Friday, January 25, 2013

Collecting Sentimental Jewelry

Sparkling gemstones have captured peoples imaginations from ancient times right up to the twenty-first century. From the earliest of times gems have been given special significance and powers. They have been associated with gods and planets, connections and emotions, human traits and animal instincts. The Georgians attached superstitions to certain gems, wore mourning and remembrance jewelry and expressed their feelings in gifts of flowers and gems that conveyed special meanings.
Georgian Heart Pins
The Victorians continued those traditions, most notably in the mourning jewelry that became the fashion after the death of Queen Elizabeth’s husband Prince Albert.
Victorian Mourning Brooch with Braided Hair
Sentimental jewelry has taken many forms over time. Lockets were a popular jewelry choice for centuries. By the end of the Victorian era, lockets had become a very romantic symbol. Many were in the shape of hearts. These were expected to be worn near the wearer's heart so that the lovers would be forever close. (See my earlier blog post about lockets.)
Beautiful Victorian Locket
While photography served to increase the popularity of lockets, all forms of portrait jewelry were wildly embraced by late-Victorian society. Miniature portraits and paintings on ceramic or ivory were special pieces, while photographs held in pins behind thin sheets of celluloid were abundant. Many times this portraiture was combined with lockets or remembrance jewelry with locks of hair.
Portrait Chatelaine Pin Hand Painted on Ivory
Georgian Era Remembrance Pendants
My favorite form of sentimental jewelry are the acrostic pieces, where the stones “speak” through their arrangement in the jewelry, with the first letter of the name of each stone spelling an acrostic motto. Acrostic jewelry appears to have begun in France around 1800, and its popularity spread to England and America. Acrostic jewelry spoke to a romantic sensibility reminding one to regard the giver through short phrases or words. Common sentiments were REGARD, LOVE, DEAREST, as well as names. For example, REGARD may be formed by these stones:
Ruby, Emerald, Garnet, Amethyst, Ruby, Diamond
Regard Brooch
This ring spells ADORE Amethyst • Diamond • Opal • Ruby • Emerald

Acrostic Brooch spelling AGNES 
Aquamarine • Garnet • Natrolite • Emerald • Sapphire
The stones on this music box pendant spell out DEAREST
Diamond • Emerald • Amethyst • Ruby •
Emerald • Sapphire • Topaz
Chart Courtesy of Land Jewelers / American Jewelry University
Sentimental jewelry is something that we always look for, but due to the nature of items such as mourning or acrostic jewelry we do not always have them in stock. However, we do have quite a few lockets available in the shop. With Valentine's Day upon us, one of these might just be the perfect gift. It never hurts to say it with jewelry!
Beautiful Lockets
Visit our antique sales site online for a wonderful selection of vintage and antique jewelry. As usual, we have many more pieces in the shop, so contact us with requests.

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