Keeping Memories Close to the Chest: A Brief History of Lockets

Are you interested in purchasing a locket for yourself or a loved one? Not only are these pieces of jewelry beautiful and come in many different forms to match your own aesthetic tastes, but they also have a varied and rich history. Whether you’re buying one for a meaningful event or relationship, a locket can act as a small, beautiful time capsule.

Read on to learn all about the history of the locket here and the different types you can purchase today! 

History of the Locket

Lockets are pendants that open to hold small portraits, locks of hair, or tiny notes of love. They could also be in the form of bracelets or rings. 

The Beginnings

Many people believe that lockets are a natural evolution of Ancient Greek and Roman amulets. Amulets were special ornaments that were worn as a precious keepsake or as a way to ward off disease and evil. Lockets developed in order to hold special memories and people close to a person’s heart. 

Although lockets became the most prevalent in the 19th century, they can be spotted as early as the 16th century in European designs. In the densely packed and disease-ridden cities, lockets were able to hold strong herbal scents to mask the putrid stench from the streets.

They could hold charms to ward off disease or simply bring comfort with the portrait of a loved one. 

In 1575, Queen Elizabeth I had a ring locket commissioned that held her portrait as well as her mother’s, Anne Boleyn. 

18th and 19th Centuries 

In the 18th and 19th centuries, “fallen women” lockets became more prevalent. In those days, having a baby out of wedlock was extremely stigmatized, to the point that many women felt forced to give their babies up to foundling hospitals or else face the social consequences. 

At these hospitals, women were issued lockets with identical leaves. When they left their babies the leaves of the lockets were separated, with one given to their baby. If they came back to reclaim their baby, the matching lockets would help identify them as the mother. 

As the 18th century progressed, lockets became more widely used as professions of love. As photography became more prevalent and easily accessible, so did photo lockets. 

English Queen Victoria helped popularize lockets with her subjects, as she wore embellished ones containing photos frequently during her outings. 

Types of Lockets

Lockets are now prevalent styles of jewelry and they’ve exploded with different shapes, designs, colors, and more. Remember that they can also come in silver, gold, and other precious metals. Some are ornate and highly decorated while others are minimalist and modern. Here are some different types of lockets that you can choose from: 

Keepsake Lockets

These are perfect gifts to commemorate special occasions, such as a birth, wedding, birthday, or first communion. They can be fairly large lockets with enough space to hold a piece of hair or a small note. Their most common use, however, is to place small photos inside so that a loved one can be held close to your heart. 

Perfume Lockets

If you’ve read the history of lockets above, you’ll remember that lockets were once used to carry perfumed fabric or herbal essences to mask other unpleasant smells. You can still find these today!

They often have intricate designs that harken back to the 15th century. Their filigree-style openings allow the scent to flow out easily while keeping your perfumed fabric square in place. 

Vintage Daguerreotype Locket

daguerreotype describes the 19th-century process of creating a photograph named after the inventor, Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre. These lockets became very popular in North American in the Civil War and can still be found in antique or thrift shops.

Their exteriors are typically very ornate, and if you’re a fan of history, their photographs of real people that lived in those times allow you to own a piece of days past.

Floating Lockets

This is a recent emergence that has taken off in a huge way. Floating charm lockets tend to look modern and fresh. They get their “floating” name because the charms within their circles seem to be floating in the middle. 

The best part about these lockets is that they can be highly personalized; there’s a near limitless amount of charms that you can choose from to place inside your locket. Some themes that the charms come in are:

  • Animals & Nature
  • Causes
  • Religion
  • Family
  • Beauty 
  • Food
  • Love
  • Sports
  • Patriotic

Just like the lockets, they also come in a variety of colors with different embellishments or minimalist shapes. Charms make lockets and even more special because of jewelry because they can act as a way to document a person’s life. Some floating lockets are big enough to hold several charms at once, so each one could represent a significant event, beautiful memory, or relationship. 

Beautiful Jewelry Pieces Linked to Memory

If you’re considering purchasing a locket for a loved one or yourself, you have many options to choose from. Some lockets look more formal and embellished than others, such as vintage photo lockets.

Others can be modern and minimalist to the point that they don’t even recognize the lockets that we’re used to. Floating lockets bring playfulness and personalization so that a locket can be enjoyed for years as each individual charm transforms its look. 

Ready to take a look at all the options available to you? Browse our over 500 unique floating charms today!

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