Items of jewellery are of course personal possessions, but the locket is perhaps the most personal of all classic jewellery pieces. Lockets encapsulate a tiny secret, known sometimes only to the wearer. Often worn close to the heart, they provide a glimpse of who the wearer holds dear – as though the locket is an extension of the heart itself.
Traditionally, lockets enclose a celebration of love. Be it of the romantic, or familial kind, or even of a beloved pet – wearing a locket is said to be a declaration of an ongoing, enduring love. Sometimes too, they are worn as a bittersweet memento of a past, unrequited, or lost love.
Historically, lockets have contained miniature portraits of a loved one, or even a lock of their hair. They have also been known to house other tiny sentimental objects, such as handwritten love notes. It wasn’t unusual for antique lockets to encase pieces of scented fabric, nor was it unheard of for a Victorian locket to contain funeral ashes of the deceased loved one.
Lockets are generally worn on a longer chain enabling the wearer to open and peer at the contents whilst still wearing the locket. Some however, are designed as bracelets, fobs or rings, but the pendant locket remains the most popular and suitable for every day wear.
Famously, Queen Elizabeth I wore a secret locket-style ring. Its contents were only revealed when the ring was removed from her finger after her death in 1603. The ring had a secret compartment containing two miniature portraits – thought to be herself as a toddler, and her mother, Anne Boleyn, who was beheaded on the command of her husband, King Henry VIII when Queen Elizabeth I would only have been around two-years-old.
These days, it’s more commonplace to insert a small photograph, or to have the inside of the locket engraved with a significant date. In today’s society, when photos, feelings, thoughts and declarations of love are commonly splashed nonchalantly and publicly on social media profiles, it’s refreshing how lockets retain a distinct sense of privacy and allow for romantic sentiments to be expressed in the ‘good old-fashioned’ way!
Have you ever met someone who is wearing a locket and you are curious to know what’s inside? It’s not something you would necessarily ask someone you’d only just met. Wearing or giving a locket is an intimate statement and it fosters a sense of mystery.
The benefit of gifting vintage lockets whether to yourself or to a special someone, is that pre-loved pieces tend to be in very good condition. Typically, they are highly treasured items, meaning they have been well cared for by their previous owners. And because the surface areas of lockets can offer ‘a blank canvas’ they are often exquisitely decorative – each a little work of art, often featuring intricate engravings, pictorial representations, or encrusted with gorgeous gems.
Most vintage lockets can be personalised – frequently they are set with a small piece of glass behind which you can insert a little photo or message of your own. You will need to gently prise open the glass and lever out any existing contents before a new photo or piece of paper can be carefully slotted into place and secured when the glass is repositioned. You should be able to do this yourself, very attentively, with the help of a pair of tweezers or a pin, for example.
Lockets make a highly desirable and personalised gift. Fierce, unrelenting, and passionate love seem to be the dominant emotions motivating such a timeless gesture.
Antique Jewellery Online has sourced an intriguing collection of lockets and we hope you will enjoy browsing and speculating about their past and their future.