Guest post from Lidy Baars, antiques dealer with FrenchGardenHouse.com
There is nothing more romantic than wearing a reminder of someone you love close to your heart. For centuries, the locket—a pendant that opens up to reveal a small space to insert a portrait, lock of hair, or tiny love letter—has been a lady’s favorite accessory to do just that.
Lockets evolved from ancient amulets. European designs for lockets appear to date to the 16th century, when small pendants were worn to conceal good luck charms, small fabric squares soaked in perfume to ward off the poor smells on public thoroughfares, painted portraits, and even, on occasion, poison.
Queen Elizabeth I of England wore her locket ring daily; it contained a painted portrait of her mother, Anne Boleyn, and herself. She often gifted those in her inner circle with a jeweled locket containing her portrait.
The Elizabethans were enamored with lockets, and the artists who painted the miniature portraits contained within them were the best artists of their time. The portraits for the lockets, as well as the lockets themselves, were only for the very wealthy as they were costly.
Lockets became a “must-have” fashion accessory during the Victorian era. Prince Albert gifted his beloved Victoria with a bracelet that had eight lockets, filled with a lock of hair from each of their eight children. Victorian ladies wore lockets on chains or velvet ribbons. Once Albert died, Queen Victoria wore a mourning locket with a photo of him inside every day, setting a fashion trend. Mourning lockets were often made from black bog oak, like the one shown below with the sterling initials on the front.
Lockets come in a variety of qualities: gold with diamonds and other precious stones, gold filled, gold tone, sterling silver, and silver tone. Some lockets have glass, some have celluloid covers, and some were made and sold without any covering for the photo spaces.
Whether you are a collector or someone who loves antique jewelry, lockets are a wonderful and personal way to display your personal style. Highly collectable, expect to pay a few hundred dollars for gold filled or sterling lockets; real gold and diamond lockets will command thousands.
I am always on the hunt for antique Victorian lockets and try to have a good selection available in my shop.
Here are my tips on what to look for when buying antique lockets:
- Look for lockets in good condition.
- Check the hinges, the finish, and the interior compartments.
- Try to avoid lockets with deep scratches or damage.
- Buy only pieces you love, and you will have a sentimental, personal addition to your jewelry collection.