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Lockets of the Victorian era and today – are they still popular?

A locket is a special pendant that opens to reveal a tiny storage space inside. They can be used to keep a photograph or painting, a lock of hair, or anything else that has personal significance. Most lockets are found on a necklace, but they can also appear on a charm bracelet, or even a ring. Some have a special glass or plastic section so that you can see what’s inside without having to open the locket. Others are completely covered, so that you might not even realise that there’s anything hidden inside!

Lockets come and go from fashion, but they never quite disappear entirely from shops. But where do lockets come from? Why are they so popular? Lockets have a rich and detailed history, which helps to explain why they appear in shops year after year.


The Earliest Lockets

The earliest lockets probably appeared in the sixteenth century, although they may have developed from earlier jewellery styles such as protective amulets and even poison rings. Lockets were popular with wealthy Elizabethans, including Queen Elizabeth I herself. She often gave lockets to her closest friends, and owned a number herself. One of her most prized possessions was a locket ring, which contained portraits of the Queen herself, and her mother, Anne Boleyn.

Lockets remained popular during the next few centuries. They gradually began to be particularly used to remember people who had died. It became more and more popular to include locks of hair in a locket, sometimes on display for everyone to see.

Victorian Lockets

It was during the Victorian period that lockets reached the very height of their popularity. Prince Albert famously gave Queen Victoria a locket bracelet containing a lock of hair from each of their eight children. After Albert’s death, Victoria always wore a locket containing a picture of him. This sparked a huge craze for mourning lockets, which replaced the older fashion of mourning rings. It was during this period that lockets became popular gifts at funerals.

The Victorian period is also when mass production of lockets made them affordable for more people. Elizabethan lockets had been so expensive that only aristocracy and nobility could afford to buy them. Cheaper manufacturing techniques meant that far more people could afford to buy mourning lockets, and they became hugely popular with people from all levels of society.

This popularity continued right up to the first World War, when the availability of cheap lockets meant that even common soldiers could leave their loved ones with a picture or lock of hair in a locket.

Lockets Today

Lockets might no longer enjoy the same levels of incredible popularity as in the Victorian period, but they are still very popular. They are most common as gifts, particularly at christenings or weddings. Babies might be gifted lockets, or grooms might give them to brides. They are also popular gifts for girls reaching milestone birthdays.

The uses of lockets are still largely the same as in previous centuries. Many people like to carry the photo of a loved one with them, or perhaps save a lock of hair. Some older locket styles continue to be popular, such as delicate gold filigree patterns. Other styles are more contemporary, like small heart-shaped lockets.

It seems likely that lockets will continue to be popular for a long time to come. They make perfect personalized gifts and beautiful keepsakes. They are also perfect jewellery choices for people who love antique jewellery styles, as even a contemporary locket evokes the elegance of Victorian styles.

Do you have a locket that you love? If not, would you consider buying one?

26 Nov 2016

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