I wrote about Victorian collars last week. Today, I want to discuss Victorian lockets. Many lockets were designed to be worn with the ornate collars but many were sold separately or with a thinner chain. The whole idea of the locket turns around the fact that it could be used to store photos and keepsakes like a lock of hair. The sentimental Victorians loved them. Whilst lockets can take the form of rings, pins, bracelet clasps and brooches, I an focussing here on lockets worn around the neck. Victorians wore their lockets quite high, just below the bottom of the throat because of the dresses they wore.
Lockets were popular before the 19th century. Earlier versions in the 14th century took the form of pomanders which contained sponges soaked with perfume to help avoid the smells in the streets. Elizabethans used lockets as did supporters of Charles I who wanted to preserve momentos of the king.
The Georgians used lockets as mourning jewellery, painting scenes on the front of weeping women standing nest to tombstones or resting on urns. These were covered in glass and the back of the piece contained a lock of hair, often sealed in.
Queen Victoria loved lockets, both to wear and to give away as presents. One of her daughters, Princess Louise, gave them as presents to her bridesmaids in 1871, starting a trend.
Lockets could be made of silver, gold or, once Prince Albert died, jet, vulcanite or tortoiseshell. They could have inset gems, initials (see above), applied motifs like the horseshoe, or engraved, maybe with flowers or with words like ‘Mizpah’. The size varied a lot and so did the construction, with machine made lockets coming onto the market after 1860. Some gold lockets were made with gold front and backs but with metal linings. Some lockets had rock crystal or glass backs through the memento could be seen (probably more accurately described as a pendant); others were hinged and opened up to allow two compartments. One type of locket, the book locket, contains a number of ‘pages’ inside for photos.