Early 19th-Century Double-Heart Mourning Pendant

Value (2003) | $3,000 Auction$5,000 Auction

I had a friend who was an antique dealer and when she was in her late 80s, she started selling some things from her house. And she told me she bought it in the Northeast 60 years ago. I did a little research. I find that all of the Eliphat Allens are at whaling ports-- New London, Barnstable, Massachusetts.

What do you think this is?

Well, I think it's a scrimshaw memory piece.

Uh-huh. Well, this is such a great piece of memory jewelry memorializing this man's life. It's just so neat, because typically, what we see are full-blown pictures, either in paper or silk, which are memorials. And this is really a piece of mourning jewelry. It's done as a double heart. And you know that somebody's heart was broken when this man died. Especially in the early 19th century-- the sense of death and the kind of resignation to "this is the passing to another vale" is absolutely imbued in the inscription here. It says, "Beauty and youth in vain to those you trust, for youth and beauty shall be laid in dust." I mean, that's horrible. I mean, but they're saying, you know, he is on to a better life. And that was very much that sense of that New England Congregational faith-- that this was a transitory moment. So they would say something like that about someone they deeply loved and were probably crushed when they died. And if we look here, and turn it over on the other side, you can see how they put all the little elements that we associate with mourning jewelry in even a piece this small. You have the weeping willow, and... right here. Then you have the mourning dove here. Then you've got the sun and the moon and you've got the ship, again, sailing away. All these elements, again, you typically find in large mourning portraits. But the carver of this put them in this wonderful interlaced heart. Do you have any sense of value? I mean, what did you have to give for it 20 years ago?

$250. But I have no idea what value it is today, if that much.

Well, the neat thing is I showed this to two of the other appraisers, both New Englanders. And we all looked at it and we all were scratching our heads, because we're sitting there going, "Wow... What is it?" And we're all of agreement that if this were to come up on auction or a very nice show, we would easily have this for sale for about $3,000 to $5,000.

That's nice. That's good.

Appraisal Details

J. M. Flanigan American Antiques
Baltimore, MD
Appraised value (2003)
$3,000 Auction$5,000 Auction
Chicago, IL (July 26, 2003)
Folk Art

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