Posted on October 29, 2015 by Mary Hood | 0 Comments
The heart symbol originated during the Medieval period (5th – 15th centuries) and initially represented spiritual love and devotion. (Read more about the origin of the heart symbol.) It wasn’t long before the heart came to symbolize various kinds of love. During the 16th and17th centuries, the heart symbol was born into the popular lexicon to signify romantic, secular, and familial love in addition to its original spiritual associations.
Around this time, the heart symbol found its way into jewelry. Rock crystal hearts were a popular Stuart jewel initially created to honor Charles I (1600-1649). Over the course of the next century, Georgian sentimental jewelry was born, and these heart-shaped lockets were used as tokens of affection. Many of these lockets contained a lock of hair from a loved one. If a crystal locket was left empty, it signified truth and purity. A crown sitting atop a locket symbolized loyalty.
Bow Heart Locket, c1700
Antique 18K Gold Stuart Crystal Mourning Heart-Shaped Urn & Hair Locket, c 1700
Mourning Crystal “Georgian” Heart, c1700
The open-style Georgian brooch was almost always made with garnets and associated with love and affection. These pieces were typically small and worn as lace pins (i.e. used to hold a piece of lace or fichu in place). During the 17th and 18th centuries, the heart symbol was usually depicted with a shallow center cleft (a contrast from the deeper center cleft common to the contemporary version of heart symbol).
A variation on the Georgian open heart brooch was the witch’s heart. In these pieces, the tail of the heart twist to one direction (usually the right). This style gained popularity in Scotland in the 17th century and was named “Luckenbooth” after the closed booths in Edinburgh where they were sold. Witch’s hearts were initially worn to protect loved ones from evil spirits. Tiny witch’s hearts were pinned to baby’s blankets to ward off dark forces.