Lockets have been popular jewelry pieces for centuries. But did you know that throughout history their primary purpose has been to provide a private place for carrying treasures? Sort of like a small pocket or purse kept close to the heart.
In the days of religious pilgrimages, a person might touch a small cloth to a relic and then carry the cloth in a locket. And in days when personal hygiene was, um, a bit less - thorough - than today, lockets held perfume or scented cloth so that courtly ladies could freshen up as needed!
But it was two famous English queens who made lockets popular for carrying mementos of loved ones close to the heart. Elizabeth I wore a locket ring that contained a miniature painting of her mother, Anne Boleyn. She is said also to have given lockets containing her own miniature portrait as gifts to favorites in her court.
It was Queen Victoria, however, who made lockets popular among the masses. She received one from her parents as a very young girl, and another from her beloved Prince Albert. Her husband’s included a heart for each of their children, and tucked into each heart was a lock of the child’s hair.
When Albert died, Victoria went into a state of perpetual mourning, always wearing a locket that contained a lock of hair from her beloved prince. This began a rather macabre trend known as “Mourning Lockets,” which sometimes even contained the deceased’s ashes or some soil from the burial site.
After the advent of photography in the 19th century, lower classes were able to add photos of loved ones to their lockets as reminders of their enduring love. And by the start of the 20th century, lockets could be manufactured cheaply for the general public. During World War I, countless American soldiers gave lockets containing their own pictures as gifts to their sweethearts back home.
Lockets have continued to serve us as pockets for keepsakes, from tiny keys to bits of clothing to folded poems and messages. Today, much of the romantic connotation has been lost, but lockets continue to evolve as pieces of personal expression, sometimes even with clear fronts that display contents such as beads and charms.
Whatever the purpose, lockets make unique gifts for friends and loved ones, and they have the added advantage of secretly carrying our personal treasures close to our hearts.
Do you have a favorite locket story to share? We’d love to hear from you!