Now more than ever we need our loved ones close for support and warmth and it is not always possible. This month’s article is dedicated to a piece of jewellery that has withstood the test of time and helped people of all walks of life through challenging times.
The locket, usually a pendant that opens up to reveal a small space to insert a portrait, lock of hair, or small love note, has been a treasured piece of jewellery for centuries, and a way to feel connected even if miles apart. Lockets are thought to have evolved from ancient Roman amulets given to victor-generals. European designs are thought to date to the 16th century, when small pendants were worn to conceal good luck charms, small fabric squares soaked in perfume and painted portraits.
Trough out history, lockets have been worn by both men and women. They were not exclusively worn around the neck, often they were worn as rings, watch fobs or as brooches. One of the most famous lockets was worn by Elizabeth I, a locket ring commissioned for her around 1575. It contained two portraits, one of herself and one of her late mother Anne Boleyn. The ring was made from a band of mother of pearl and gold which was set with diamonds and rubies. Another famous locket dates from the late 16th century, known as the ‘Penicuik Locket’, which is thought to have belonged to Mary Queen of Scots. The locket features two hand-painted miniature portraits believed to be that of Mary and her son James. The famous locket is now displayed in the Scottish National Museum
Early century lockets were lavish jewellery pieces, which only the privileged and wealthy could afford. Members of the aristocracy were commissioning the leading artists of the time to hand paint, miniature portraits to place inside their lockets. It wasn’t until much later in time and after the introduction of photography in the late 19th century/early 20th century, that lockets became more affordable to the masses. People began to use locket necklace as vessels for the memory of relatives and loved ones lost in wars.
The history of the locket is a rich and colourful one, it is closely intertwined with our memories, hopes and dreams. It is a piece of jewellery that starts off with a single memory yet when it continues on its journey through the years, collects family tales that become heart-warming stories that represent a virtual bridge trough time and space.