Eternal Memory

Antique Hair & Gold Snake Brooch, Circa 1860

"When we think of the imperishability of human hair, we can easily understand the care with which a braid or curl is preserved, cut from the brow of a friend who may have long been among the dead, or separated from us-not only by miles and miles of ocean, but by new ties and new cares. We look at the few hairs that recall the dear face we shall never see again, at scenes we shall never relive, and at events which the past has long counted among its own. It is not surprising, therefore, that these links which connect us with the past are guarded like a treasure (...)." - From a book on hair decoration: Alexanna Speight, The Lock of Hair: Its History, Ancient and Modern, Natural and Artistic; With the Art of Working in Hair, Illustrated by Numerous Designs, 1871. All the sentimentality and friendship cult of the 19th century is expressed in hair ornaments. Often the only tangible memento of a loved one, the hair of friends, relatives, and beloved partners was often fashioned into jewellery while they were still alive. This brooch is another such piece of jewellery that pays tribute to the bond with another person. It is designed from carefully braided brunette hair whose precious status is emphasized by the use of gold and turquoise. The serpentine form can be understood as a reference to the ancient motif of the ouroboros, the snake biting its own tail as a symbol of eternity. Although the motif was modified, the snake was still associated with eternity in the sentimental jewellery of the 19th century, which was related to love and memory. A touching trick is the use of turquoise as eyes: due to its colour, this semi-precious stone was associated with the forget-me-not, thus taking over its eloquent meaning. The popularity of the snake motif is shown by a page from a pattern book for hair ornaments from 1864 (last illustration). Many motifs seem quite conservative for the date, following not the latest fashion but that of previous decades. For this reason we date our snake brooch to the time around 1860 and not earlier.

Gifts from one's own hair were commonplace in the 18th and 19th centuries, a tradition that reached its peak as a gift of friendship or love in the Biedermeier era. The family, one's own home and friends played a major role in the life of the time - the age of Romanticism was characterized by particular sensitivity. In this context, pieces of jewellery made of hair were also created, which as particularly personal gifts (because hair is, after all, a part of one's own body!) were intended to express an intimate bond. In popular belief, hair is the seat of life force. Whoever possesses a hair from another has power over him. Therefore, whoever gives his hair to another, hands himself over to him, so to speak, and gives him a part of his own body: "A hair ties stronger than the strongest iron cord" is reported in old fairy tales, as one can read in the "Handwörterbuch des deutschen Aberglaubens" (Dictionary of German Superstition). The simplest form of hair ornament that has survived to this day is the curl in a locket or the braided hair chain that the loving wife gave as a gift to the young husband.

We want you to be 100% satisfied! For that reason, we examine, describe and photograph all of our jewellery with the utmost care.

You can rely on our years of experience in the trade and our expertise as a professional art historians for reviews of the antique jewellery. As a member of various trader organisations and the British Society of Jewellery Historians, we remain committed to the highest possible degree of accuracy. In our descriptions, we always also indicate any signs of age and defects and never hide them in our photos – this saves you from any unpleasant surprises when your package arrives.

Should you for some reason not be satisfied, please don’t hesitate to contact us so that we can begin to find a solution together. In any case, you can return any article within 30 days and we will refund the full purchase price.


We want you to be 100% satisfied! That’s why we examine, describe and photograph all our jewellery with the utmost care.

If for any reason you are still not satisfied, contact us and we will find a mutual solution immediately. Regardless, you can return any item within 30 days and we will refund you the full purchase price.