The Fascinating History Behind Lockets

We take a quick look back across history to look at lockets and why they’re such meaningful forms of jewellery.

When we think of lockets, most will immediately think of a sentiment encased within an ornament. This form of jewellery has long been a symbol for carrying a deeper meaning within an ornate case, and most importantly, carried close to the heart.

Whether it’s for romance or for family, lockets have a long history that goes back centuries – some of which go beyond the necklace and many other interesting formats. We take a quick look back across history to look at lockets and why they’re such meaningful forms of jewellery.

A Look Back At Lockets

The Fascinating History Behind Lockets
A single lead shot or musket ball, mounted, with some remnants of gold lace from Admiral Nelson’s uniform, beneath glass in a hinged silver locket with a gilt-metal ropework border and suspension loop. | Image: Royal Collection Trust

The exact time period when lockets were invented is a relative unknown, but it’s thought that they were an evolution of amulets and pendants. These had been popular for a long period running up to the Middle Ages, with special engravings or symbols included.

The first lockets are thought to have served a far more practical purpose than simply carrying sentiment. These were to carry herbs or medicinal supplies, perfumes to combat the lack of hygiene around the times or even poison on occasions.

Each of these items would have been necessary at short notice, so having a handy supply on their person safely stashed away could prove useful in a pinch.

Lockets As Mementos

The Fascinating History Behind Lockets

One of the earliest examples of a locket that served as a memento is the locket ring of Queen Elizabeth I – the Chequers Ring. The ring dates back to 1575 and contained two miniature portraits – one of herself, and the other of her mother Anne Boleyn.

It’s thought that she rarely removed this ring, if at all, due to the incredibly strong sentimental attachment she had to it.

Almost 75 years later, supporters of Charles I was said to have worn lockets containing his portrait or a lock of his hair after his execution. These were worn as a form of mourning in secret, and potentially paved the way for lockets to become a way of remembering those who had passed away.

The privacy and personal nature of lockets made them popular among the rich, as the precious metals were difficult to obtain and expensive to purchase.

Lockets As Romantic Symbols

It was during the Victorian era that lockets took on the form which we recognise today, being turned into a piece of jewellery. Queen Victoria supposedly set the example by wearing a locket of her own – containing locks of her children’s hair and the other side contains a photo of her husband.

The latter of these is what caught on the most.  People admired Queen Victoria greatly, and soon many were imitating these jewellery pieces as a more public statement. Although lockets were worn as a loving gesture, people now also saw them in a romantic capacity.

From there, lockets grew in popularity for a multitude of reasons. They became cheaper to manufacture and easier to obtain. Soldiers gave them to their sweethearts in case they didn’t return, and lovers wore lockets with their portraits of themselves and partners.

The Fascinating History Behind Lockets

Although their popularity has diminished over time, they still prove popular for many people. The idea of “connectedness” through a physical token is one that is hard to ignore. Although technology has brought many people closer together despite distances, a worn piece of jewellery carries a stronger sentiment still.

Armughan Zaigham

Armughan is a passionate writer who loves to write on relationships and has a great passion for the automotive industry. Besides being a keen observer of human behaviour towards various aspects of life and its impact on our daily lifestyle. He is also an avid pet-lover and says that he has learnt through loving his pets that life is nothing but selfless love for all.