Lockets: A Historical Glance

Lockets have been used historically to store keepsakes, pictures, hair, and, in some rumored circumstances, powdered poison or ashes. Although they were once used as a momento for sentimental reasons, they are more often viewed as fashion jewelry by our current culture.

Throughout History

Era Characteristics
Daguerreotype Images Photos fused in glass; available to aristocracy
Mourning Intricate engravings and gem details; in remembrance of deceased
Sweethearts Patriotic themes; gift from soldiers to sweethearts
Modern Advanced technology; less sentimentality

Daguerreotype Pictures

Early lockets contained hand painted pictures of loved ones, but the trinkets became more widespread with the implementation of daguerreotype photos in the 1840s. These daguerreotype photos would be fused to glass, so this type of locket was often reserved for the upper class. It also required people to pose for photographs for around 30 minutes. Eventually, advancements in the technology of photography made lockets more accessible.

Symbols of Mourning

During Victorian era England, it was very common to express sentimentality by carrying a photos of lost loved ones. Often, a lock of the deceased person's hair would be kept inside the locket as well. Queen Victoria established this practice after the death of her husband, Albert. Her long state of mourning became the basis for Victorian death customs.

Keepsakes of Love

Throughout the Civil War era extending through WWII, lockets became a popular keepsake gift given to wives, girlfriends, and fiancee's from their soldiers. These lockets held images of the soldiers while they were away and sometimes also included locks of hair as previously seen in mourning lockets.

Modern Day Jewelry

Contemporary lockets rarely carry the same sentimental value that was popular throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s or the monetary value of the first daguerreotypes. They are often simply worn as fashion jewelry, although it is still common practice to enclose pictures inside. Innovative technology now allows for pull-out sections with the ability to hold multiple photographs.

Metals Used Over Time

  1. Brass
  2. Copper
    1. Some plated with sterling silver
  3. Aluminum
  4. Iron
  5. Sterling gold
  6. Platinum