20 June 2013

Lockets: The Pinnacle of Romantic Jewellery

Queen Elizabeth I is recorded to have worn a locket ring with a portrait of her late mother, and the rise to power of the locket as a symbol of intimacy, favour and love has been unstoppable ever since. Lockets were worn by men and women, with men historically wearing them as cufflinks, on bracelets, watch fobs, rings and earrings.

An Art Nouveau, 18carat gold, double sided, locket set diamonds by John-Baptiste Emile Dropsy. This locket depicts a woman sporting a gloriously large hat. French, C1900. From Van Den Bosch Antiques.

But the lockets evolved from ancient amulets surrounded by myths and legends to the most pervasive and versatile piece of jewellery today. In ancient times a pouch or container that held a small collection of meaningful objects or special herbs would be worn around ones neck. Progressively these became recognisable metal lockets carrying important messages or medicine, and soon miniature portraits were added. The lockets themselves were jewel encrusted, and embossed patterns and monograms were engraved on precious metal. Many lockets featured cameos and idealised profiles of people.

A rare 18 carat gold vinaigrette locket which is surmounted by an eagle and mounted with a shield shape bloodstone. The grille inside is beautifully incised. It was made circa 1860. From The Antique Jewellery Company. 

Edwardian Large Gold Masonic Ball. This Masonic ball is unusual because it has been engraved on the outside. They are normally plain. It was made circa 1910-1920 and has hinges which open separately to form a cross. The later examples do not do this. It is 9 carat fold with silver gilt inside. From The Antique Jewellery Company

Prince Albert famously gave Queen Victoria an enamelled bracelet with eight coloured heart shaped lockets containing a lock of each of their children's hair. By the nineteenth century lockets had become heavy pieces of jewellery threaded on velvet ribbons in shapes of hearts, circles, oval or padlocks.
Art Nouveau Silver and Enamel Swivel Locket. The locket is made in the shape of a flower, which swivels open to reveal a locket compartment. From The Antique Jewellery Company

With the advent of photography personal representation was possible on a mass scale and it triggered the biggest transformation in lockets. From an elite overly elaborate item, lockets became some of the most desirable and wide spread pieces of jewellery.

A Jugendstil gold locket and chain by the Gebruder Falk, Fritz and Heinrich Falk, Pforzheim. From Van Den Bosch Antiques

During this period the Romantic Movement was at its height, validating emotions over the scientific rationalisation of nature. Placing emphasis on free expression, closeness to nature, emotions and spontaneity it found expression in familiar objects that would be kept physically nearby ones body.

A beautifully hand carved Whitby jet locket, C1880. From Linda Bee.

This scallop edged Victorian silver locket, hallmarked Birmingham 1882 has an unusual central engraved section. From Aurum

Lockets are an aesthetic statement of enduring feelings of love and devotion. Their link with tradition as well as their infinite guises makes them a perfect gift for most occasions but most especially their originality in conveying personal emotions.

A silver and gold cloisonne enamel locket by George Hunt, shaped similar to a fob watch case, set with a central garnet surrounded by peridots, pearls, white paste, opal and tourmalines. The reverse depicts The Judgment of Paris. The pendant opens to reveal an interior where a photograph can be kept behind the glass pane. From Van Den Bosch Antiques

Vintage Silver Locket. From Ting's Jewellery Box

Vintage Silver Locket. From Ting's Jewellery Box.

For more information visit www.graysantiques.com.

Written by Titika Malkogeorgou.

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