Necklace with Crucifix Pendant

Germany, approx. 1820-25

Dimensions: 38 cm (l)

Materials: Hair and gold

Inv. No. G 1619

The necklace with crucifix pendant is made of twenty-eight equally sized pearls for which a very special material was used: braided hair. About three hundred hairs with a length of 80 cm and a Jatte, a special braiding stand, were needed to produce such a necklace. After the individual hairs had been fixed on the Jatte with weights attached, similar to the technique used for Bobbin lace, strands were then laid over each other in a particular sequence to create a braided tube. The tube was then bound into pearls and fitted with gold ornaments in the form of two cylinders at the sides and a fastener. The crucifix pendant was made using the same techniques.

Hair – today an unusual material – became popular in the 18th century. Jewellery made of hair in the form of lockets, featuring a portrait on one side and containing one or several lock(s) of hair on the other, was particularly popular in England. Braided hair jewellery, on the other hand, was a German speciality and had its heyday in the 19th century. It was often produced by non-professional women. In 1820, the book Gründliche Anweisung für Frauen auf alle mögliche Art Haargeflechte nach der jetzigen Mode zu fertigen (Detailed Guide for Women to Create Braided Hair in All its Possible Forms According to Current Fashion) was published in Leipzig. Jewellery made of hair was ideal as pars pro toto objects to honour a loved one or a deceased relative, allowing the wearer to always be close to the departed.

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