Memento mori jewellery was created to commemorate the dead in Victorian times, and this show takes a look at some pieces that have appeared on Flog It!
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Over the years on Flog It, we've helped you sell thousands
of your antiques and collectables to raise some much needed cash
and every valuation day throws up something new
and some old favourites, just to keep our experts on their toes.
And here's where they share what they know, as they let
you in to their trade secrets.
'On today's show,
'we bring you everything from the outlandish to the ever popular.'
And however much we think we know about these items,
as I've discovered from working on the show over the years,
there is always something new we can learn.
'Coming up, a whistle-stop tour of some of the most popular items
'seen at our valuation days.'
Now, these sorts of things are very collectable.
'And a voyage of discovery, as we explore one of the more
'unusual legacies of the Victorian era.'
Although these aren't popular as things to wear, they are collectable.
'Something that we see a great deal of at the valuation days
'is jewellery - often family pieces.
'One particular category of jewellery that was especially
'popular in the Victorian period can today divide opinion.'
Things have certainly changed since the days of Queen Victoria,
particularly in the process of mourning.
People nowadays conduct themselves totally differently,
but it's been fascinating to learn more about what we call
memento mori through the items that you bring to us
at our valuation days.
Jill, welcome to Flog It!
Many pieces of jewellery come through the sale room,
which I suppose I would call memento mori.
These are mementos of the dead, loved ones who have passed away.
We see a lot of Victorian items like this.
Let's just have a closer look at it.
The case is not marked for gold.
Very often when a piece was made specially for someone by a jeweller,
if it had been commissioned, then they would not have hallmarked it.
But the touch of it, the colour of it, the weight of it,
all these things indicate to me that it is gold.
Jewellery has always been influenced by the fashion of the day,
what was happening in the day.
When Prince Albert died and Queen Victoria went into mourning,
and she was in mourning for a long, long time,
she wore black and that became fashionable.
The front of it has this beautiful
banded agate oval on it.
We have a gold and enamel starburst here and a beautiful pearl.
It's a lovely thing. It's a quality item. I like it very, very much.
When we opened the locket,
there was a little portrait of a whiskered gentleman,
quite a young chap.
Not my taste, but I suppose some Victorian lady thought he was good-looking.
On the other side, there were locks of hair.
So this locket was obviously worn by a Victorian lady.
-Do you know who this is?
-I'm afraid I don't, no.
-He's quite a sombre looking chap.
-Yes, he is.
-Could he have been a boyfriend or a fiance?
-I just don't know.
-You don't know.
And we have the hair whorl here,
which is sort of typical of mourning jewellery.
People like to collect jewellery
and folk have different periods that they're interested in.
Someone who collected Victorian jewellery, or Victorian objects,
would buy this type of thing
because it told us part of the history of that time.
Although these aren't popular as things to wear, they are collectable.
Price-wise? I would put an estimate of 120-180 on this locket.
-Would you be happy with that estimate?
Well, let's put it to sale, Jill.
'The locket went for sale under the watchful eye of Flog It
favourite, Charlie Ross.
Gold, pearl, and enamel pendant.
Circa 1880. Late Victorian pendant.
I can start that at 85. 90, 5, 110, 120, 130.
Although this belonged to the Victorian age,
I think that it was quite a fashionable item
in today's tastes.
380, you're out on the stairs.
380 in the middle of the room now. At £380.
-Are we all done? Selling at £380.
-That is excellent.
Memento mori is a practice which has died out, really,
in today's modern world.
But people still want to look back and see how people lived
and see their customs, traditions, and fashions, and so on, of the past.
Nowhere can this be more clear than
when we look at the memento mori jewellery of the Victorian age.
I thought that it might be to today's tastes.
A big, chunky piece like that.
And also a 'come and buy me' valuation.
-Yes, I can be a bit like that, you know me.
-It was excellent.
You're a canny lass.
Would I wear a picture of a dead person round my neck?
I'm not sure.
'It might be beautiful,
'but the Victorian way of death isn't everyone's cup of tea.'
The whole concept of having a lock of
a deceased person's hair confuses me.
It's a watch chain, or, I think, more strictly a watch rope, really,
because obviously it's not a chain as such.
What makes this interesting is the fact that it is
almost certainly, and again I can't prove this, made out of human hair.
The Victorians did have a thing about death,
there is no doubt about it.
They dignified it in some ways, they romanticised it.
I suppose they were more religious than we are today,
they were probably confident that you were going somewhere else,
to a better place.
We feel a little bit unhappy about these things today
and perhaps we don't confront it like the Victorians did.
Perhaps they had it right.
A person would, at some stage in their life, probably have just
cut a piece of hair off, which they might have given to a friend or
a husband or a wife and when that person died,
those lockets of hair were mounted into what became known as
mourning brooches and presented after the funeral of the deceased
to members of the family.
Death is less commonplace than it was.
If your children died young,
your wife was likely to die in childbirth, your husband
might die young, for heaven's sake, he might die in battle somewhere.
He was as likely to do that as die of natural causes.
It was part of their life.
Did you have a particular sum of money in mind?
No, I didn't have anything,
-I was just hoping, perhaps, it might be enough to plant something in the garden.
If there was enough, perhaps it could be a small tree.
Dear Nancy was such a lovely, lovely lady and I have fond thoughts
of her and I just thought it would be a nice thing to remember her by.
-That's lovely. Nancy was the lady who left you this?
I think that is a great idea.
If my death was to be commemorated, I would rather someone planted a tree.
That would be something lasting, wouldn't it?
So I think this is going to make, as a group, between £30-£50.
The plaited hair watch chain at £50
and I sell to the back of the room. Done, then, at 50.
And done, thank you.
So whilst we wouldn't necessarily want to own a watch chain
made out of human hair,
I don't think we should condemn the Victorians for wanting to do so.
Mourning jewellery is often passed down through generations,
among other precious heirlooms.
It was recently at Glasgow,
when we were filming at the Kelvingrove Museum,
that a lady brought in a rather unassuming box.
Well, you've got a real mix in here, haven't you?
Let's get a few pieces out. Let me see what we have here.
We've got a little gold frame, a cameo brooch.
Then we've got this rather interesting gold
and enamel naturalistic frame which I think must have had
something in the centre there at some stage.
At some point, probably.
We opened it up and, sure enough, inside there was
a vast range of memento mori jewellery, mourning jewellery -
It is one of those odd areas of collecting that some people
find it slightly morbid, but there is a market for it -
certainly the earlier pieces.
We've got a right Aladdin's trove here.
Well, there's a little selection of brooches in there,
some portraits brooches, I can see we've got another mourning brooch,
a typical one there with the plaited hair.
You had people who were skilled in plaiting
and making these patterns out of human hair and they would often
adorn the back of a brooch or a pendant or even a portrait miniature.
There seems to be a theme running through the jewellery
you've got here, doesn't there?
Brooches and mourning jewellery, such as with the plaited hair
and again here with the black enamelling
and the seed pearls there, a classic combination of mourning jewellery.
That's what interests me, I think, is the iconography of
mourning jewellery, as well as some of the inscriptions,
because it gives you an insight into some of the social history of the time.
These are people's names and dates, so it just evokes
an interest in what this person did and who they were.
We'll let Anita go through it and catalogue it
in detail for her sale and we'll give her a guide price of 100-150.
-OK, excellent. Yes.
-Was Will's estimate right?
It's a superb lot of Victorian jewellery, a lovely lot.
Will you start me at £100?
I often find if you have that group, it promotes a lot of bidding,
a lot of interest, because we've got lots of bits.
£310 and the hammer goes down. Yes!
'In some families,
'those Victorian mourning traditions have survived to this day.'
I'm enthralled by this lovely little piece that you've brought in today.
Do tell me about it.
Well, it's a brooch that's been in the family for many, many years
and mostly brought out, well, always brought out, for funeral occasions,
because it was looked upon in our family as a mourning brooch.
The brooch had a charming family providence
and was so beautifully and positively
described and explained by the owner.
It was lovely to hear, the context of funerals represented in such
a positive, and quite joyous, way.
My aunt, who gave it to me, she had a wonderful sense of humour,
so funerals weren't terribly sad things
and so it was a case of out with the jewellery box,
out with the brooch, and stick it on whatever you were wearing.
The brooch itself, I personally wouldn't have taken that up and said
this is a piece of mourning jewellery,
but the interpretation of it was perfect
and, with the two little doves on it, it actually does tie in with
Victorian symbolism for memory, remembrance, and the passing of a life.
Stylistically, it retains a lot of the Victorian sentiment
and expression of feeling through imagery,
ie, in this case, with the birds.
The Victorians used the symbol of doves for lots of aspects of both
memorial and passion, I suppose, two sides of the same coin,
I suppose, passion and death are linked inextricably.
The Victorians were very good at expressing that.
I would think, as the market stands currently,
which is very enthusiastic for good quality jewellery,
that it should fetch between £100-£150 at auction.
Oh gosh, how lovely.
-Are you pleased with that?
It was all summed up in this beautiful piece of jewellery.
I found it quite moving, quite emotional, really,
but in a very positive way.
You depart from things,
whether it's a place or a piece of furniture, or an article,
but no-one can take your memories away.
-This is very true.
-So I have those happy memories.
-So maybe it will bring joy to somebody else.
Lot number 80 is the micro-mosiac brooch, this time, with doves.
550 in the room, 550. 580, may I say? 580? Nope?
I have 550 on the net then.
At 550. 580 anywhere else in the room?
At 550 bid, last call then we're selling on the internet at £550.
Yes, that is the sold sound!
Mourning jewellery I would say at the moment is good value.
'Well Anita couldn't be clearer. What other tips have we?'
If you're talking 17th to early 18th century,
when mostly it was iconographic -
say skulls, picks, spades, crosses and hourglass for obvious reasons -
the more morbid, in a way, the more collectable.
'If mourning jewellery interests you, here are some pointers.
'Many memento mori encapsulate a slice of culture history
'and their value lies in that context.
'Lost art forms, like hair work or miniature paintings,
'are worth looking out for.
'With a plethora of pieces to be found, aim for quality and style.
'Craftsmanship and design will transcend any association
'with sadness. Go for earlier pieces, if you can find them.
'Victorian items became mass-produced
'after the widowed Queen made mourning fashionable.
'Pieces may have been commissioned, so the metal might be unmarked.
'Weigh it up your hand if you think it might be gold.
'The only way to tell for certain is to have it tested by a jeweller.'
'Precious metal cannot officially be called silver,
'gold, or platinum unless it has been hallmarked.
'The first thing our experts look out for
'when presented with an item of jewellery or precious metal
'at the valuation day is a hallmark.'
So there we are, we've got the hallmarks. What else does it tell us?
-How old it is.
-How old it is.
Seeing a little bit of Birmingham silver with the anchor.
If we look along here, we've got a full set of hallmarks
and it's for London, 1781 and the maker is John Scofield.
'These symbols are official marks struck on items
'made from precious metals - gold, silver and platinum.
'The hallmark guarantees the purity of the metal,
'which has been determined by formal testing at an assay office.
'The original assay office was in London,
'but others opened up shortly afterwards, including
one in Birmingham, Sheffield, and Chester during the 18th century.
'Each office has its own identifying symbol,
'a leopard's head for London, an anchor for Birmingham,
'a crown or rose for Sheffield, and a castle for Edinburgh.'
'Items will generally bear other marks, such as the metal type -
'a lion for silver - maker's marks, and the year the item was assayed.'
That's interesting. Look, there's the hallmark there
but that's got the leopard's head for London.
'You brought us many fine examples of the work of great silversmiths,
'such as Marius Hammer, Omar Ramsden,
'and Mappin and Webb.
'One of the best names in the business from the 18th century
'was Hester Bateman.'
-The date letter is for 1781.
A little mark in the centre - HB. HB is the mark for Hester Bateman
and Hester Bateman is probably the most famous of all
-the silversmiths in London in this period.
-She's a woman.
Her husband was a maker of gold chains and they had
a business in London, but he died shortly after the business started.
I think it was 1760.
And, of course, Hester Bateman took over the business.
-She had never made a bit of silver.
It really is a woman in a man's world in those days.
The fact that she was a woman in the 18th century as a silversmith,
that is why she is sought after.
What's it worth?
-You tell me.
-Go on, have a go.
-Erm, £200-£250. Something like that.
You've been watching too many Flog Its, haven't you?
-I've been watching lots of Flog It.
-Is it really?
-It really is spot on.
You can't even get a tablespoon by Hester Bateman for less
-than £100 these days.
'Was Susan really spot-on?'
It's the Hester Bateman silver half-pint mug.
London, 1781, 200 grams. There's been a lot of interest in this.
290, who says? 290. 300? At 290. All done at £290. Are you all sure?
'Larger pieces by Hester Bateman can set you back a great deal of money.
'A silver soup tureen recently sold at auction for £52,000.'
'You'll find it hard to get by in the world
'of antique precious metals without a hallmark bible.
'There are many books on the market, which list over 14,000 hallmarks.
'Check for rubbed marks.
'Not being able to identify a hallmark can reduce
'the value of an item.
'And be on the lookout for the Chester mark - the wheatsheaf and the shield.
'The Chester office closed in 1961 and the items assayed here
'are now highly collectable.
'On Flog It, there are certain types of item that crop up
'again and again.'
You brought in a variation of exotic woods here, some table treen.
'One of my Flog It favourites is treen, small items of turned wood.
'It speaks to me of great craftsmanship and simple pleasures.'
Now, these sorts of things are very collectable.
What I do like about it is all the lovely little studs here
and the beautiful patterns that we can see all over.
Lot 375 is the 19th-century treen snuffbox in the form of a boot.
In the room now at £60. And five anyone else? Selling on the 60.
We just did it. Right on the bottom end.
'These little items don't command huge prices
'but they're a lovely thing to own.'
'Produced in Cornwall, between 1963 and 1983,
'Troika is a very familiar sight to our valuation days.
'It's one of those things that you either love or you hate
'and I'm not alone in loving it.
'In 2004, a piece like this one sold for £2,700.
'Another regular on the show is Beswick pottery,
'one of Stoke-on-Trent's many potteries.
'It was founded in 1892 and is known to this day for having
'produced high-quality figurines - particularly farm animals.'
Beswick is certainly up there as the choice item to collect.
'A figure like this rare pit pony, dating from 1931,
sold, in 2005, for £8,500.
We've got the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh Trooping the Colour, 1957,
by Beswick England.
-I think we'll put them in the sale as three separate lots.
And I think on these two we'll put an estimate of £300-£500 each.
Now the Beswick. Hammer's up then. And sold away at £640.
What do you think?
Oh, my goodness, I can't believe it.
'Beswick ceased production altogether in 2003,
'so even the late figures may one day prove a wise investment.'
'It just goes to show that
'because we see a lot of something, it doesn't mean it's not valuable.'
'All manner of weird and wonderful things land on our valuation tables,
'but there is one thing which gets Catherine Southon's heart racing.'
The item that I would love to own more than anything is a pocket globe.
I love globes, but what I love more than anything are pocket globes -
these small, Georgian globes that are about 1750 in date.
I love the colours,
all these different colours that are outlined around the continents.
I love the geography, I love the fact that on some of the maps
Australia hasn't really been discovered,
California is only an island.
I love it.
Once upon a time, when I started, they were about £1,500
and I wish I had bought one then because now they're about £5,000.
However, I have bought something which is not quite a pocket globe,
but it is the same kind of idea.
It's not in a fishskin case, but I saw this at an antiques fair
and my eyes lit up when I saw it, but it is, in fact, a little inkwell.
So you put your ink in here,
you dab your pen on there, and then you roll it with a blotter.
I bought it for a couple of hundred pounds and it's a bit of fun,
not quite the real McCoy, but one day, perhaps, I'll get it.
'On our travels with Flog It,
'I'm especially privileged to go behind the scenes of some
'of the most beautiful heritage sites in the country.
'I want to give you a sneak peek at one of our filming days.
'Today, we're at Guildford's stunning cathedral.
'The day starts early at 8am for the crew.'
There's lots to do.
We're filming two inserts today, so there's lots to get done,
lots of pieces to camera, lots of people to interview and talk to.
So, yeah, it's going to be busy. Excited to get going on it, really.
I'm the director, which basically means, erm...
It sounds far more grand than it is.
It's my job to make sure that Paul knows what he is doing,
make sure everybody else knows what they're doing,
and get it done as quickly as possible.
'They're ready for action, but where is the presenter?'
Hi, sorry about that. Traffic problems.
The good news is I've learnt all my lines being stuck in traffic
with nothing else to do.
Right, do you want to do the first piece to camera?
-Shall we knock off some out here while we've got the weather?
So the cathedral was built in the 20th century,
so it's the history of the church script.
We'll do it out here. You turn around at the end and go back in.
A cathedral built in the 20th century is perhaps impressive
enough, but the story that lies behind this magnificent building
makes this feat of modern architecture truly unique.
Cut. That's good. All right, let's go in and do our bell-ringers.
'On this show, I've made almost 1,000 film inserts
'and have been to countless amazing and inspiring places
'and there is always something new to learn.'
There's a lot to get done in a very short amount of time,
so the pressure is on and it should be fine.
It will be fine, it always is.
So we've got the bell-ringers here today.
They're showing us a little bit about what they do
and Paul is just going to have a go.
We'll pick up on you and then if you just have a quick chat. Ready?
That was excellent. How do you do that? Is it just feel?
It is definitely a sense of rhythm.
The gap between each bell is as important as the sound
of your own bell - to have them equally spaced. So, yes.
Will it be yourself showing Paul how to do it?
I think the best thing about working on Flog It is that fact that
you get to learn so much about so many different things.
For example, today, we're filming this insert, it's not
just about learning about the venue and the history of it, but it's also
about learning about bell ringing and the people involved in that.
So, you become a little mini expert overnight about
so many different things that perhaps you wouldn't have ever
spent the time investigating or looking into and
actually it's all that knowledge that maybe you wouldn't have picked up.
'I agree, Jess.
'In-between takes, I love to wander about
'and get a real feel for the place.'
'I always find I come across wonderful people
'and at the cathedral, I bumped into Dennis,
'who has carved some of the most beautiful wooden figures here.'
I'm impressed with your work.
Those big sections of lime wood that you've carved.
How long did each figure take to carve?
I would think two to three months.
That's a lot of work, isn't it? You were a young man, weren't you?
-How long ago was that?
-56 years ago.
So that was quite an important commission for you back then?
Oh, yes, I was only just out of college.
I had just qualified and, like most people who have just qualified,
I thought I owned the earth.
I wrote Sir Edward a letter telling him he needed me.
He said, well, as it happens the lady who is doing two in the chapel here
can't finish four of them and so would you like to do the other two?
I love the swags in the fabric,
those lovely undercuts creating shadow.
The whole thing has got movement.
Is that modelled on anybody?
It wasn't intentionally meant to be, but it was so like my wife.
It looks really like her.
This whole building is a celebration of great craftsmanship
and I've been fortunate enough today to bump into one of them,
-so, Dennis, thank you very much.
-It was a chance meeting, wasn't it?
-And great work.
-Thank you very much.
'What an unexpected treat. That made my day.'
It's a real privilege to come behind the scenes and learn this kind of thing.
That's what keeps me going in this job for the last 12 years, you know.
I've learnt so much and I'll never stop learning
and I'll always remember these moments, the special moments.
'And that experience just goes to show
'if you visit somewhere fascinating go a little off piste,
'strike up a conversation and you never know what you'll discover.
'That's the spirit of Flog It!
'Well, if today's show proves anything,
'it's that there is a market out there for all kinds of extraordinary
'collectables. So make sure you keep your eyes peeled
'and who knows, you may stumble across an amazing find of your own.'
See you next time for more trade secrets.
Memento mori jewellery was created to commemorate the dead in Victorian times, and this show takes a look at some pieces that have appeared on Flog It! The complicated art of reading hallmarks is also explained.