Jewelry has been a symbol of love and affection for thousands of years. From simple pieces of wire to elaborate diamond rings, people have used jewelry to express their love and commitment to one another for as long as human society has existed. The history of love tokens is long and rich.
In this blog, we'll take a closer look at some of the most iconic jewelry styles that have symbolized love throughout history.
The Ancient Egyptians used jewelry as a symbol of love and loyalty for both their Gods and their loved ones. The origin of wedding rings can be traced to the Ancient Egyptians, who exchanged rings crafted from braided reeds and hemp as a symbol of their union. These materials were not durable, so they were replaced by ivory or leather, and eventually, more long-lasting metals such as gold, platinum and silver. Some early examples of wedding rings also featured the image of the ouroboros, a snake devouring its own tail, as a symbol of the never-ending cycle of love and commitment.
The Greeks and Romans also used jewelry to express their love. When the Greeks conquered the Egyptians, they adopted the tradition of giving rings as symbols of devotion to their loved ones. Many of these rings depicted the gods of love, Eros or Cupid. It was believed that if you wore certain gems and stones, they would bring them love and happiness. Metals such as copper and gold were used because they are durable, attractive materials.
Lover’s knot rings are unbroken loops with no beginning and end, symbolizing the unbreakable bond between two lovers. They have been found in ancient artworks around the world. The Celts used knot jewelry to propose marriage. Sailors were known to frequently use knot rings crafted from gold wire or rope as reminders of their loved ones. By the time the Victorian era came around, the love knot was already widely recognized as an emblem of love. This design remains significant today.
Fede rings are an ancient sentimental design that dates back to Roman times. The design was referred to as dextrarum iunctio, meaning joined right hands in Latin. In the Middle Ages, these rings became known as fede rings, a term derived from the Italian word for trust and fidelity. They feature two clasped hands, symbolizing partnership, and marriage. Fede rings are considered to be among the earliest examples of wedding rings.
In Celtic Ireland, a similar style of ring can be found. Referred to as the Claddagh ring, it’s a ring featuring a heart topped with a crown, clasped between two hands. The orientation of the crown on the Claddagh ring would indicate the wearer's relationship status, with the crown pointing towards them if they’re taken, or away if single.
Poesy rings were first designed in medieval times, but were popular through the early 19th century. These rings were inscribed with poetry inside or outside the band. In early rings, words were often engraved on the outside, but later inscriptions were more commonly on the inside because wearing the message against the skin was believed to increase its potency. The engraved messages were usually in French or Latin and were a way to personalize the jewelry for each unique love story.
Starting from the Medieval Times, wedding rings began to be set with precious gems. Medieval Europeans used rubies, sapphires, and diamonds in their pieces, each with unique symbolism behind it.
The earliest known diamond wedding ring can be traced back to the late 1300s or early 1400s, as evidenced by a record of it being left behind by an English widow in her will. The first famous diamond engagement ring was made in 1477, when Archduke Maximillian of Austria presented Mary of Burgundy with one. The ring was reportedly composed of tiny, flat diamonds that spelled out the letter "M", symbolizing Mary's first initial.
The trend of lover's eye jewelry emerged across Europe during the late 18th century. They are tiny wearable portraits of someone's eye that gained popularity when members of royalty were said to wear them. Lover’s eye jewelry depicts the eyes of a spouse, family member, or lover. They provided a subtle means of carrying a reminder of one's love without others noticing. The fad began to die out toward the middle of the 19th century once photography was introduced.
The Victorian era is from 1820-1914, corresponding roughly to the period of Queen Victoria's reign.
Following the death of her husband, Victoria entered a life-long mourning period and famously wore a locket of his hair around her neck. The Queen had great influence over how women dressed and behaved, and soon they were wearing the hair of their loved ones too. Hair jewelry was a way to show your connection to someone, whether a friend, child, or spouse.
Lockets have been popular throughout the ages. They’re most traditionally worn as necklaces but are sometimes seen as rings and brooches. Prior to the invention of photography, locket or pendant jewelry typically featured a miniature painted portrait or a lock of hair. They’re treasured to this day for their ability to hold tokens of your loved ones with you.
The rise of the middle class during the Victorian era brought about a heightened demand for jewelry and engagement rings. Toi et moi (you and me) style rings became popular as well. They feature two diamonds intertwined, representing the joining of two hearts. In 1886, Tiffany & Co. heavily marketed their six-prong diamond solitaire setting.
Engagement rings in the 1920s were reflective of the Edwardian style. The bands were larger and designed with intricate and ornate filigree metal work that looked very much like lace. The following Art Deco era, lasting from the 1920s to the late 1930s. Engagement rings from this time period often showcased striking geometric patterns. By the 1950s and 60s, the trend of incorporating diamonds in engagement rings had reached its peak.
Today, jewelry is still a symbol of love and affection, and it is more popular than ever. The history of jewelry as a symbol of love is a long and rich one that spans thousands of years. From the ancient Egyptians to the modern-day, people have used jewelry to express their love. With the advancement of materials and techniques, new and unique designs have become possible. Beautiful and long-lasting, it’s easy to see why people have used jewelry to keep their loved ones close to them since Ancient times. At True Bijoux, we can source authentic vintage jewelry for you, sell you designer pieces, or work with you on a custom design. You can book a consultation with us or visit us at 206 Sparks Street.