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Unusual Tokens of Love: Our Valentine’s Day Gift Edition
02 / 04

 

In honor of St. Valentine’s Day, we thought we’d share a few of the ways that jewelry or unusual tokens of love (from the Georgian and Victorian periods) have been used to convey the romantic feelings of the gift giver. Do your friends a favor, and send this post on to the men in their lives or send it on, as a subtle hint, to your own significant other.

 

The Danish Hovedvandsæg or Vinaigrette

 

The one pictured is heart-shaped, one of a kind, and perfect for Valentine’s Day. It is available through our boutique, Sugar et Cie in our Victoriana Collection:

An antique heart shaped vinaigrette with a crown on the top

© Copyright Sugar et Cie 2013

 

Presenting a Hovedvandsæg was a Danish engagement tradition in the 18th and 19th centuries. A Hovedvandsæg or vinaigrette (more on vinaigrettes in our glossary) was presented to a woman by her intended.

 

Lover’s Eye

 

You are likely to find next tradition either a little creepy or conversely, insanely romantic.

 

Most sources site King George the IV (at the time the Prince of Wales) as the originator of this trend. He had a popular artist of the day paint his eye hoping to use it as a romantic gesture to win over the woman who had previously rebuffed him. He had it set it into a locket and shipped it off, hoping to persuade her (Maria Fitzherbert) to marry him. As the story goes, the gift, or the letter that went with it worked and she eventually gave in. They married in secrecy (due to the King’s disapproval) in December of 1785.

 

A portrait of a beloved’s or lover’s eye allowed people to display these tokens of love openly, but still with secrecy as it was often difficult to determine the subject’s identity by just one eye. These miniature eye portraits are found embedded into a variety of pieces of jewelry, however they are most commonly part of a pendant or a brooch. They can also be found in rings and other decorative pieces. They range from the very plain to the very elaborate (set into precious metal and surrounded by gems).

 

Because this trend lasted a relatively short time (approximately 30 years), they are considered rare. The Lover’s eye shown in The New York Time’s Art & Design Section online (February 2012): is truly beautiful: the vibrant blue-eye set against the pale skin in a teardrop setting of gold is surrounded by pearls (a symbol for tears). Around the same time last year, an entire exhibit “The Look of Love: Eye Miniatures from The Skier Collection” opened at the Birmingham Museum of Art. The catalogue of the exhibit, with the same name can still be found in hardcover online at Amazon.

 

A Snake as a Token of Love?

 

Another pair of trendsetters, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, kick-started this unusual tradition: the snake ring as an engagement ring. Upon their engagement, Prince Albert presented Queen Victoria with a coiled gold serpent ring set with emeralds. Depending upon the style of the snake it could either mean strength and wisdom or love.

 

While the snake ring is no longer associated with an engagement, it’s romantic history makes it a great gift for Valentine’s Day. Here are a few from our current Serpent Collection, which can be found by visiting our boutique: Sugar et Cie.

 

antique gold and diamond snake ring

© Copyright Sugar et Cie 2013