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In Death Lamented

The Tradition of Anglo-American Mourning Jewelry
Sarah Nehama. Foreword by Anne E. Bentley

BUY Paper · 128 pp. · 8.13 × 9.5 · ISBN 9781936520039 · $35.00 · Sep 2012

In Death Lamented: The Tradition of Anglo-American Mourning Jewelry illustrates and explains prime examples of rings, bracelets, brooches, and other pieces of mourning jewelry from the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. Like the exhibition at the Massachusetts Historical Society, this volume showcases the materials in the Society’s collection and that of Sarah Nehama, a jeweler and private collector who co-curated the event at the MHS. These elegant and evocative objects are presented in context, including written explanations of the history, use, and meaning of the jewelry, as well as related pieces of material culture, such as broadsides, photographs, portraits, and trade cards. The jewelry included illustrates some of the most exemplary types, from early gold bands with death’s head iconography to jeweled brooches and intricately woven hairwork pieces of the Civil War era.

Distributed for the Massachusetts Historical Society


Jewelry commemorating dead loved ones often ends up tucked into boxes of family documents rather than kept accessible with baubles more frequently worn. So the evidence of lives mourned gets filed away, sometimes forgotten for decades. The Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston has received gold tokens inscribed with laments, mixed with paperwork donated since the institution was founded in 1791.... Sarah Nehama, a jewelry maker in Boston, is the show’s major private lender and wrote the catalog (from the University of Virginia Press). She has acquired about 175 mourning pieces in the past eight years, paying prices into the four figures. She has delved into the genealogy of the deceased and their mourners, identifying cousins of Benjamin Franklin and assorted British aristocrats.

New York Times

The public display of mourning through adornment was popular in the United States from the Colonial period through the Civil War era and beyond. Wearing or giving ornaments that memorialized a loved one or a public figure demonstrated good taste, education, and wealth. These practices are well documented by collector and jeweler Nehama.... From simple gold bands to more ornate woven-hair brooches, the volume illustrates a progression of styles ranging from the baroque- and rococo-inspired styles of the 1600s to neoclassical trends and gothic revivalism in the 1860s.... Collectors will find this volume of interest, as will enthusiasts of historic jewelry.

Library Journal

"Good trim size: inviting to pick up and leaf through. Beautiful reproductions. Good choice of fonts; very legible text. Handsomely done. Again, a book crafted to be a beautiful vehicle for its subject matter: the photography almost is scientific—to show the viewer the minute details of very, very small keepsakes holding physical memories (locks of hair, etc.), and rings inscribed in the *inside* of the band—still manages to be beautiful. The typesetting wonderfully balanced with the images, making this a comfortable read for a sometimes uncomfortable subject."

Award citation in the Pictorial-Print category in the 56th Annual New England Book Show

About the Author(s): 

Sarah Nehama is a designer/jeweler who works in precious metals and gemstones. She sells her work through galleries, at juried shows, and to private customers. Sarah has a degree in art history and studied jewelry making in Boston and New York. She is a collector of antique mourning and sentimental jewelry and currently resides in Boston.

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