Vintage
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Lover’s Eyes

Alison of Teenangster always discovers the most amazing jewellery, which she often shares on her blog, pinterest and twitter. so i was excited when she sent me this post about Lover’s Eyes. jewellery with a story, my favourite.


So, I’m a bit of an antique jewelry fiend. Ever since I got engaged, it’s only gotten worse; I now spend way too much time hovering on eBay and Etsy vintage, seeking out gray seed pearls, an engraved band from the 1930s, European-cut diamonds, mourning jewelry. You name it, I’m watching it.

And then I found out about lover’s eyes: hand-painted portraits on ivory which were popular in England between the 1780s and 1830s. What a game changer! My love of eyes, art and jewelry, united in one convenient, covetable form.

So, the history of this jewelry style is as juicy as the paintings are gorgeous. Since romantic love didn’t typically exist within the confines of a marriage at this point in history, affairs were pretty common. So how would you show your loyalty to your lover? By wearing a sentimental portrait of an unidentifiable part of their person, of course.

According to the Smithsonian, “One of the earliest known eye miniatures was painted in 1786 by the English artist Richard Cosway for the Prince of Wales, later King George IV. The miniature showed the eye of Mrs. Fitzherbert, the prince’s mistress.” And since just the eye of one’s lover was visible, the piece could be worn while your inamorata’s identify remained secret. It’s also been theorized that the “single eye also symbolized the watchful gaze of a jealous partner, who feared that his or her lover might stray.” Scandalous, juicy, royal and pretty: my kind of history.

I’ve found that, once you start digging, it seems as though lover’s eyes are everywhere you look. Needless to say, I can’t wait to see one in person. Philadelphia, I’m coming for you!

 

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12 Comments

  1. Wow, nice collection! There’s something so alluring about those sorta-creepy, sorta-pretty things, isn’t there?

    Thanks for sharing this post! :)

  2. Ha, I grew up & live about 5 minutes from the Art Museum in Philly and had no idea there was a whole collection there. How neat, and yet slightly creepy?

  3. The largest exhibition of lover’s eye jewelry is now on display at the Birmingham Museum of Art, with 98 lover’s eye pieces. This exhibit, The Look of Love: Eye Miniatures from the Skier Collection, has recently been featured in The New York Times, Vanity Fair, and will debut in Elle magazine in April. The first image you are featuring is part of their collection. Check it out at http://www.artsbma.org!

  4. Was drawn to these last time I was at the art museum here in Philly. They are quite amazing in person and so avant garde for the era too!

  5. Mary Kate says

    I went to the Look of Love lover’s eye exhibition at the Birmingham Museum of Art twice because I loved it so much. The collection is amazing. It is not to be missed.

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