Lockets

A locket can be defined as a receptacle in which a photograph, a lock of hair, a portrait or other sentimental or religious item or memento can be contained.  Lockets can be closed, or open with the memento either exposed or protected under glass, plastic (in more recent times) or rock crystal. Usually worn as pendants, lockets can also come in brooch, ring or possibly bracelet form. Lockets were extremely popular in the Georgian and Victorian era, appealing to the romantic, loving and extremely sentimental nature of the people of those eras.  Lockets continued to be popular right up until the late 1950s.  Although still worn today, they are now somewhat less ubiquitous. Here are some different types of lockets below.

Painted Miniature Lockets

Although hand-painted miniatures were more popular before the first daguerrotype photographs were patented in 1839, they did continue to be popular into the early part of the 20th century.

Locket

England, c. 1816.
Locket, enameled gold set with a miniature
V&A Museum

Miniature - Double-sided locket containing two portrait minitures of unknown girls

England, c. 1904
Pendant, watercolor on ivory
V&A Museum

Photographs

The first daguerreotype photograph was patented in 1837. Wearing photographs of loved ones in lockets soon became very popular and continued until the present era.

Locket

England c. 1891-1892
Silver, with photograph
V&A Museum

Hair

Hair belonging to loved ones, alive or deceased, could be incorporated in jewelry in a variety of ways.  It could be worn inside the locket, or in a special compartment in the back, or woven or braided to create the jewelry itself, or used in tiny paintings, often on ivory.

Locket

England, c. 1784
Engraved and enamelled gold set with seed pearls and hair
V&A Museum

Locket

England, c. 1750
Gold with openwork set with garnets enclosing a painting on ivory incorporating hair, the back set with agate
V&A Museum

Memorial Lockets

There are many surviving examples of memorial lockets for the dead, particularly from England.  Many of them have names and the dates of death.  They first emerged around 1760. The lockets of that era were often bought ready made and then customized for the individual.  Neo-classical themes were common, in particular cherubs, urns, plinths and obelisks. Angels and weeping willows were also common motifs. Hair from the deceased person was often incorporated. Later on, simpler memorial designs, such as the winged heart below, became popular.

Locket

England, c. 1775-1899
Engraved gold with enamel, ivory painted in watercolour with a miniature, gold wire and pearls
V&A Museum

Late Victorian Mourning Locket, Christie’s Sale 5936

Locket Brooches

Lockets were often worn as brooches, either open or closed.

Locket brooch

USA, c. 1850
Gold, rock, locket brooch
V&A Museum

Lover’s Eyes Lockets

Lover’s Eyes Jewelry were popular in the Georgian era. These were a truly charming and very compelling form of jewelry in which a miniature portrait of a loved one’s eye was worn in a pendant or as a brooch.  Genuine Lover’s Eye jewelery is very much a collector’s item today.

Locket

England, c. 1800
Gold set with pearls
V&A Museum

Religious

Religious motifs were popular in lockets.

Locket

France, c. 1700-1794
Locket, Enameled Gold
V&A Museum

Navette Shaped

Navette shaped jewelry is associated with the Georgian era, but has continued to be popular until today.

A Victorian gold, diamond and enamel locket pendant

C. 1890
Gold, diamond and enamel locket pendant
Christie’s Sale 5380

Enamel

There are many examples of beautifully enameled lockets.

Locket

Paris, c. 1867
Locket, gold and cloisonné enamel
V&A Museum

Locket

Europe, c. 1850-1900
Enamelled gold (émail en résille sur verre)
and baroque pearl
V&A Museum

Neo-Classical

Classical Motifs and Micro-mosaic were popular in lockets.  Much of it was brought back from Italy during the ‘Grand Tour’ era.

Locket

Rome, c. 1860
Gold, Micromosaic locket
V&A Museum

Padlocks

Lockets in the form of padlocks were popular since at least 1840 and probably before.

Locket

England, c. 1840
Locket, gold, turquoise, ruby, emerald, garnet, amethyst and diamond
V&A Museum

Heart-shaped

Heart-shaped lockets have been especially popular for a very long time. Earlier heart-shaped jewelry had a tendency to have longer hearts with less of a pronounced indentation in the top.

A victorian locket and chain

C. 1850, Heart Shaped Locket and Chain.
Christie’s Sale 5893

Locket

England, c. 1775-1800
Locket, gold set with seed pearls
V&A Museum

Sources / further reading:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/roadshow/tips/loverseyes.html

http://www.langantiques.com/university/index.php/Lover%27s_Eye_Miniature