Netflix’s hit series Wednesday has garnered record views (have you seen the viral dance scene?) and catapulted its lead star Jenna Ortega into the fashion stratosphere—and revitalized gothic fashion in the mainstream along the way.
Ortega, who plays the titular character Wednesday Addams of the iconic Addams family, and her stylist Enrique Melendez have crafted a string of memorable press tour looks to rival—and dare we say, impress—those of her onscreen alter ego. Head-to-toe black ensembles evoke the famously colour-averse child of woe, while the mesmerizing natural diamond jewellery is all Ortega. Glittering gems from the likes of Tiffany & Co. (the actress is often spotted in their tennis necklaces), Bulgari, and Delfina Delettrez finished her vampy looks and cemented the “glam” in goth glamour.
And Ortega isn’t the only one feeling the dark side recently. January Jones commanded attention at the Empire of Light movie premiere in a hooded Rodarte column gown, which was dramatic enough on its own, but became more alluring with the addition of the cascading Delfina Delettrez natural diamond earrings and rings.
Elsewhere, the softer side of the trend is demonstrated by Alexandra Daddario at the premiere of her upcoming Mayfair Witches series on AMC. The actress cast a spell in a dazzling headband-turned-choker featuring about 28 carats of collet-set, old mine cut diamonds to complement her lacy Dior frock. In fact, the convertible piece (along with the diamond rings) sourced from Jewels by Grace dates back over 100 years to a notable period in fashion history.
The modern-day scream queens may be embracing goth chic, but the aesthetic also calls to mind another queen, the dark days of her reign, and the enduring style of jewellery it bred.
To pay tribute to her husband Albert who died in 1861, Queen Victoria led the country in a 40 years-long period of mourning during the second half of the 19th century. She expressed her bereavement for her beloved through fashion, cloaked in black garb to reflect the mood. The restraint of the dark attire proved to be a compelling canvas for spectacular jewels.
“She was the original ‘influencer’ and started the trend for mourning jewellery as fashion,” says Nicole Corsini, Marketing Director of Lang Antiques in San Francisco, which carries a vast selection of original Victorian jewellery.
Previously a somber statement to commemorate dearly departed individuals, mourning jewellery became a romantic proclamation to preserve one’s love story under the influence of the grieving monarch. The jewellery aficionado commissioned beautifully intricate pieces studded with sparkling natural diamonds and gemstones, and steeped with meaning.
“There were many motifs common to Victorian mourning jewellery,” Corsini elaborates. “Sometimes the elements were chosen for their symbolic names, like ‘weeping’ willows or ‘forget-me-not’ flowers. Pearls and diamonds were used to represent tears. Black enamel was generally used in tribute jewellery for adults, while white enamel symbolized the purity of a child or unmarried person. It was common to use the hair of the deceased, either in braided designs or as the actual art medium.”
While Victorian mourning jewellery is decidedly sentimental and for the poetic at heart, Wednesday Addams would certainly be fascinated with a similar style of jewellery known as memento mori. Tracing back to the 16th century and translated from Latin to mean “remember you will die,” the spooky pieces are less sinister than they appear.
“Despite the reference to death and the somewhat macabre motifs like skulls and skeletons, the intent of this jewellery was actually more hopeful—as a reminder to live every moment of life fully,” explains Corsini, who also notes that the pieces were typically gold with enamel design and may have incorporated rose, single or old mine cut diamonds.
Cut to the present. Imbued with history, antique mourning and memento mori jewellery continue to intrigue and inspire. Designers and jewellers are offering reworked or modern iterations to a new crop of jewellery collectors who can’t resist the undeniable romance of natural diamond jewellery—and appreciate that beauty can be found in darkness.