Valentine’s Day heart history

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Show Me Your Heart

Hearts throughout history to Gabriel & Co. Modern Day Interpretations

For those of you who appreciate sweet gestures, receiving chocolate shaped hearts for Valentine’s Day might satisfy our desire for something literally sweet (especially those with ganache centers) but wouldn’t you prefer your hearts in precious metals and gemstones? I know I would.

But I have always had an affinity for the iconic motifs that suggest love or the possibility of love.  Maybe you never had a passion for heart jewelry before. but with the plethora of expressive and edgy incarnations and those based on the symbolism of antique versions, it’s hard not to be a heart convert these days. And admit it, wasn’t there at least one time in your life when you wrote your name and the person you had a crush on surrounded by the iconic symbol of love.  The idea that a heart represents love and friendship (remember those best friend hearts which were split in half and you each wore each other’s names on a chain?)

Whether in romance or friendship, the heart as a symbol of affection dates back centuries and still continues today. Innumerable versions of the motif have become the emblem of beloved tattoos and goofy emoticons, yet the history of the heart and the various symbolic motifs throughout up until the present day have imbued the icon with creative interpretations.

A little history: The creation of the heart shape to signify love was first reported at the end of the Middle Ages. It gained popularity in the 15th and 16th centuries and became widely used in jewelry design throughout subsequent centuries. In Georgian through Victorian times, there was a variety of meaningful hearts that evoked different feelings depending on the shape or other motifs with which it was combined.

Hands holding a heart took on different styles in the earlier and later time periods, and in different cultures. The fede gimmel ring, with two hands clasped together that swivel open to reveal one or two hearts was often given as a betrothal ring, yet started life as an early Roman ring and later became popular throughout Europe. English Victorian pendants and brooches displayed a hand holding out a heart as a gesture of affection, and the Irish claddagh ring, in which two hands hold one heart, bespoke ‘I hold your heart in my hand’. However, this took on slightly varied meanings depending on whether the recipient wore the Claddagh ring facing in (you belong to me)  or out on the finger (we are in the early stages of our romance).

Witches Hearts were another one of the early shapes with its bottom curved to one side, originally worn as an amulet in ancient times to protect against evil eyes and from witches stealing milk or harming newborn babies. In Scottish culture it is called the Luckenbooth heart, and in the 18th century the token implied that the giver had become “bewitched to fall in love.

A Heart with an Arrow Going Through It represents cupid shooting his bow of love at his intended

Entwined Hearts stood for continuous, everlasting love.

Double Hearts next to each other with a bow or knot tied at the top, similar to the infinity sign or lover’s knot, meant two hearts together as one or a union which cannot be broken.

If the Double Hearts were topped by a Crown instead of a bow, it symbolized fidelity in marriage, while Single Crowned Hearts were equally popular for engagement rings and carried the meaning ‘ruler of my heart’ or ‘love triumphant’.  The poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s engagement ring from 1864 was a crowned diamond heart.

Queen Victoria owned a charm bracelet which consists of enamel hearts, one for each of her children. According to The Royal Trust Collection “it is a gold chain bracelet with nine enameled heart shaped lockets of different colors; containing the hair of Queen Victoria’s children. This simple chain and locket bracelet is typical of the sentimental items Prince Albert gave to the Queen on November 24, 1840. The inscription on the clasp states that it was given to her three days after the birth of their first child, Victoria, The Princess Royal. A locket was added for each subsequent birth, each one contained hair from each child”

Key and Heart motifs were also popular and contained several meanings, such as “I have the key to your heart” or “you are the key to my heart”.

These motifs were seen from the 18th through the 20th century and are still inspiring modern interpretations today.

Here are my favorite hearts form Gabriel and Co. that were inspired by some of these hearts from the past.

14K Yellow Gold Chain Bracelet with Entwined Hearts

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Style number: TB4360Y4JJJ

14K Yellow Gold Diamond Infinity Heart Pendant Necklace

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Style number: NK5736Y45JJ

14K Yellow Gold Puffed Heart Ring

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Style number: LR51804Y4JJJ

14K White Gold Open Heart Diamond Pendant Necklace

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Style number: NK5265W45JJ

14K Yellow Gold Twisted Heart Pretzel Ring

LR51803Y4JJJ-5

Style number: LR51803Y4JJJ

18″ 925 Sterling Silver Heart Key Pendant Necklace with Diamonds

Style number: NK3269SV5JJ

14K Yellow Gold Double Puffed Heart Bypass Ring

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Style number: LR51832Y4JJJ

Why not give the gift of symbolic jewelry this Valentine’s day with jewels that will make  your beloved’s heart skip a beat.

Shop Valentine’s Day gifts


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