(Previously published in The Sturbridge Times Magazine, February, 2017. Text enlarged below photo.)
If Jean-Jacques Rosseau had been a jeweler rather than a Romantic philosopher, he would have crafted the locket. As it is, his 18th-century writings are credited with influencing the movement toward sentimentality. The feeling was soon reflected in jewels dedicated to one’s beloved – living or deceased.
Three centuries later, lovers still give and receive lockets containing a portrait or personal memento, such as a lock of hair. The hinged case, often engraved with lovebirds, flowers, or initials, traditionally hangs around the lady’s neck or wrist from a velvet band. It can even be suspended from a pin or brooch. These days heavier, chunkier lines of lockets are geared to a growing men’s market as well.
As Valentine’s Day nears, round, oval, and heart-shaped lockets fashioned in white gold, yellow gold, and silver are frequent purchases at Garieri Jewelers in Sturbridge. Store associate Alexandria O’Brien says that men usually buy for their wives and significant others. Moms and dads also come in together to pick one out for their daughters. And there are memorial lockets specifically meant to honor deceased loved ones. These date back to when Queen Victoria went into a long period of mourning after Prince Albert’s death. She wore a locket ring on her finger dedicated to his memory, starting a fashion trend for the middle class as well as royalty. Garieri Jewelers carries lockets with screw tops that ensure a tight seal to keep cremated ashes intact. Alexandria says some customers carry pet ashes in them.
The Pandora line offers a more modern design for lockets that bring back that loving feeling: the floating locket. The hinged pendant crafted from sterling silver and sapphire crystal glass provides a visible chamber that stores one or more Pandora charms called “petite memories.” These include a variety of tiny hearts, stars, angels, and seasonal tokens.
The thought of a locket unhinges warm memories for my friend Susan Grimm. She likes to tell her son and daughter how, as a child, she would rummage through her grandmother’s purse, looking for the zippered compartment that held a locket. Inside the opened locket lay a photograph of her on one side and her grandmother on the other. “Gram would always tell me, ‘It keeps us close when we are far apart,’” sighs Susan.
There are many lockets on display at Garieri’s, and additional choices that can be ordered from their catalogs. In the store’s estate collection, however – not so much. “Lockets tend to stay in the family,” says Alexandria.
I have two lockets. A silver heart preserves my adult children’s youthful grins from two decades past. A Valentine’s lyric written by my husband is folded inside the other locket, which is shaped like an oval.
“Dearest,” it begins. And the rest? A treasure held secret between his heart and mine.