The Meaning of Hearts in Jewelry
Hearts are one of the most poignant and beautiful images in art. Whether it’s a painting hanging in a gallery or the jewelry you gift to a loved one, the heart conveys a powerful statement about love. Let John Atencio walk you through the meaning of hearts in jewelry, so you understand the significance of choosing this type of piece to give to the person you care about the most.
A Brief History of the Heart in Jewelry
In the early Middle Ages, the heart began to pop up in art and jewelry, even royal family crests. During the 15th and 16th centuries, heart imagery exploded into gold and silver jewelry. While mostly aristocrats and the upper class could afford it at the time, by the early 20th century King Edward VIII showcased his love through heart jewelry to Wallis Simpson. As the relationship was documented in the press worldwide through this jewelry, Edward VIII eventually abdicated his throne for the love of his life.
What is the Meaning of Hearts in Jewelry?
One of the first pieces King Edward VIII gave Ms. Simpson was a Cartier heart charm inscribed with the Blaise Pascal quote: “The heart has its reasons.” This has stuck with jewelers and those that love jewelry since the media storm surrounding their relationship dominated newspapers worldwide.
The heart itself is the core of our anatomy; it pumps blood to every extremity and keeps us alive. When we donate blood, we give away part of our life to another human being. When we give our heart to someone in the romantic sense, we’re offering a part of ourselves to them, too.
When you give the person you love a heart-inspired piece of jewelry. You’re giving them a bit of your “heart” with it. When they wear it, they’ll be reminded of that and the love you two share.
Throughout the centuries, the heart has found its way into rings, pendants, bracelets, charms, and more. Even heart-shaped padlocks were used to signify the love two people had for one another and committing themselves to a life together.
Heart-shaped padlocks are still used in jewelry design today, as well as being left on chain-link fences around the world. You write the name of the person you love on the back of the padlock, lock it to a fence, and throw away the key. This signifies that the love you have for that person will never be unlocked for another.
You’ll find heart jewelry in all shapes and sizes. They can be adorned with different gemstones, not just the traditional red associated with the organ. You’ll see open hearts, intertwined hearts, and even half-hearts that combine to make a full heart shared between two people. The most popular heart-based designed is a single heart necklace, often shaped by gold and diamonds.
Read John’s take on the meaning of hearts in jewelry:
“From the hand to the heart, albeit simple, the form of a red heart has many meanings and expressions. In its simplest form, this universal symbol depicts one of the most complicated emotions known to man. Designed to express feelings and emotions, these beautiful images have grown from Valentine's or holiday cards to express complex feelings of one’s state of mind and ability to love. Wrapped in life's trials and experiences, the heart has the capacity to be expressed in different and exciting ways; and to give hidden meaning or treasures for those to interpret. My hearts and personal emotions are no different. They can metamorphosize like a butterfly. They can transform from pain to pleasure. They can be the heart that holds a family or organization together; or the heart that breaks or dies leaving others to cling to each other. Only in time and in art do they show their true color and magical meaning. I believe each is true in meaning and true in artist expression. I believe each will find its right place in all that explore, feel, and desire meaning. As intimate as they are to me, each heart can find their own meaning and pleasure. In the heart of my art is the true love of creation.”
Remember when you give a pendant, earrings, charm, or another piece of jewelry featuring the heart, you’re giving away more than just a piece of jewelry. You’re also giving away a piece of your heart to someone you truly love and cherish.