Hair Lace

Circa 1640-1680


When my grave is broke up again
      Some second guest to entertain . . .
                            And he that digs it, spies
A bracelet of bright hair about the bone,
                              Will he not let us alone,
And think that there a loving couple lies,
Who thought that this device might be some way
To make their souls, at the last busy day,
Meet at this grave, and make a little stay?

Quoted from ‘The Relic’ by metaphysical poet John Donne (1572-1631), these lines demonstrate how the hair bracelet, given in life as a love token, then becomes a symbol of undying love that transcends even death.

Dating from the seventeenth century, this small piece of fine needle lace has been made from two shades of hair, the design featuring flowers and animals (or birds maybe?) within a cobweb pattern. There are a few tiny breakages within the band mostly on the right hand edge but considering its age and fragile nature, the piece is remarkably well-preserved having resided undisturbed within a folded piece of laid paper for several generations.

For comparison see items T.150-1963 and T.44-1962 in the V & A Museum Collection.

Item Ref. 6699

Size: approx. 145 x 31mm (5¾ x 1⅛")

Provenance: From a Kent Manor House