• The Heart Motif

    The Heart Motif

    A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE HEART SYMBOL

    The familiar heart shape is an  almost universal symbol of love and has deep historical roots. It is thought to have been originally inspired not only by the shape of the actual heart organ, but also by botanical forms such as the ivy and the fruit of the silphium. It is also thought to be a stylised depiction of a woman’s curves.

    Ancient Greek pottery incorporated countless examples of the heart shape and it appeared in early religious art. The heart can be seen in the Istanbul Empress Zoe mosaic dating from 1239 and in stucco reliefs and panels from Persian ruins dating from 90 BC to 637 AD. However, it was not thought to be a metaphor for love until at least 1250, when the earliest known example was shown in an illuminated manuscript.

    It wasn’t until the 15th century, however, that it developed into the symbol of love that we know today. The heart symbol truly came to the forefront during the Renaissance. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the heart symbol exploded in popularity and became a prevalent Valentine’s motif.

    Today, the heart shape is ubiquitous and never seems to decline in popularity or meaning.

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    The earliest known visual depiction of a heart symbol, as a lover hands his heart to the beloved lady, in a manuscript of the Roman de la poire’mid-13th century.

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    Royal Banner of the Kings of Denmark (12th or 13th century). The heart shape was frequently used in heraldic designs.

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    Heart pierced with cupid’s arrow

    THE HEART IN JEWELLERY

    During Georgian and Victorian times, the heart was often found in jewellery pieces given as sentimental gifts between family members, close friends and lovers. Hearts were also often seen in engagement and wedding rings. Heart shaped lockets containing sentimental keepsakes such as hair or miniature portraits were particularly popular. Beginning in the early 1800s, Irish Claddagh ring featured a heart clasped in two hands.  These rings came to be widely used to symbolise friendship and love and are worn as friendship, engagement and wedding rings to this day, particularly in Ireland.

    As was typical of the Victorians, the heart motif had a nuanced meaning depending on its setting and design. For example, two hearts set alongside one another meant ‘betrothed’. Sapphires were added to represent fidelity or rubies for passion. Diamonds symbolised enduring love or eternity. Many Victorian pieces used the heart symbol alongside other symbols, for examples snakes or birds.  If a flame was used, this represented passion or ‘The Sacred Heart of Christ’.  Various flowers could be incorporated into the piece to convey the specific meaning accorded to each flower.

    An ever expressive array of pavé hearts, engraved hearts, hearts encrusted with gems or carved from them adorned the throats, ears, fingers, clothes, bonnets, hair and wrists of our fore-bearers and continued in popularity throughout the 20th century and to this very day.

    Below you will find some examples of beautiful heart pieces used in antique and vintage jewellery.

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    Cartier Diamond Pave Heart Pendant. Elder & Bloom The diamond pave puffy heart by Cartier is an iconic design.

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    Victorian Heart-Shaped Locket Pendant The slightly domed heart-shaped pendant pavé set with graduated half pearls, glazed locket back displaying hairwork, mount engraved ‘Robert George, Aug 26th 93’, on half pearl set bale together with two belcher-link chain necklaces spaced with pearls, pendant length, including bale, 3.7cm. (3) Source: http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/18170/lot/191/

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    A Diamond, Opal, Pearl, Ruby and Enamel Necklace circa 1890: Source: http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/10791/lot/58/

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    Opal necklace circa 1900 Source Pinterest (Christies auction)

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    Made in 15ct gold at the start of the 1900’s, it is set with 6 drop opals with one superb heart shaped opal at the bottom, which is surrounded by 10 diamonds. With a further 8 diamonds along the chain, the diamonds total 0.86 carats, and match so well with the opals. The entire length measures 38.5 cm, and this is a truly spectacular piece that will always be cherished. Source: Kalmar: http://www.kalmarantiques.com.au/product/antique-opal-and-diamond-necklace/

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    An antique diamond brooch/pendant, circa 1900, designed as a stylized heart, the sinuous ribbons of old European-cut diamonds accented by similarly cut diamond-set foliate and floral motifs; Source: http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/23415/lot/5/

    FURTHER READING:

    Lockets

    Symbolism in Victorian Jewellery

    Pave

    The Language of Flowers

    The Language of Stones

    The Language of Birds

    Fede, Claddagh, Gimmel and Puzzle Rings

    © Pippa Gaubert Bear and Elder and Bloom LLC, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pippa Bear and Elder and Bloom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

  • Beautiful New Treasures

    Happy January everyone. It’s snowing here today 🙂 Here is a look at some of the latest treasures – I hope you love them as much as I do.

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    Art Deco Red Spinel 14 k Gold Earrings

    Here are some wonderful vintage 14 karat yellow gold (hallmarked) and what are probably red spinel earrings. They are front fastening and have an à jour setting which means the light shines through them. They have a simple, bold and utterly attractive bezel set design. Click here for more details

     

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    Art Nouveau 14 k Gold Garnet Earrings

    A pair of wonderful antique 14 karat yellow gold (tested, not hallmarked) and garnet earrings. They are back fastening, have an à jour setting which means the light shines through them and a delightful leaf motif with lovely detailing. Click here for more details

     

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    Victorian Diamond Earrings

    Here are some truly stunning Victorian or early Edwardian 14 karat gold and 800 silver diamond earrings. (Not hallmarked but electronically and chemically tested). Click here for more details

     

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    Art Deco Enamel Snake Necklace

    Here is a rare. wonderful and striking Art Deco lariat necklace with a double snake head motif created in cloisonné enamel. Click here for more details

  • Victorian Symbology

    Victorian Symbology

    The Victorians wore jewellery which conveyed nuanced meaning, expressed sentiment and brought fortune. They celebrated life events, friendship, love, and courtship with these designs. Below is a list of motifs and an outline of what they symbolised  for the Victorians. Many of these meanings remain today although others have been lost along the way.

    BIRDS

    Birds had a wide variety of meaning for the Victorians. For example, swallows symbolized love and mating for life.

    Read more about the LANGUAGE OF BIRDS

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    Victorian turquoise and silver bird bangle. Elder & Bloom.

     

     

    CRESCENT MOON AND STARS

    The crescent moon represented a new relationship and the hope it would “wax” into matrimony. Read more about ASTROLOGICAL MOTIFS

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    The simple crescent moon was a popular motif in the late Victorian era
    England, c. 1890
    Gold set with diamonds
    V&A Museum

     

    CROSSED OARS

    Crossed Oars symbolised ‘contentment’.

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    Photo source: Spielman Antiques

     

     

    DOGS

    A dog symbolised loyalty and friendship.

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    Victorian Dog Motif Brooch. Lang’s Antiques.

    FIGURE EIGHTS

    Figure eights symbolised eternity or ‘infinity’.

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    Victorian ‘Figure Eight’ Brooch. Photo Source: Lang Antiques.

     

    FLOWERS

    Flowers and plants had diverse hidden meanings for the Victorians. An entire ‘language of flowers’ was developed, known as ‘Floriography‘.  Read more about the LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS

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    Forget-me-not, rose and acorn motif. The acorn symbolized strength and longevity.
    Paris, c. 1820-1840
    Brooch with gold, diamonds and turquoises.
    V&A Museum

     

    GARTER MOTIF

    The garter symbolised chastity and virtue. The ‘order of the garter’ was an order of chivalry founded by the British monarchy.

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    Garter Motif brooch. Source, Lang Antiques.

     

    GREEK KEYS

    The Greek Key motif symbolised infinity or the ‘eternal flow of things’. Read more about the GREEK KEY MOTIF

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    GRIFFINS

    The mythical griffin represented courage.

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    Victorian Griffin Pendant. Elder and Bloom.

     

    HANDS

    Hands had a variety of different meanings, depending on the form, including affection, strength, family and love.

    See THE HAND MOTIF  See also  FEDE, CLADDAGH, GIMMEL and PUZZLE RINGS

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    Victorian Hand Motif Necklace / Watch Chain. Elder and Bloom.

     

    HEARTS

    These symbolised love, friendship, affection and devotion. Combined hearts and flowers signified fidelity and remembrance.

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    Victorian Heart Earrings. Elder and Bloom.

     

    HORSESHOE

    Horseshoes symbolised good luck and fortune.

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    Victorian Horseshoe Motif Brooch. Source: Ebay.

     

    KEYS

    Keys symbolised knowledge and success and were also given as a ‘coming of age’ gift on the 21st birthday. They also meant ‘you have the key to my heart’.

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    Victorian Key Pendant. Source: Butter Lane Antiques.

    LIZARDS

    A lizard  symbolised ‘wedded bliss’ and was given as wedding or anniversary gifts.

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    A Victorian opal, diamond and ruby salamander brooch, late 19th century.
    Bonhams.

    LOVER’S KNOT

    Lovers’ knots symbolized ‘eternal love,’ ‘fidelity’ and ‘commitment’. See also  FEDE, CLADDAGH, GIMMEL and PUZZLE RINGS

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    Victorian Lover’s Knot Ring. Lang’s Antiques.

    SCARAB

    Scarabs symbolised ‘endurance of the soul.’ They rose to prominence with the ‘Egyptian Revival’ Movements.

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    Victorian Scarab Necklace. Lang’s Antiques.

     

    SHAMROCKS AND FOUR-LEAVED CLOVERS

    Shamrocks and four-leaved clovers symbolised good health, good luck, and happiness. They were very much associated with Ireland and many were produced there. They could often be made with real shamrocks or four-leaved clovers set under clear enamel, rock crystal or glass.

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    Victorian Four-Leaved Clover Brooch. Source: Ebay

     

    SNAKES  

    Snakes symbolised eternal life, sexuality and mystery. Read more about SNAKE MOTIFS

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    Victorian gold serpent ring. Elder and Bloom. 

     

    STONES

    Acrostic jewelry was a way to convey a sentimental message by way with the first letter of each stone, the first letter of which spelled out a word. Read more about the LANGUAGE OF STONES

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    England, c. 1830
    Pendant, gold with lapis lazuli, glass in imitation of opal, garnet, emerald and gold.
    Here, the pendant has the stones of Lapis Lazuli, glass in imitation of Opal, Vermeil ( the old name for garnet ) and Emerald which spell LOVE.
    V&A Museum

    Further reading: https://beautifulantiquetreasures.com/2013/02/21/charm-bracelets/

    © Pippa Gaubert Bear and Elder and Bloom LLC, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pippa Bear and Elder and Bloom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

  • The Language of Birds

    The Language of Birds

    The Victorians assigned symbolism to many things and birds in jewellery held a nuanced and precise meaning. Below is an overview of this meaning.

    SWALLOWS AND BLUEBIRDS

    Both swallows and bluebirds had a special meaning for seafarers because these birds were the first sign that land was near. Swallows were thought to lead ships home and prevent them from being lost. The meaning assigned to these birds became to be ‘safe home’, or ‘to safely return home’ and so they were often given to loved ones when they set out on a journey. They also symbolised ‘heart and home’  and were associated with faithfulness. ‘Messengers of Venus’ was another assigned meaning. Flying birds in general were thought to represent the soul.

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    Victorian turquoise set swallow or bluebird brooch

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    Aesthetic Movement (Late Victorian) ‘Sweetheart Brooch’. Swallows are known to mate for life so were therefore often given to one’s sweetheart. Brooches with the swallow motif are often known as ‘sweetheart brooches’.

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    A blue bird or swallow with a wishbone was  a common design, signifying ‘Wish for lasting love’

    DOVES

    Doves have carried the meaning of hope and peace since ancient times.  During Victorian times, they were often shown with the word pax (the Latin word for peace) holding an olive branch in their beak. The dove was a symbol of faith and was meant to represent The Holy Spirit.  The French ‘Saint Esprit’ or ‘Holy Spirit dove’ could often be depicted descending from heaven to earth with wings spread. Doves were often pavé set with turquoise, which was meant to bring luck to the wearer. When the dove held a heart in its beak, it symbolised love.

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    Victorian Turquoise Pavé dove bangle. Currently for sale at Elder and Bloom.

    BIRD’S CLAW

    A bird’s claw meant ‘Thinking of you’ or ‘Praying for you.’

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    In Victorian times, actual bird’s claws were sometimes turned into brooches. (One of these will never be sold by Elder and Bloom!)

    PHOENIX

    phoenix represented renewal, resurrection, rebirth and immortality.

    Griffin

    Griffins signified great courage.

     

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    Art Nouveau Griffing locket. Previously sold by Elder and Bloom. For more information see here.

    SWAN

    Swans were symbolic of ‘purity and grace’.

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    Late Victorian swan brooch. Previously for sale at Elder and Bloom.

    HUMMING BIRD

    The meaning of the humming bird was ‘God’s Tiny Miracle’

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    Victorian Hummingbird pendant. Previously for sale at Elder and Bloom.

    PHEASANT

    The pheasant was thought to symbolise nobility, virtue and refinement.  It also evoked the spirit of the countryside.

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    Victorian pique pheasant brooch. Previously for sale by Elder and Bloom.

    LOVE BIRDS

    Love birds signified faithfulness, eternal love and marriage

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    Victorian ‘love bird’ brooch.

    BLACKBIRDS

    Blackbirds were worn during mourning.

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    Victorian Blackbird mourning brooch.

    CROW OR RAVEN

    A crow or raven meant ‘Protection of friends’.

    OWL

    An owl represented vigilance and wisdom.

    PEACOCK

    A peacock represented immortality, beauty and knowledge.

    EAGLE

    An eagle represented nobility, strength, courage, wisdom and power.

    FEATHERS

    Feathers signified ‘obedience’ and could imply the obedience of a wife to her husband or to God.

    PARROT

    Parrots and birds of paradises were also often depicted but I have yet to discern the symbolic meanings.

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    Victorian parrot pendant with real feathers.

    See also:

    The Language of Stones

    The Language of Flowers

    © Pippa Gaubert Bear and Elder and Bloom LLC, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pippa Bear and Elder and Bloom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.