Add this to the ever-growing list of stuff I was aware of that I never thought of doing myself.
Jewelry made from carefully-woven human hair was enormously popular in the Victorian era, both as tokens of love and as memento mori. Hair is extremely durable, and since it can be “donated” with no lasting damage it was common to take a lock of hair from a loved one as a keepsake. Eventually the practice evolved from simply being tied with a ribbon to being intricately woven into jewelry or even decorative knickknacks.
Rookie recently did an article on making simple hair jewelry, and a quick look around turned up several other resources. Going beyond a simple braid takes some effort–as The Victorian Needle discovered–but if you have the patience you can make some lovely stuff.
Some ideas to get you started:
Victorian Gothic has some great pictures, along with details about “hairwork albums” which feature woven hair from several family members.
Victoriana Magazine has information about braiding frames and tables, including photos of some ridiculously complicated-looking beads made from hair.
Until recently there was a site called Victorian Hair Jewelry which would make custom hairwork, but that site currently just has a “coming soon” banner. It may return after renovation; in the meantime you can browse some of the designs via The Wayback Machine. There’s at least one other site that does custom stuff, Lucy’s Hairwork, but I couldn’t find any information about pricing so you’d have to email for a quote.
Hairwork is pretty much the ultimate in personalization, and it’s a unique way to create a really meaningful keepsake. Sneak up on your loved ones with a razor today!