A deeper meaning in jewellery… part 3 – form and presentation

Form and presentation: a personal message

Not only the materials used had a symbolic meaning. The shape and the representation of the jewel could also contain a message

In this way we recognize the cross as a symbol for Christianity. The anchor as a symbol of hope and fortitude and the key to access the family property.

Two right hands folded together, as well as certain knots and bows, must be regarded as a symbol for a close bond.

Flora and fauna are also used symbolically.

But the best know is the heart shape, symbol of love and friendship. The heart shape can occur in many ways. Such as a solitaire set gemstone cut into a heart shape, a medallion in the shape of a heart, a pin in heart shape through which an arrow goes,…

There are also other forms or images that include a reference to a love or friendship message. Such as a bracelet with the clasp consisting of folded hands, a brooch in the form of roses or forget-me-nots,…
A heart-shaped locket pendant containing a lock of hair of a loved one.

The most common jewel that has to represent loyalty of 2 lovers is the engagement ring. The ring has always been a symbol, a sign of recognition, a building of friendship, loyalty or love.

Rings were originally mostly functional and served, among other things, to seal

Only later rings became purely decorative jewellery. The ring as the seal of a contract, for example the official wedding promise, we already know from Roman times: the so-called “fede” ring. It is this premarital ring that will become the engagement ring in later times.

fede ring
19th century Fede ring, image thanks to 1stdibs.com

The actual wedding ring that is exchanged between the spouses during the marriage blessing is in the most European cultures a simple gold or silver ring. It can be with or without inscriptions and was usually worn to what we now call the finger ring.

The Romans also knew the ring with key (access to family property) as a wedding ring.

In the 16th and 17th century the so-called gimmelrings were very fashionable. Gimmel comes from the Latin gemmelus that means twins. These rings consist of 2 halves (2 rings) that fit together and join 1 ring. This was the wedding ring par excellence in those times.

gimmal ring
Gimmel ring, photo by Geni, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62730831

Our grandmothers had engagement rings that were sometimes called “toi et moi” because of the crossing of gems

toi et moi ring
Early 20th century Toi et Moi ring

Where we now almost exclusively think of a diamond solitaire ring as an engagement ring, the so-called entourage rings used to be much more common.

entourage ring
Early 20th century entourage ring

But signs of friendship, love or commemoration were also carried outside of marriage. Usually such pieces of jewellery were informal gifts between lovers or friends.

Just think of the so-called “posy” rings or rings with a poem, where love rhymes were engraved. These inscriptions are usually in French like “Mon coeur s’adresse”.

posy ring
Posy ring 17th century. The inscription on the inside reads “LOYALTE NE PEUR,” which translates to “loyalty not fear.”
Photo thanks to Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Initials also occur, connected in a heart shape or by a love knot.

Mainly in Victorian England commemorative jewels occur with messages that were expressed with the help of a gemstone alphabet. The so-called “regard” gems”. In many of the late 18th and 19th century jewels you find such symbolism.

Today, many of the goldsmiths often fall back to that old language form

For example, Cartier once again launches twinning rings to 16th century examples or snakes that then had a wish for a long life.

snake ring
19th century snake ring

Others make advertising for the wearing of 2 equal rings, but with different stones, as is customary with the rich from the time of the renaissance and the early baroque. Despite that revival one may assume that most owners of those jewels have no idea of ​​the symbolic meaning of their jewellery.



The jewel is an enduring cultural value, through an ever-changing thought and expression of feeling it expresses a message of beauty and joy in life. Thus the jewel contributes to giving life more style and content.


There are 3 posts of A deeper meaning in jewellery: first post A deeper meaning in jewellery… the origan of jewels, second post A deeper meaning in jewellery… gold and gemstones and third and final post A deeper meaning in jewellery… form and presentation.