The custom of keeping a locket of hair as a token of love, or as a relic of a holy figure, has existed for centuries. The idea of using hair for the structural part of jewelry became fashionable in the eighteenth century. By the 1830s, especially in England and the United States, all sorts of pendants, brooches, earrings, necklaces, and bracelets were made using human as well as horsehair. Commercial catalogues of the 1850s to 1870s mass-marketed these delicate designs. It is inspiring how a banal material can be reinvented into something precious.
Set Of Necklace And Bracelets, ca. 1830. Museum purchase through bequest of Ida McNeil in memory of Lincoln C. McNeil and Catherine McNeil. 1992-166-1/3.