Following on from my Valentine’s research i’ve fallen in love with the world of Love Tokens, and naturally decided to blog all about them and share the love! + i reckon they are going to be the main source of inspiration for this project!
So, what is a Love Token?
The Love Token is a coin that has been smoothed flat on one or both sides and then hand engraved. Engravings are most commonly initials of the giver. Names and dates were also popular and perhaps most special and scarcer were sayings and pictures. Some love tokens were embellished even further with stones, enamel, added raised metal, or cutout designs within the coin. These coins were made as keepsakes and mementos from the giver to the recipient. The giver, important date, place, or event was intended to be remembered through the love token; a commissioned testimony and executed one of a kind special engraving. The manufacture and practice of giving Love Tokens seems to have originated in Great Britain in the early 1800’s, and then migrated to the United States in the mid- to late-1800’s.
Traditionally there were two basic requirements for a love token:
- First: The engraving must be on a legitimate coin (i.e. coin of the realm).
- Second: The engraving must be done by hand.
Who gave and received Love Tokens?
Although it is traditionally believed that these coins were given by a beau to a girl, they extended far beyond those traditional boundaries. They were also given by every imaginable family member as well as friends. A craze had sweep the country and school girls were begging and pleading for love tokens. Probably because the love token bracelet was the most popular form of love token jewelry and it took about eight to make a bracelet.
What do you do with them?
Keep them in your pocket, your wallet, or a safe place and caress them with your fingers when you need to feel close to someone. Or string them on chains, brooch pins, cufflinks, earrings, rings, etc. and wear them as jewellery. The more you loved you are the more bling you can show off!
I guess it was an early version of today’s popular charm bracelets.
I like the idea that it starts with one special one… and then the collection can grow between loved ones when special things happen in life. The amount of love tokens you have for different occasions and celebrations grows as the relationship does.
Symbolism within the coins.
Coin love tokens too share a symbolism. Hearts still mean love and other symbols were added as well. There was a blue bird for happiness. Some birds were even shown carrying a letter or love note, much like a homing pigeon finding its way home. Flowers could mean luck (clover), love (roses and others), and enduring affection (forget-me-not). An image of a horseshoe too bestows luck on the bearer. Clasped hands symbolized a union and potentially a marriage. Many images had meanings while others were purely decorative. Landscapes were widely popular. Although decorative, some could have marked a day spent in the country. Those landscapes with lighthouses could have also had double meaning as a person there to safeguard like the lighthouse protects ships. An image of a church in the landscape could have signaled marriage. The answers are held secret in the engravings, lost to today’s onlookers.
I’ve never heard of these before, are you making this up?
No, sadly the traditional Love Token is in decline and there is no unified way of expressing love like this… other than the obvious banality of cheap chocolates and cheaper stuffed bears, along with the dead flowers being exchanged. Little tokens like this fall under the radar until a movement tries to revive them… will i be that movement? Probably not, but i’d like to try because the Love Token is a beautiful thing and i would like it to at least come back into my world.
Do they have to be coins?
No. Coins have become on of the most commonly used source of Love Tokens but there are many other denominations.
Through the centuries, lovers have chosen a variety of different mediums to express their love or affection for someone special in their lives. Some of the more popular “tokens of love” were carved wooden spoons, thimbles, pin cushions, and rings. During the Victorian period the ever popular valentine card was introduced. This period also marked the peak of popularity for using engraved coins as love tokens. There was once a period of time when anything other than functional utilitarian tools were deemed inappropriate to give a young woman. Thimbles and pin cushions were acceptable gifts. Young men wanting to show their affection might then try to acquire the most ornate decorative thimble they could to present to their beloved. Some had pretty floral patterns, others were embellished with enamel or jewels, and many were made of precious metals like silver or even gold. In the sixteen hundreds, young men in Wales would carve a wooden kitchen spoon for the young lady they were interested in or courting. Some were made so large and elaborate that they were not even utilitarian anymore and became wall decorations. Symbols were carved in these spoons to show feelings of love. And these are just some examples of the Love Token around the world.
I like the idea that a Love Token could essentially be anything. It just has to mean something between the lovers or friends or family or whoever feels the love..
So how do i capture that intimacy without knowing the lovers/relationships that i’m making my jewellery for? Well my loves that is the hard part. I have a small idea already, but that idea is formed around the mechanism in which the love token is received and not the token itself (stay tuned for that excitement… trust me it is exciting!)… but my research and current energies are going into how to develop the token.