One object, many stories: Mourning brooch

  • Date recorded: 23 Apr 2015

  • Duration: 51:30

'In the middle of the 19th century, 50 tonnes of human hair a year was imported into England for use by the country's jewellers.'

– Louise Burnet

About this video

Kaz Cooke, author, cartoonist and 2013 State Library Victoria Creative Fellow, leads this intriguing discussion focusing on a single object from the Library's collection: a mourning brooch made from gold and woven human hair.

She is joined by a panel of experts who help tease out aspects of social history, design and curatorship revealed by the brooch:

  • Jo Ritale – Acting Director Library Services & Experience, State Library Victoria
  • Louise Burnet – gemmologist and co-owner of the French Jewel Box in the Block Arcade
  • Lizzie Anya-Petrivna – Cultural Collections Curator, National Trust of Australia (Victoria)

In this video, Kaz shares the fascinating history behind the brooch, a classic example of Victorian-era mourning jewellery. She also introduces the two women who are integral to its story, Anne Drysdale (1792–1853) and Caroline Newcomb (1812–74), colonial pioneers and life partners who ran a successful sheep farm together on the Bellarine Peninsula.

More to explore