It is strange that something as ordinary and practical as a padlock could become an item of jewellery and, in some cases, a symbol of love. Padlocks are a means of keeping something secure and examples of early forms of padlocks have been found from as early as the Romans. While the Vikings used recognisable padlocks, it was not until the 17th century that the padlock that we use today started to be more widely used.

jet bracelet with clasp 3IMG_4862
Whitby jet padlock, attached to jet bracelet (in Navette on Ruby Lane)

The original 17th century locks have an iron square body with a hinged shackle or shank in a half curve or u shape. A key fits into the body and operates a spring loaded bolt. Later padlocks had shield shaped bodies.

amethyst clasp 1aIMG_5027
Vintage gold amethyst padlock (in Navette on Ruby Lane)

Goldsmiths in the 18th century began to use small ornamental padlocks as jewellery items, turning the shield shaped body into a heart in many instances.

heart padlock 3IMG_3718
Vintage 9ct heart padlock with floral embossing (in Navette on Ruby Lane)

A padlock in the shape of a heart indicates both love and a symbol of lifelong commitment. Some heart padlocks are engraved, others might be gem set. They are often used as bracelet clasps but can be also pendants and charms. Some heart padlocks come with a key hole, and sometimes a tiny key (holding the key to your heart).

Shell chain3 IMG_1842
Victorian heart-shaped gold padlock, with necklace chain (in Navette on Ruby Lane)

Padlocks are associated primarily with bracelets and necklaces as clasps to join two ends together, but can be used as a fob or pendant, or as part of a charm bracelet or necklace. They can be embossed, jewelled, engraved, inset with floral patterns, or initials. They are still popular today.