Lover's eye jewellery is a fascinating and intriguing piece of history. This unique style of jewellery was popular in the late 18th and 19th centuries, similar to acrostic jewellery, it was used mainly as a form of secret communication between lovers to secretly declare their affections for one another. Lover's eye jewellery was typically a miniature portrait of an eye often painted on ivory or vellum, and set into a piece of jewellery- most frequently a ring, brooch or necklace. The concept evolved from the inspired trend of miniature portraits, which were fashionable and sought after among the aristocracy and upper classes during the 18th century. These portraits were highly prized for their intricate detail and lifelike quality.
The true origins of lover's jewellery can be traced back to the Georgian era, a time of great elegance and refinement. During this period, public displays of affection were considered improper- specifically between lovers from different social classes. As a result, many couples resorted to exchanging these discreet tokens of their affection. The first known lover's eye was commissioned by the Prince of Wales (later known as King George IV) in 1785. The piece was a miniature portrait of his eye, set in a locket and gifted to his mistress, Maria Fitzherbert. From there, the trend quickly caught on and lover's eye jewellery became a popular form of self expression.
Skipping ahead, to the era of Queen Victoria, King George's niece, there was a notable love for eye miniatures and they began to have a revival. Both the Queen and her spouse possessed both a talent and interest for art and were avid collectors, often enlisting the services of jewellers to create love tokens, which they exchanged as romantic gifts on special occasions. Sir William Charles Ross held the title of Royal Miniaturist to the Queen and painted the majority of the eye portraits commissioned by her majesty and other royal figures.
These micro-portraits contain a fascinating amount of detail and symbolism. The eye was not only a representation of the lover but also often conveyed hidden messages. For example, a raised eyebrow was thought to signify surprise or excitement while a half-closed eye could indicate a sense of intimacy or secrecy. As lover's eye jewellery was commonly used amongst those in forbidden love, a portrait featuring a closed eye was used to indicate the secret held between lovers, similarly different colours, materials and motifs also expressed particular messages.
Today, lover's eye jewellery is highly prized by collectors and historians, both for its beauty and for the fascinating insights it provides into the social and cultural norms of the past. In addition to its historical significance lover's eye jewellery is also a testament to the enduring power of love and affection. Today we may take for granted the ability to express our love, but the tradition of lover's eye jewellery reminds us of the creativity and ingenuity that love can inspire. Nowadays, these intriguing artefacts are enjoying a renewed popularity. They made a cameo on the first series of the popular series 'Bridgerton,' worn by character 'Marina Thompson' to indicate her complicated romantic journey throughout the series. These romantic treasures are truly worth a revival, and we cant wait to see lover's eye jewellery make more appearances in 21st century fashion and television.