Dezeen Magazine

Black Widow by Gisele Ganne

Designer Gisele Ganne has created a range of jewellery exploring the social symbols of death, mourning and divorce.


Ganne exhibited the project at the Royal College of Art Show One in June.


Among the pieces on show were a collection of jewellery for widows to wear in remembrance of their partner and a range of Divorce Rings, symbolising the end of a marriage.


"My mourning jewellery illustrates different forms of death," says Ganne.


"Each piece tells a story about the deceased and their widow. The widow of the deceased can wear the jewellery in his memory, or in memory of the manner in which he died."


The divorce rings (below) are a macabre take on the French tradition of the bride's globe, an object usually given to a bride on her wedding day to hold her crown and bouquet.


Here is some more info from the designer:


Mourning or memorial jewellery has been worn for centuries, especially during the Victorian era where funerals and the events attached to burying, immortalizing, and remembering the dead were of much importance. Common symbols used in mourning jewellery included forget-me-nots, flowers, hair of a loved one, hearts, crosses, ivy leaves, and more macabre symbols such as skulls, coffins and gravestones.


I refer to these and expound upon them, glamorizing death to the level of Haute Couture Catwalk. I refer as well to other old or ethnic customs such as the Andaman (it is a little community in Bengal where the widow takes the skull of their husband after the burial to wear it as a necklace), urban legends as the Black Widow who kills her husbands for their money and historical events such as crimes, serial killers, and suicides.


But mourning is not just about dead people; it is also about dead relationships and decaying marriages. Today, 42% of marriages finish in divorce in the UK and 38% in France. My divorce jewellery refers to old and contemporary wedding customs to illustrate this sort of mourning. Being French, most of these customs come from France, such as the Bride Globe which is a present to the bride to put her bouquet and her crown after the wedding. All the decorations inside symbolize the union and give luck to the marriage. I use union and marriage symbols and subvert them to show the inevitability of the breakup, but also show that from these ashes may raise a new life.

The materials used are mainly leather, sequins, foam, human hair and silver. I am interested in the symbolic and mythical function associated with the materials I use. Through the mixture of these materials combined with the celebrities or models that will wear them, I aim to create a sort of pop voodoo, or decadent curse. And by wearing this jewelry we can morn the death of the celebrity icons we love as they pass on in the coming years.

In Victorian times, death provided an opportunity for people to display their anguish through various plumage and adornments. My intention is to come back to this spirit, to celebrate death and decay for the power that it holds over life. Imposing and visually heavy, my jewellery pieces symbolize the weight of death and act as a ‘Memento Mori', reminding us that we all must die.

The next step of my work is to use some colors. Traditionally, in Western societies, wearing black was associated with mourning. The widow would dress in black for two years and the widower for one year. Today, we still wear black during the funeral but this tradition is not as strong as it was in the past. In our contemporary society everybody wears black and it is no longer a recognizable mark of mourning.

People wear color during mourning as well. In other cultures some colors are related to death and the mourning, for example in China where they wear red for the funeral. So my new collection will still be mourning jewellery but will be more colorful.