At Uneak boutique we sell hundreds of lockets every year. They are one of our best selling lines and very popular as keepsake gifts for special occasions such as weddings or christenings. Lockets have a special quality about them as they become sentimental pieces of jewellery. They are pieces of jewellery which people treasure and hold close to their hearts, whether they contain a photo of a loved one past or present, or a lock of hair from someone special, they seem to have a certain magic about them.

The History of Lockets

Sentimental jewellery has long been worn to express love for a family member, a partner, or in days gone by, to show support to a member of the royal family or particular religion. Many years ago, lockets were worn by both men and women. Men who were particularly patriotic, wore lockets which displayed an image of their King to symbolise their solidarity. Lockets weren't always just worn around the neck, often they were worn as rings, watch fobs or like brooches. Elizabeth I had a locket ring commissioned for her around 1575 and the ring contained two portraits, one of herself and one of her late mother Anne Boleyn. The ring was made from a band of mother of pearl and gold which was set with diamonds and rubies. She wore the ring until she died and it was then removed from her body and is now stored at Chequers, the official country residence of the Prime Minister. Elizabeth also gave lavish, jewel encrusted lockets to many of her favorite and loyal subjects, including the English Sea Captain, Sir Francis Drake.


Elizabeth I’s famous locket ring

Another famous locket dates from the late 16th century, known as the 'Penicuik Locket', which is though to have belonged to Mary, Queen of Scots. The locket featured two hand-painted miniature portraits believed to be that of Mary and her son James.  It is said that the locket was given by Mary Queen of Scots to her devoted servant Giles Mowbray, on the eve of her execution in 1587 which is how it ended up in the hands of the Clerk family. The locket got its name from the Clerk family of Penicuik who it was preserved by. The Clerks of Penicuik had a connection with Mary, Queen of Scots, through marriage as in the 17th century, a member of their family married a granddaughter of Giles Mowbray, who was the Queen's servant. The famous locket is now displayed in the Scottish National Museum for all to see.



Mary, Queen of Scots, The Penicuik Locket and Clerk family's residence Penicuik House   


By 17th century lockets gained even more sentimentality and became a way to commemorate the death of a person. Mourning jewellery became hugely popular around the time of the execution of Charles I in 1649 and his loyal followers wore miniature portraits of the King set in rings and lockets. These lockets were often worn secretly and some contained treasured locks of his hair. In the 17th century locks of hair were often enclosed in elaborate lockets, which were often hidden from view, but by the 18th century, the lock of hair became a principle and visible part of the jewellery, often curled or plaited inside the locket for everyone to admire. 

Locks of hair from a passed loved one were almost always held inside a heart shaped locket to represent the love for that person. Heart lockets were one of the most popular shapes of the 18th century and often the lockets were transparent so the lock of hair could be seen when worn. It was said that if the heart locket was worn by the wearer without a lock of hair inside, this was a way to signify truth or purity.



This 18th century locket  is a typical example of heart shaped transparent locket showing a curled lock of hair

Early century lockets were lavish jewel encrusted designs, which only the privileged and wealthy could afford. Aristocracy were able to commission the leading artists of the time to hand paint magnificent, miniature portraits to place inside their lockets. It wasn't until much later in time and after the introduction of photography in the late 19th century/early 20th century, that lockets became more affordable to the masses. In the 19th century and early 20th century, lockets became popular as mourning jewellery, as they not only served as a personal reminder of a loved one (holding pictures or locks of the deceased's hair) they also brightened and freshened the look of the mandatory mourning clothing during the Victorian era. During Victorian times lockets were a popular fashion accessory, adorned by all and ranging from simple silver lockets to vintage shimmering marcasite lockets and other lavish gemstone set lockets. They also were used to carry powder, miniature portraits, herbal remedies and some even contained poison!


During the first World War young soldiers were able to present their loved ones with a locket containing a photo of themselves, as a way of something to remember them by in their absence. During this period there was such a demand for lockets, that they produced in vast quantities and sold for only a few shillings, so the quality of some of the lockets made around this time could be very poor.

Lockets today

Today lockets are worn for many reasons, as well as remembering a loved one and are still as fashionable as ever. They make wonderful wedding gifts from the bridegroom to the bride, especially heart lockets containing pictures of the couple. They are also popular as 18th and 21st birthday gifts and even more heartfelt if inscribed with a special message. Girls lockets are very popular too especially as christening gifts or milestone birthdays as young ladies just love grown up style jewellery. Patterned lockets are very traditional in style and plain lockets in oval, heart and round shapes are still some of the best selling designs. Sizes and patterns may vary but all lockets make beautiful gifts, treasured by the wearer and keepsakes for a lifetime.


Traditional plain and patterned silver lockets 


Vintage style lockets like the ones shown below are a nod to times gone by and have a beautiful timeless quality. From silver lockets set with enamel, to lockets with oxidised detailing or marcasite lockets these stunning designs make wonderful keepsakes which people treasure for years to come and are often passed down through the family. They are romantic pieces of jewellery which hold an air of magic and mystery about them. They can make the wearer feel close to a loved when far away, or remind you of happy memories and treasured times. A locket is forever, a special keepsake and a heartfelt gift for young and old alike. Cherish these wonderful pieces of jewellery as time stands still inside these once sacred amulets and the legend of the locket lives on for future generations. 



Vintage silver lockets inspired by times gone by

View our fantastic collection of silver lockets: