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.

Roman_de_la_poire_heart_metaphor

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.

179px-Royal_Banner_of_Denmark_(14th_Century).svg

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

04c854bac737cc206c5f624bb41e0844--sits-arrow

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. 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. 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.

cartierheart

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

VICTORIAN+HEART-SHAPED+LOCKET+PENDANT

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/

image

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

Opal+necklace,+c.+1900+christies

Opal necklace circa 1900 Source Pinterest (Christies auction)

ANTIQUE+OPAL+AND+DIAMOND+NECKLACE

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/

ANTIQUE+DIAMOND+BROOCH-PENDANT

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.

Three Treasures for February

Three Treasures for February

Art Deco Amethyst 8 k Gold Drop Earrings

amethyst earrings

Here are some hallmarked 8 karat yellow gold and amethyst drop earrings. They are very feminine, magical, utterly stylish and catch the light beautifully.  Late Art Deco, probably 1925-1940.

Click here for more details

Amethyst is February’s birthstone so these would make a great gift for yourself or someone else who has a birthday this month!


Art Deco 14k Amber Gold Earrings

amber gold

Here are some gorgeous Art Deco 14 karat gold and amber earrings. They are simply beautiful and full of character in a very ‘Art Deco’ drop shape. The amber is remarkably clear and lacking in inclusions which is generally thought to be the most sought after type.

Click here for more details


 

Victorian Coral 14 k Seed Pearl Earrings

new coral seed

Here are some classic, petite, 14 k rose gold (not hallmarked) and natural salmon coral and seed pearl button drop front fastening earrings. Personally, I am addicted to this gorgeous style of earring and these are a fine and lovely example.

Please note: These are tiny earrings and would suit someone who loves petite earrings. They would also look lovely on a child or teenager.

Era: Probably mid to late 1800s.

Click here for more details

Victorian Coral 14 k Seed Pearl Earrings

Victorian Coral 14 k Seed Pearl Earrings.jpg

Here are some classic, petite, 14 k rose gold (not hallmarked) and natural salmon coral and seed pearl button drop front fastening earrings. Personally, I am addicted to this gorgeous style of earring and these are a fine and lovely example.

Please note: These are tiny earrings and would suit someone who loves petite earrings. They would also look lovely on a child or teenager.

Era: Probably mid to late 1800s.

Click here for more details

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.

Art Deco Red Spinel 14 k Gold Earrings.png

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

 

Art Nouveau 14 k Gold Garnet Earrings.png

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

 

Victorian Diamond Earrings.png

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

 

Art Deco Enamel Snake Necklace.png

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

il_570xN.1314951511_q84x

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

1515047763404

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’.

crossed+oars

Photo source: Spielman Antiques

 

 

DOGS

A dog symbolised loyalty and friendship.

Micro_Mosaic_Brooch

Victorian Dog Motif Brooch. Lang’s Antiques.

FIGURE EIGHTS

Figure eights symbolised eternity or ‘infinity’.

a5f648a1fa8574bdf75a936cb6022b94--antique-jewelry-clips

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

language+of+flowers

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.

5c9d3af74560001df6fd89276e3c2e97--victorian-jewelry-antique-jewelry

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

bordermotif17_meander

 

GRIFFINS

The mythical griffin represented courage.

5-1l

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

262-0l

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.

56-1l

Victorian Heart Earrings. Elder and Bloom.

 

HORSESHOE

Horseshoes symbolised good luck and fortune.

s-l400

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’.

3b5c16e16bb659259c2ce1bf1827f259

Victorian Key Pendant. Source: Butter Lane Antiques.

LIZARDS

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

db2984e0104760033147de4bb9b09477-2

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

Unknown

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

SCARAB

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

1acef5955fc432fdba2cd89d58002667--victorian-jewelry-vintage-jewellery

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.

s-l400-1

Victorian Four-Leaved Clover Brooch. Source: Ebay

 

SNAKES  

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

victorian+gold+serpent+ring

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

2006AA6672_jpg_ds

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.

32_1352309911_3

Victorian turquoise set swallow or bluebird brooch

s-l225

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’.

s-l400

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.

il_570xN.1314951511_q84x

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.’

s-l1600-2

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.

 

5-1l

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

SWAN

Swans were symbolic of ‘purity and grace’.

2-1l

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

HUMMING BIRD

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

240-1l-jpg

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.

8-1l-jpg

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

LOVE BIRDS

Love birds signified faithfulness, eternal love and marriage

16988afc8ab78286eb5371c23384201b

Victorian ‘love bird’ brooch.

BLACKBIRDS

Blackbirds were worn during mourning.

e9f4579cf394be4a4fa7310572375397--feather-jewelry-bird-jewelry

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.

b73614075e867d268545bed76114d656--feather-jewelry-bird-jewelry

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.