A locket is a deeply personal piece of jewelry. It has special meaning to the wearer, whether it was a gift or something they picked out for their collection. Lockets, most often pendants on a necklace chain, open in some way that lets the wearer place something meaningful inside.
You may imagine a locket as a Victorian-era keepsake. Maybe you picture antique designs around the necks of mourners or lovers from centuries ago, clutching a locket with a loved one's photo inside. While the jewelry does have a rich history, it has just as many uses today and is still a trend.
We've created a guide to lockets, which will help you when picking ones as gifts or wearing your own. Read on to learn everything you need to know about lockets, from the process of making them to when to wear them.
Table of Contents
- History of the Locket
- What is the Meaning of a Locket?
- How Do You Make a Locket?
- Different Types of Lockets
- What Can You Do with a Locket?
- How and When to Wear a Locket
- Are Lockets Still in Style?
- Where to Buy Lockets
History of the Locket
What is a locket? You most likely know the answer to this question, but maybe you don't know their rich history. Without knowledge about the history of lockets, you may wonder where lockets come from and what started the trend.
Because of the protection some feel a locket provides, many believe lockets evolved from amulets. Amulets were popular throughout ancient Greek and Roman times, since they symbolized protection from disease, danger and evil. They were usually a piece of jewelry, an ornament or other small, yet special, object that meant something to the wearer.
Over locket necklace history, amulets developed into lockets, which held a precious object or served as that object. Lockets in some form have been around for hundreds of years, but they have changed over time. As centuries passed, lockets evolved throughout.
- The 1400s: Lockets at this time were usually necklaces, brooches or rings. Wearers had small portraits of loved ones inside or, in some cases, portraits of the king and queen, which showed loyalty to the crown. During the 1400s, we also see some of the first uses of aroma lockets. With a small perfumed square inside of a locket, a wearer could mask smells from conditions around them.
- The 1600s: After the death of Charles I of England, supporters put pictures of him in their lockets. With a painting of a deceased individual inside, these lockets became mourning jewelry, which helped start the trend of placing a portrait of a loved one who has passed away inside a locket.
- The 1700s: Mourning jewelry continued to rise in popularity throughout the 1700s. Grieving individuals wore intricately designed lockets with photos inside of loved ones who had passed. People also wore lockets with more positive associations during this time. In the collection at Mount Vernon, you may see a locket with a lock of George Washington's hair. The locket is a testament to the friendship between Washington and the Secretary of the Treasury, Oliver Wolcott.
- The 1800s: After Prince Albert's death, the queen wore a locket dedicated to his memory. She wore the piece throughout her mourning period and after, which began a fashion trend of jewelry and lockets for the upper and middle classes. Once jewelers began producing affordable jewelry for those classes, lockets took off as a fashion trend.
The purpose of locket necklaces changed throughout history, but in general, they were always meant to hold something special or vital to the wearer. In the past, individuals have used lockets to hold:
- A portrait
- A small love letter
- A lock of hair
- A slip of paper with a prayer or wish
- A music box
- Good-luck charms
A photo of a friend, family member or significant other is one of the most common items kept in a locket today and in the past. Before developments in photography, skilled artists painted portraits in lockets, which meant only the wealthy could afford such a dedication. As photography became more common, individuals placed photos of loved ones inside their lockets. Today, it's even possible to get an image of a loved one engraved into a locket.
As the history of lockets evolved and pieces became more fashionable, the purpose of the jewelry changed slightly. Almost anything can go into a locket, so the purpose and significance vary depending on who wears it.
What Is the Meaning of a Locket?
The meaning of a locket depends on the type and the occasion. As you've seen with the history of lockets, there are many occasions to wear this type of jewelry.
Some possibilities for a locket's significance include the ability to:
- Mourn a loved one or a public figure
- Show loyalty to a public figure
- Keep a loved one close
- Honor a friendship
While a locket usually has heartfelt meanings, sometimes a wearer uses it to carry around perfumed scents. Because of that, you can see a locket's significance will also change depending on what is inside the jewelry. In most cases, wearers use lockets to hold the following.
- Something important: Whether the wearer keeps a photo of someone or a prayer or wish inside of their locket, it is most likely something they cherish. The wearer wants to carry around this keepsake at all times and wear it on them so they know where it is. When you keep a prayer or wish inside the jewelry, you'll remember it as you wear it, giving significance to your hopes and desires.
- Something private: Many locket designs hide whatever is inside them as long as the outside isn't see-through. Whether the wearer puts a photograph, note or other trinkets inside, they'll be the only one to know it's there.
- Something close to your heart: It's the symbolism that makes the most sense for a locket, especially when it is on a necklace chain. Whatever photo or keepsake you put inside a locket necklace, it will dangle near your heart. Lockets often hold photos of loved ones, significant others specifically, so the location of the jewelry over the heart makes sense. It also explains why so many lockets are heart-shaped.
- Something practical: In some cases, the wearer puts something in a locket that has a purpose. These practical items are the perfumed squares of the past and essential oil diffusers of today. They relax the wearer or provide them with pleasing scents as they wear their locket.
A locket's meaning may be any combination of the above, depending on the wearer and what's inside the jewelry. As a gift-giver or wearer, you can further determine the significance of a locket with certain materials, shapes and engravings, which all factor into how a locket is made.
How Do You Make a Locket?
How are lockets made? The answer to that question depends on the type of locket you choose. Most varieties have a hinge that enables the wearer to open the locket, place meaningful items inside and close it. Some lockets have a small clasp that allows them to click shut and remain secure. Modern versions may use small magnets to stay closed, which also depends on the rest of the material in the locket.
You'll find lockets in the same variety of materials you'd expect to see in other jewelry. From the main structure of the locket to other accents, you have options with:
- Rose gold, in modern pieces
- Other gemstones
- Crystal or glass, in modern pieces
Jewelers use these materials to create a variety of results. It's most common to wear lockets as necklaces, but you'll find rings, brooches, bracelets and other jewelry styles that have locket aspects. No matter the type of locket jewelry, there are an array of style influences, such as the following.
- Modern: Modern lockets appear in rose gold and other trendy metals. They often feature crystal or glass windows into the locket. If they have a metal construction, lockets may be encrusted with diamonds or other gemstones.
- Vintage: Antique or vintage-inspired lockets are often oval-shaped, perfect for holding a portrait. Vintage lockets are often gold, brass or silver with ornate details.
- Whimsical: Some lockets have filigree designs or feature natural elements like trees or flowers. Those design elements give the locket a charming or whimsical feel, which is perfect for younger wearers or those who appreciate unique style.
Whether you find a custom locket designer or purchase one already made in any style, one of the final steps of making a locket will be an optional engraving. While it's not necessary to have a jeweler engrave your piece, it can add something special to the jewelry. Some popular engraving choices include:
- The date you've given the locket as a gift
- An anniversary date
- A date of birth to celebrate a new baby
- The name of a loved one
- A special note
- Initials of the wearer or someone special
A jeweler can engrave almost any part of a locket as long as they have enough room and a smooth surface. For special notes and other messages, opt for the engraving on the inside of the locket. If a jeweler engraves the inside, it's more likely to last. Simple engravings, such as initials or dates, will work on the back, front or inside of a locket.
Different Types of Lockets
When buying a locket, you have plenty of types to consider. From the style and materials we've mentioned above to the kind of jewelry you want your locket on, you'll have a lot of decisions to make.
Two essential design aspects to consider when exploring different types of lockets include the shape and frame style. The variety of shapes available include:
You'll find various shapes in modern and vintage styles with an array of materials. Hearts and ovals were the most common shapes for centuries, but as modern designs become more popular, you'll see more circular and square lockets. The shapes themselves come in different options, as well, with different styles and frame types.
The style you choose for a locket varies based on what you'd like to put inside. Different frame amounts and locket styles include the following.
- One frame: Lockets with filigree or an open-detail front may have one frame inside. A one-frame locket is perfect for a photo of a significant other or special loved one. If the front of the locket does have a design that isn't completely solid, you'll be able to see part of the picture through it.
- One frame on either side: Hinged lockets often open to reveal two frames, one on either side. With two frames, you could put in a pair of photos that feature parents, grandparents or other family members. For a symbolic locket, you could put in a photo of you and one of your significant other so the two of you are together forever in the jewelry.
- Expanding locket: If you have even more photos of loved ones, consider an expanding locket. An expanding variety folds out to reveal several frames, the number of which will depend on the style. Choose an expanding option if you or a gift recipient have many kids or grandchildren to put pictures of in a locket.
- Clear lockets: Glass or crystal lockets allow you to see inside. Because of their clear construction, they are also called floating lockets. Wearers commonly show off small charms or crystals in these see-through designs. Clear lockets are much more modern and allow for even more personalization as you can add a variety of charms or trinkets. In contrast to other lockets, floating varieties aren't ideal for privacy, since you can see what's in the locket.
- Prayer box: As the name implies, this style of locket usually has a three-dimensional box shape. In the past, individuals used these to hold prayers or wishes they wrote on slips of paper. Today, wearers can use them for the same purpose or keep gemstones, crystals, charms or other small keepsakes inside. They are a private alternative to clear lockets and have a more vintage aesthetic.
- Aromatherapy lockets: This style features a diffuser for the wearer to add essential oils into the jewelry. While diffuser lockets are more modern, wearers in the past used perfume, herbs and other fragrant plants for similar purposes. If you or a loved one is interested in aromatherapy or has an essential oil collection, get a diffuser locket to experience the scents throughout the day.
All these styles of lockets mean you can find jewelry that suits almost any purpose. With so many to choose from, you'll want to know when you can give a locket as a gift.
What Can You Do With a Locket?
We've explained the different trinkets and items you can keep in a locket, but it's worth knowing you can give any style of locket as a gift. Other than wearing one yourself, giving a locket to someone can mark a special occasion, and sometimes is a more meaningful gift than regular jewelry.
All types of lockets make great gifts for many occasions. Buying a locket for someone will allow them to hold others close to their heart. That significance is perfect for occasions such as the following.
- Sympathy: When a friend or family member of your loved one passes away, give them a locket to let them know you're thinking of them. You can put a photo of who your loved one lost in the locket to honor their memory and comfort your recipient through loss.
- Anniversary: For a celebratory occasion, a locket also makes a great gift. To commemorate a wedding anniversary, you can choose the appropriate metal or gem for the locket material. Choose gold for the first, 14th or 50th wedding anniversaries and silver for the 25th. Select a locket with diamond details as a gift for 10th or 60th wedding anniversaries.
- Holiday and birthday gifts: Give someone a locket for Valentine's Day, Christmas, other holidays and birthdays. You can theme the gift around the occasion, as well, so your loved one will always remember when you gave the thoughtful gift. Include the recipient's birthstone on the face of the locket or have it engraved with the date or a special message.
- Going away: Whether a friend or family member is moving, traveling or headed off for college or other reasons, give a locket as a gift. You can put in a photo of yourself, you and the recipient or their family and friends. It is difficult to be apart from loved ones, so having their photo in a locket will make traveling or moving away easier.
Of course, you don't have to purchase lockets exclusively for others. You may have charms or a photo of someone special you'd like to keep in a locket. Whether you collect the jewelry or received a piece as a gift yourself, you need to know when to wear it.
How and When to Wear a Locket
If you've received a locket as a gift or purchased one for your collection, you'll want to know how and when to wear it so you can show it off properly. You can style different types of lockets for various occasions and purposes.
- Everyday casual: Many styles of lockets suit an everyday or casual look. These pieces will dress up an outfit slightly, but you can still wear them to work or other daily situations. Larger lockets make eye-catching statement pieces that still keep an outfit perfect for everyday activities.
- Formal: Save your lockets with fine metals and gemstones for formal occasions. From parties to other formal celebrations, a locket makes an elegant touch. Choose smaller varieties if you prefer an understated look.
- Alone: Given a locket's size or design, it makes a stunning statement piece on its own. Wear a locket by itself to capture everyone's attention. People will wonder what's inside while admiring the outside design.
- With other pieces: Layer a locket with other necklaces or add subtle earrings, rings, bracelets and other pieces to give your outfit dimension. Mix metals for a modern look or keep everything the same for an elegant style.
When it comes to styling types of lockets, get creative. Layer shorter and longer locket necklaces or mix metals to add something unique to your look. Keep in mind the neckline of your outfit if you're wearing a locket necklace, because specific necklines go better with necklaces of different lengths.
As you can see from the array of ways to wear a locket, your options are almost limitless. Combined with different materials and jewelry types, the styles of lockets out there give you even more variety, but are lockets still in style?
Are Lockets Still in Style?
Given the rich history of lockets, you may wonder if they are still in style. Their sentimental purpose centuries ago made them a trend, but some don't see a reason for wearing lockets with today's technology. While we do have unlimited access to photos of family members, friends and significant others thanks to widespread technology, there is something special about wearing a locket.
When you wear a locket today, it does a lot for your outfit and says a lot about what's inside the jewelry. A locket today:
- Shows a special dedication to whoever or whatever is inside the jewelry
- Gives your look a vintage touch based on the style you choose
- Adds a bold statement piece to your outfit
Lockets are wonderful for their sentimental value, but you could wear it as pendant jewelry without a keepsake inside. Any type of locket could be part of a stylish look today, whether or not you have something inside. If you're concerned about being on-trend, choose styles of lockets like:
- A silver oval pendant with a minimal design
- A sleek, gold square pendant
- A silver gate frame design
- A sleek, silver heart with white sapphire accents
- A rose gold floating locket
If you wear one of the types of lockets above, you'll have a trendy look with a style of jewelry that's been around for centuries. Fill pieces with modern charms, photos or leave them empty to use as statement jewelry. No matter how you wear them, lockets make a stunning addition to your jewelry collection.
Find a Locket With Mountz Jewelers
Where do lockets come from? Whether you want to give an elegant locket as a gift or add one to your collection, explore our options at Mountz Jewelers. We have an array of necklaces and pendants that feature lockets or other interesting locket pieces like rings. With such a variety, you're sure to find types of lockets perfect for yourself or to give as a gift.
At Mountz Jewelers, we provide customers with a quality experience and quality pieces. We'll work with you to find the perfect locket, whether it's for you or a loved one. Contact us today at 717-763-1199 with any questions about our selection, or make an appointment to work with us for any of your jewelry needs. Trust your special moments to Mountz!