What Is Memento Mori Jewelry?

December 05, 2022 2 min read

Memento Mori Skull Jewelry

If you have lost a loved one, you understand that everyone grieves differently. Some people choose to display an ornate urn, while others find solace in visiting a grave site. Many choose to encapsulate ashes of a loved one in a decorative orb and other ornaments. Beginning in the 16th century, mourning jewelry and grief trinkets because popular and remain popular today.

What Does Memento Mori Mean? 

Memento mori is a Latin phrase that means "remember that you will die." It is a memento or reminder that death is inevitable. Beginning in the 16th century, memento mori jewelry pieces would be made following the death of a loved one. Those in mourning would memorialize the dead by wearing the piece of jewelry every day as a reminder of one's own mortality. Memento mori jewelry can incorporate meaningful symbols or even locks of hair and ashes from the deceased. 

Traditional memento mori jewelry depicts death through the use of skulls, worms, skeletons, coffins, and other common symbols of death. Although today, this type of morbid symbolism may seem macabre, it was a common part of grieving during Victorian times.

Modern Day Memento Mori and Mourning Jewelry

Remembrance jewelry is still very popular today. Although it is less common to see hair or ashes incorporated into the jewelry pieces today, having custom jewelry created in memoriam is very common.

Here are the most popular types of memento mori jewelry handcrafted and worn today.

Vintage Skull Symbols

Skull Memento Mori Cuff Links

Skull and crossbones and winged skulls were commonly used in memento mori throughout the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. Skulls are the most obvious symbol of death, thought to force the mourner and everyone around them to come to terms with their own mortality. Reconciling with the prospect of mortality is thought to ease the pain of grief. If you are looking for a memento mori with the vintage skull symbolism, check out these pieces:

Nature Symbols

Aspen Leaf Mourning Jewelry

During times of mourning, we reflect on nature, the brevity of life and all things in it. Animals are commonly used as symbols in memento mori jewelry pieces. The Endure - I Will Go On wax seal pendant signifies a loss using a running stag with an arrow in his hind quarter. 

Flowers are another nature related symbol commonly used in memento mori jewelry. The Forget Me Not Memorial Necklace used a Forget Me Not flower as an emblem for loving remembrance. 

The symbolic Laurel Leaf is another beautiful symbol used as part memento mori jewelry. The I Change Only in Death wax seal pendant includes a laurel leaf and a French phrase that translates to "I do not change that by dying." 

A century ago, all mourning outfits included at least one piece of mourning jewelry. It was a way to keep your beloved close to you and is growing in popularity in modern times. The beauty of mourning jewelry is once you hang your mourning outfit up, you can continue to wear your memento mori or mourning jewelry indefinitely.

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