The locket has been a beloved jewelry item throughout history. Lockets were originally carried with a hand painted portrait of a loved one inside. They started to become more popular with the invention of the daguerreotype photo in the 1840s.
(Ichiki Shirō’s 1857 daguerreotype of Shimazu Nariakira, the earliest surviving Japanese photograph. via: Wikipedia)
This original form of photography would require the subject to sit for about 30 minutes to capture an image. This novel new technology was originally reserved for the aristocracy. Lockets became a way to carry a daguerreotype, which was already fused to glass. The industrial revolution and the advancement of photography made lockets accessible to everyday people.
LOCKETS AND THE ART OF MOURNING
The 1860s brought the Civil War in the US, and the death of Prince Albert in England. Death became a part of the zeitgeist, as lead by England’s Queen Victoria, who went into a state of perpetual mourning when her beloved husband Albert died. Lockets became a popular way to honor the dead and keep their memory close. Lockets were often carried with a photo of the deceased and/or a lock of hair inside.
During the 1870s, a large heavy locket in silver or gold was a fashion necessity. Portraits of women from this time almost always show them wearing a locket at the throat, attached with a heavy gold chain or velvet ribbon. Even children at this time wore tiny heart shaped or round lockets.
At the turn of the century lockets became smaller and thinner as photo technology progressed. They often were decorated with colored glass stones and stamped naturalistic motifs.
Lockets returned to prominence in the 1940s with WWII sweetheart jewelry. Lockets and other sentimental jewelry pieces were sold at post offices, and were often given from soldiers to their wives, girlfriends, and fiancees. These lockets were usually made of gold filled metal, with hand done engravings. Some had more patriotic motifs than others.
COLLECTING ANTIQUE LOCKETSThese days antique lockets are highly collectable for their sentimentality and old-world workmanship. It is difficult to think of a more romantic or sentimental gift than an antique locket. The original photos can often still be found intact. While many choose to keep the original photos, they can easily be replaced by your personal items.
LUXXORVintage.com has one of the largest constantly-rotating selection of antique and vintage lockets. Shop for Antique Lockets here.