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14 Pieces of Jewelry From the Past That Are More Than Just Accessories

Elegant jewelry is never out of fashion. Nowadays, it’s quite easy to find a suitable piece. You just have to make sure that it matches your outfit and is appropriate for the occasion. But in the previous centuries, jewelry could give away too much personal information about the person who wore it, from the level of society they belonged to, to their love interest.

At Bright Side, we decided to find out what secrets jewelry pieces from the past hid on behalf of their owners.

This necklace used to be a mark of distinction.

The members of the Lingayat sect in India, the followers of Shivaism, used to wear this jewelry. Only wealthy people could afford this necklace.

The jewelry was made of pure silver and decorated with intricate engravings. The 2 cones symbolized the horns of the sacred bull. The necklace was also a casket. A lingam stone was hidden in it, which played a big role in this religion.

In the 19th century, some pieces of jewelry were made with the use of human hair.

Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom, mourned her husband Prince Albert for 40 years. During this period, the Queen set an example to other ladies how they should mourn and what outfits and jewelry should be chosen when mourning. Victoria often wore a locket of Albert’s hair around her neck.

However, hair was not just used in lockets. In the mid-19th century, ladies would make different pieces of jewelry out of hair. They could be earrings, bracelets, or wreaths. Sometimes, the locks belonged to different people, letting women create something like family trees.

Hair could belong not only to a person who had died. Sometimes ladies would give each other their locks as a token of friendship or a special connection. This is why this jewelry was not a symbol of grief, but a love token.

Earrings were so heavy, they had to be attached to the hair.

In the late 17th century, earrings became an integral part of a woman’s outfit. Jewelers invented a new way to cut diamonds, and these gems began to be used in jewelry more often. At the same time, ladies flaunted high and voluminous hairstyles.

To emphasize their expensive outfits, women wore complex earrings, consisting of several elements. The jewelry looked beautiful, but it was very heavy. Some earrings even had a special loop so that a lady could attach them to her hair and thereby reduce the load on her earlobes.

Some jewelry was used for household tasks.

Some jewelry was used not just to make its owner feel beautiful, but ladies often adorned their outfits with an étui — a small case where they kept implements for household tasks.

Ladies could keep scissors, needles, thread, thimbles, pencils, and other necessary items in it. An étui was often made of gold and decorated with gems.

An eye miniature was a “safe” gift to a lover.

In the late 18th century — early 19th century, eye miniatures became very popular. It’s believed that it was the future king George IV who made this piece of jewelry trendy because he sent one of these miniatures to his lover Mrs. Maria Fitzherbert.

When giving this piece of jewelry as a present, people made a love confession to each other. It was a “safe” gift which a man or a woman could easily wear in public because it was difficult to guess the person who gave the gift just by the look of their eye.

The Ancient Greeks believed that jewelry with the Hercules knot had the power to avert evil.

Jewelry with the Hercules knot was popular in classical antiquity. This symbol had a different meaning in different countries. In some cultures, it was a token of love, in others it represented fertility.

The Ancient Greeks believed that this knot had the power to avert evil, and could cure wounds, helping them heal faster.

Sea creatures were a popular theme in Spain.

In the second half of the 16th century, jewelry in the form of living creatures, including fictional ones, became popular in Spain. Most often, craftsmen used the images of sea creatures. People carried these pendants as talismans when they had to travel by sea. It was believed that this jewelry could protect against any misfortunes during a long sea voyage.

Engagement rings consisted of 2 parts in the past.

Gimmel rings first appeared in the Middle Ages, but became popular in the 17th century. This piece of jewelry could be divided into 2 parts. After the engagement was announced, the fiancé and fiancée would wear their own ring.

During the wedding ceremony, the 2 rings would be joined, and the bride would put on the resulting piece of jewelry. This jewelry usually hid a message inside, which spoke of eternal love and unity. If one of the spouses went on a trip, the ring could be disconnected again.

The 16th century was the golden age of jewelry.

During the Renaissance, jewelry became more elaborate and complex. Jewelers created real sculptures, covering the elements with enamel and encrusting the figurines with pearls and precious stones. Each element was done with great precision.

Along with other pieces of jewelry, pendants became especially popular. Some of them were used not only for the sake of beauty. Toothpicks, earpicks and other useful little things were attached to them.

Gemstones had their own secret language.

In the Victorian era, there was jewelry in which craftsmen encrypted messages using various gemstones. To be able to read them, it was necessary to know which stones were used in the jewelry. Words were formed by putting together the first letters of the names of the stones.

The colors of a piece of jewelry could also matter. The suffragists, for example, chose white, purple, and green colors. Jewelry that had this combination of colors could be worn only by women who belonged to this organization.

Some people managed to gather a collection of mourning rings.

Rings that were made to commemorate a deceased person were known even in the days of the Ancient Romans. Usually, this piece of jewelry was given to friends and relatives of the deceased person. But sometimes they were created to honor famous historical figures.

These pieces of jewelry were usually distributed to everyone who was invited to the funeral. If a person had a high position in society, they could gather many of these rings. Mourning rings were sometimes adorned with pearls and strands of hair as a sign of grief.

A pendant could identify that a person belonged to the clergy.

In the 16th century, pearls were often used in jewelry. With their help, craftsmen skillfully created images of ethereal objects and creatures. Some people would wear this piece of jewelry on a chain, others would pin it to their clothing.

The animals sometimes had a symbolic meaning. So, a pendant in the form of a swan could indicate that a person belonged to the Society of the Virgin Mary.

A puzzle ring was used to ensure fidelity in the wife when the husband was away.

It’s unknown who invented this piece of jewelry. According to one version, these rings appeared in Ancient Egypt, other researchers believe that the country of their origin is China.

According to the most interesting legend, a puzzle ring was invented by a jealous husband who gave the ring to his wife without telling her how to solve it. The woman decided to be unfaithful and took off the ring. It fell apart, and she couldn’t put it back together. This was how the husband found out that his wife was cheating on him.

In the Victorian era, each flower had a meaning.

In the 19th century, floral motifs in jewelry became popular again. However, different flowers used in brooches, necklaces, rings, and earrings had a hidden meaning.

There was a special language where each plant had its own meaning, and this language was known to almost everyone. A lot of books were published that explained how to interpret this or that combination of flowers. Therefore, it was difficult to encrypt a secret message into a piece of jewelry.

Do you have a piece of jewelry that has a story behind it? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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