As a collector of vintage and antique jewelery, one of the motifs you will most often find (and in many different forms) is the Buckle or Garter. In Victorian jewelry, garters can be found as the frame on a cameo brooch or enameled onto the cover design of a locket. Victorians also loved wearing ring bands in the shape of garters. These rings were often given as romantic gifts. Brooches were made to look like buckles that attached to nothing. Perhaps the most popular use of the buckle motif was the Buckle bangle bracelet. These were made in solid gold or silver as well as plated metal. The buckles functioned as the clasp of the bracelet, and could often adjust in tightness, much like a real belt.
The garter as a symbol represents loyalty, protection, and strength. As a symbol of mourning, the garter holds the memory of a loved one close. It was used as a romantic symbol for the same qualities.
Royal Order of Garter Brooch
This motif was said to derive from the Royal Order of the Garter. This was an order of Chivalry founded by King Edward III in 1348 to strengthen military leadership. It was considered the highest honor a British Monarch can bestow. Members of the Order wore a blue garter buckled above their knee. Queen Victoria took a more modest approach and wore her garter on her arm instead. This started the garter motif as a fashionable jewelry trend.
Victorian Buckle Ring via LUXXOR Vintage
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If you come across an old locket or pendant with a military emblem or designation such as ‘mother’ or ‘wife’ it is probably an example of WWII sweetheart jewelry. Sweetheart collectibles are items that were purchased by military servicemen and sent home to the ladies in their life. These items included compacts, handkerchiefs, pillow cases, as well as jewelry. Items could be purchased at post offices at military bases around the world. The tradition of sending home mementos from the war started in WWI and gained popularity during WWII.
These tokens of love were a small luxury in a time of rationing and scarcity. They provided emotional comfort for soldiers and the loved ones they left behind. Since many materials were reserved for the war effort, the jewelry from this time was often made of gold or silver plated base metal. Natural materials like mother of pearl, were used as luxurious decorations when supply of stones were limited. Most sweetheart jewelry was made machine made, and often decorated with hand done engraving. Hand made jewelry that was fashioned by soldiers is called ‘Trench Art’ or ‘Pacific War Art’.
Many pieces of sweetheart jewelry were decorated with the emblems of the different branches of the military. Others had words like ‘mother’, ‘sweetheart’, and ‘wife’ or the recipient’s name.
The most popular form of sweetheart jewelry was the locket. As Nick Snider said in his book Sweetheart Jewelry and Collectibles; “Lockets had it all, beauty as well as usefulness by holding a picture of a loved one close to the heart.” Sweetheart Lockets were usually heart shaped, but they can also be found as ovals, or even book shaped. Most lockets had spaces for two photos. Today, many old lockets can still be found with the original photos intact. Usually it is of a soldier in uniform.
Lockets were not only hung on traditional chains. Many times they came on wire or bar shaped pin with designations such as “wife” or “mother”. Others were attached to jump wing or bow shaped pins.