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An investigation into the cultural meanings of contemporary mourning and memento mori jewellery (London 1980-2008)

Barratt, Claire (2010) An investigation into the cultural meanings of contemporary mourning and memento mori jewellery (London 1980-2008). PhD thesis, University of the Arts London.

Type of Research: Thesis
Creators: Barratt, Claire

This thesis surveys various types of jewellery that reference death which emerged between 1980-2008. It compares them to their historical precedents, particularly mourning and memento mori jewellery, which had fallen out of use by the early twentieth century. The return of this imagery in late twentieth century jewellery might suggest a revival of older, obsolete rituals of death and mourning, and imply changes in popular attitudes towards bereavement and grief, even a new cultural acceptance of death and mortality. However, the contemporary meanings of the new jewellery appeared to be more varied, wide-ranging and ambiguous than those of their historical precedents. The thesis examines some of the changed meanings and altered contexts for the new mourning and memento mori jewellery, by surveying a broad range of jewellery that is normally studied separately within different academic disciplines. It is sourced from the funeral industry, subculture, studio jewellery, pop memorabilia, mass market and avant-garde fashion. In addition, the thesis examines the narratives and meanings that jewellery is imbued with by individuals following bereavement or illness. It addresses questions of how, or whether, items of jewellery differ from other forms of material and visual culture because they are worn objects. Throughout the thesis, jewellery is the key focus and it is analysed using methods from material culture studies, design history and sociology. Together, the breadth of sources and interdisciplinary approach demonstrate that jewellery worn to signify death, memory and mourning is part of a continuum of the wider symbolic and sentimental value of jewellery. The thesis shows a new separation between the functions of mourning and memento mori in jewellery; the absence of an unambiguous, recognisable visual language of death; and a greater, but more private, degree of individualisation of grief in contemporary mourning jewellery than that found in earlier periods.

Additional Information (Publicly available):

The author of this work has requested that full text of this thesis be unavailable online for ethical and third party copyright reasons.

Keywords/subjects not otherwise listed: material culture, jewellery, death, memory, mourning
Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > Central Saint Martins
Date: 1 January 2010
Funders: Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design
Date Deposited: 15 Jun 2016 09:27
Last Modified: 30 May 2024 08:53
Item ID: 9609
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/9609

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