Silver is a metal which has seen its appreciation rise and fall through the early modern era, but it is a metal which amplifies its symbols and conjoined materials thoroughly. It is a material which speaks to its wearer; being cost effective or a material seen as highly desirable.
In this magnificent ‘Georgian Heart’, we see the elements of the time come together and produce a pendant of high quality and even higher sentimentality. Used for sentimentality and mourning, the heart is a motif which developed to be refined through the modern era, culminating with its iconic status as being a love heart today. earlier, this has been not as defined; a symbol which had a loose shape, but not firmly established. In today’s pendant, the looser shape is on display, with the faceted crystal and hair weave underneath pronounced.
Separation of silver from lead has been the primary process since ancient times, perhaps as early as the 4th millennium BCE, with the metal being popularly used for coinage. A boom in silver production for jewellery came via the discovery of silver in Mexico, Chile, Bolivia and Peru c.1540s, , providing great wealth to the crowns of Europe. Further discoveries also aided this in North America, with European production being extracted from copper ores in Central Europe in the mid 15th century.
In 1300, King Edward I crated legislation that sterling silver (92.5% pure silver) is the standard of silver production and all silver products must be assayed by guardians of the craft who would stamp these items. Hallmarking is not only valid for the purposes of tariffs and quality control within a society, but also a wonderful way for modern collectors to identify their jewels. From the stamps, one can discern the standard mark, city mark, date letter, duty mark and makers mark; identifying a piece to its exact origin. This is under the assumption that the piece was of British provenance, as other countries had their own hallmarks and others, none at all. With these cufflinks, there isn’t any detail to the silver, which makes it difficult for a modern audience to identify it, but looking at the other elements of style, its narrative becomes clear. This heart is definitively part of sentimental jewellery. Its use of the heart symbol and integrating that with silver as a material only amplifies the message of silver being a metal which was quite sentimental for its time.
Jewellery usage for silver wasn’t as popular as gold and it wasn’t until the late 19th century when this would be reversed. Silversmiths at the time were not a small margin. The Online Encyclopaedia of Silver Marks, Hallmarks & Makers’ Marks shows the following collection of goldsmiths and silversmiths from 1740:
From this, we can see that the silver production for its time was not an industry relegated to simply metal in jewellery, but silver used for wider purposes. One of the most prominent being watchmakers.
As can be seen in the this watch, silver production wasn’t unheard of for its time, but hadn’t reached the heights that it did during the late 19th and early 20th century period. The use of silver in the latter context was due to South African diamond mines opening up a market for cheaper diamonds and the preference of white gold and silver to eventuate the diamond’s colour and facets. More about this can be read here. This heart is part of a popular movement that utilised silver as a material which could be worn in high fashion, but was also at the mercy of access to gold. In 1804, the Napoleon’s Empire was announced and luxury trades were renewed with vigour. Bijoutiers, who worked in ordinary materials and joailliers, who worked in precious stones benefitted from this rise in luxury, with Napoleon requesting the jewels from the former kings of France to be set in the Neoclassical style, essentially connecting him to the Greco-Roman empires. His coronation crown was decorated with cameos and his passions for the antique world led him to establish a school of gem engraving in 1805. If ever there was a height for the Neoclassical period, it was this connection to it. How other societies would reflect this moment is seen in their contention or support of Napoleon. Here is a person who is appropriating the classical world in a time where it had been in mainstream thought and fashion for around forty years. International tension would only lead to the decline of this style, as cultures needed to obtain their own identities in jewellery fashion. A great push to the Gothic Revival style in England has its roots in this.
Simple designs, cheaper materials and smaller jewels followed in the early 19th century period. Geometric shapes, ovals, circles and rectangles became popular, with the Greek key pattern utilised often in jewels. It was about balance, as many patterns were taken directly from Greco-Roman architecture and detail. During this time, until his remarriage, Josephine was the bastion of style, maintaining the fashion which people would covet.
From this, what we see is that society had to adapt to the shock of the Terror and the new Empire, all the while other cultures are looking to France for its style and reestablishment. Greater and more literal influences of antique cultures led to the allegory of the sentimental depictions becoming literal interpretations of their architecture in jewels, making the individual the monument to classical art itself. Making more from less was the requirement of the time, as jewellers utilised technology and skill to develop jewellery that looked ornate, but utilised whatever materials were at hand. A superb example of this is the Berlin Ironwork jewels of the 19th and 20th centuries:
The Georgian Heart
The heart is the most important element of focus in this pendant, as it is the first identifier for what the jewel represents for the wearer. Being seen from a distance when worn at the neck means that this pendant was clearly a statement of love and affection, which relates back to the relationship status of the wearer.
When the heart was worn for a loved one who was alive, it was a symbol of betrothal, marriage or love and affection, or if dead, grief for the departed. With the rise of cupid in sentimental jewels, the heart was a popular motif from the 17th to 19th century, but one which obviously resonates just as strongly today, as the production of heart-shaped pendants and lockets is still a popular design in jewellery. The heart has its origins in jewellery from the 15th century, but was enhanced in the 17th through the Enlightenment and the reflections of the humanist movement, but could also be appropriated for religious undertones when necessary. It is important to note that the heart shape which we understand today is still reflected in these jewels with the broad element of the shape. Upon viewing, the north of the pendant doesn’t have the sharp dovetail into the centre of the pendant, but rather curves around itself.
The familiar shape is seen at the south of the pendant, with the edges coming to the familiar shape of the heart that we recognise today. Elements of the heart shape had been perfected by the early 17th century, but the adaptation of the shape was common for sentimental jewels through the 18th and early 19th century, due to many other factors of the design flanking the shape and adding to its form. As written about extensively at Art of Mourning, the heart is one of the most important sentimental love symbols in early-modern history. Its obvious symbolism resonates today in tokens of love and affection, moving beyond religious and social values to be the most purely recognised understanding of love. With an anthropomorphic design, the heart symbol became popular in the 17th century with its romantic undertones of giving ‘your’ heart to another. For more on the development of this symbol, please consult “Embellished Georgian Heart Love Pendant” and the following articles:
> Georgian Heart with Hairwork Twist in Crystal, 1824
> Three-Dimensional Urn Locket, Garnets, Pearls and Ribbon!
> Georgian Eye Miniature Inside a Pendant, c.1820
> Late Georgian Heart Pendant With Hairwork
> Rien Sans Amitie, Cabochon Garnet French Mourning Locket
> Merit Claims Esteem/Bow Heart Locket, 18th Century
> French Ribbon Pendant, 18th Century
> 18th Century Ribbon Motif Pendant
> An Eternity Knot in a Crystal Heart Pendant
> Mourning Crystal “Georgian” Heart
> Stuart Crystal Heart Pendant with Angels and Crown > Memento Mori Stuart Crystal Heart
> Diamond Navette Ring, Late 18th Century
> 18th Century Diamond Fede Ring
> Late Georgian Heart Pearl Pendant 19th Century
> The Hon Alice Nugent in a 1730 Mourning Locket and the Hairwork Eternity
> Is It, Or Isn’t It? Heart Pendant – First Impressions
In The Heart
The heart is the most sentimental and loving symbols, being a literal interpretation of the love that one can share. To wear a heart means to wear the love of another and for the viewer, means that a person is being cared for and supported in their life. Jewellery’s interpretation of symbolism is important to take into account, as what we wear as fashion is our identity. This silver pendant was worn for the element of love and its sentiment is as strong today as it was the day it was created.