From the 17th century to the 19th century, the giving and the exchanging of sentimental jewellery was common. The reasons may have been to express love or affection to family or friends, to lovers, to indicate adherence to a cause one believed in, respect for a sovereign or to remember a loved one who had died.
Jewellery contained messages in a number of different ways. The message in a heart shaped brooch or pendant could be easy to decipher as the heart represented love.
A heart with a crown above it, as in the claddagh ring at the top of the post, meant ‘loyalty’ or ‘ruler of my heart’. A lyre or harp means ‘constant love’.
Rings and brooches with the word ‘Mizpah’ engraved on it were very sentimental. The name ‘Mizpah’ is taken from Genesis 31.49: ‘It was also called Mizpah, (which means watchtower) because he said, May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other’. They were often given were couples were to be parted, perhaps by war. According to ‘The Englishwomen’s Domestic Magazine’ in 1874, Mizpah rings and brooches were given as valentines.
Part II continues next week.