Lockets, Their History, and Why We Love Them


Lockets are one of those ubiquitous jewellery pieces. Having been popular for centuries, most people will add a locket necklace to their jewellery collection at some point; whether you buy it for yourself or receive it as a gift for a milestone birthday, an anniversary, or to celebrate new additions to your family.   

We are firm believers that jewellery – especially the most sentimental and meaningful kinds – are made to be worn. A far cry from the oversized, old fashioned, or extravagantly filigreed locket designs you might be familiar with (that inevitably end up sitting in your jewellery box rather than being a staple in your accessory rotation), our modern locket necklaces create the perfect, subtle keepsake that you can wear close to your heart every day.


Oval Mini Locket Necklace in Gold | Square Locket Necklace in Gold | Rope Chain Necklace in Silver

A brief history of lockets

Here’s the historical lowdown on lockets, which you didn’t ask for but which is surprisingly interesting (thank us the next time you find yourself at trivia).

Locket artefacts have been found that date back thousands of years, sourced everywhere from Egypt to the Middle East to Britain, but they really came into their own as a symbolic piece of jewellery during the Middle Ages in Europe.

According to this deep-dive, lockets at this time were originally associated with mourning – and, erm, sometimes used for more nefarious purposes (some suspicious types would even use locket rings as a container for poison: enemies beware). Jewellery was generally reserved for the aristocratic classes as it was unaffordable to most, so those who could afford it would pop a lock of hair inside, snipped from the tresses of their deceased loved one. The especially wealthy could go for something a little more on the glam side, such as a painted portrait – but either way, the purpose was consistent: keeping the memory of a loved one close.  

Lockets really gained wide-spread popularity thanks to the original trend-setter, Queen Victoria. You might recall her as the monarch who began the tradition of wearing white at your wedding. As a publicly beloved and revered couple, all eyes were on the extraordinary locket bracelet gifted to Victoria by her husband, Prince Albert; which contained eight individual lockets, each with a lock of hair from their eight children. This symbolised a bit of a new tact for wearing lockets; celebrating current connections with loved ones and not only reserved for those who were gone. When her beloved husband died, Victoria (who famously wore mourning attire for the rest of her life), also commissioned an extravagant locket with a portrait of Albert inside, and she wore it against her chest every single day.

While jewellery (and fashion in general) was grandiose in those days, lockets happily have not been relegated to their ostentatious past. The modern version is often slim, simple, and understated, with a tiny, meaningful photo or note or placed inside by the wearer. They also tend to be worn largely with happy connotations these days, as a celebration of ongoing, living connections.
 

Lockets today: timeless yet modern

These days, lockets are most often worn as pendants on a necklace. Slimmed down and simplified compared to the styles favoured by Middle Ages aristocracy, lockets are still the most loved when they’re crafted from precious, lasting materials such as gold or sterling silver.

The modern day locket can often be mistaken for a sleek oval or square pendant, allowing you to keep the sentimental contents of your cherished piece discreet and wholesomely to yourself (until you’re ready to show off your cute family, friend or pet pics, of course). 

While the designs have changed, and the context is often happier than the lockets of centuries past, what has remained the same is the association of lockets with love and deep connections. They are intended to keep your favourite memories and most treasured people (or animals) close to your heart at all times; a wearable and tangible reminder of those who matter most to you – whether it’s someone you don’t physically get to see too often, your bestie who you see literally every week, or even your partner who you live with.

At Medley, you can find a selection of beautiful, modern locket necklaces crafted in sterling silver and 18ct fine gold plating. Our pieces can hold two photos inside, so you can tell your meaningful story and wear it close.


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Styling your sentimental keepsake

Locket necklaces are timeless and designed to be worn as a sentimental, everyday piece. For an effortless look, wear your locket necklace on its own; perhaps paired with a simple pair of hoop earrings and a chain bracelet or solid bangle in the same precious metal.

To create more of a statement, or maybe to elevate your look for an evening event, layer your locket necklace with additional chains and necklaces.

The simplest way to create a polished layered look is to stick to the same metal colour: pair a silver locket with silver chains, and a gold locket with gold chains. We love the rounded texture of a rope chain, or the fluid drape of a snake chain to highlight the curves of an oval locket necklace. Any chain style will look great with a square locket necklace, but we especially love a paperclip or figaro chain.

For extra interest and personalisation, you can also try layering your locket with a diamond letter necklace or one of our laboratory grown diamond solitaire necklaces
 
 
 Heavy Rope Chain Necklace in Silver | Oval Mini Locket Necklace in Silver | Square Locket Necklace in Silver
 
Are you ready to find the keepsake you’ll keep close to your heart?