defined a new category of attire: Victorian mourning dress.

In 2014, the exhibit “Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in New York cataloged the many ways Queen Victoria’s ideas have resonated through the years, from the tradition of wearing black to funerals to the crafting of jewelry that pays homage to a loved one. The elaborate mourning jewelry created during the Victorian era is highly collectible and still influential today.

While this new pair of earrings, a mismatched “king” and “queen” set, from Christian Dior’s high-jewelry collection isn’t meant to honor anyone in particular, the set does nod to the style, said Dior Fine Jewelry creative director Victoire de Castellane, who used filigreed gold to allude to the strands of hair in traditional mourning lockets.


Why they’re so very expensive: The gemstone in each earring is an unusually large pale green beryl—4.24 carats for the rectangular king; 4.8 carats for the oval-shaped queen. “I started with the idea of pastels,” said Ms. de Castellane. “I wanted a romantic, poetic color.” A plentiful use of diamonds hints at the excessively luxurious décor of the Palace of Versailles, also among Ms. De Castellane’s inspirations.

Where we’d wear them: Definitely not to a funeral (way too show-offy) but perhaps a dressy, yet sober event like the upcoming productions of “King Lear” or “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM).

How we’d feel wearing them: Happily alive in ornate earrings that might turn deadly Queen Cersei Lannister in “Game of Thrones” beryl green with envy.

Original story here