At a recent fundraising event, a Danville woman brought a lovely pendant for identification. She did not know much about it but thought that it may have belonged to her grandmother. I am not a gemologist and am not accredited to evaluate jewelry. However, I do love old pieces – especially family pieces that may have some history.
Her flower basket pendant was set with 6 gemstone “flowers” in red, green, pink, purple, red and clear; the basket itself was dotted with small bits of turquoise. At first I thought the colored stones might represent birthstones of family members but taking into account the symbolism of the flowers and basket I determined that what she had was older than she thought. She had a Victorian pendant with a secret acrostic message.
The Victorian era was characterized by multitudinous codes of civility and gentility. This rigidity gave rise to surreptitious coded systems of conveying messages and even flirting. A folded upper left corner of a calling card conveys congratulations while a folded lower right means leaving town; a snake bracelet is a symbol of eternal love and a buckle motif signifies safety; swallows mate for life so an image of one shows fidelity; an anchor conveys hope, a horseshoe luck and clover a happy home. Pearls symbolize purity, emeralds rebirth and aquamarine connotes peace. Individual flowers held meanings; arrangements of flowers could convey more complex messages.
Popular legend says that Marie Antoinette’s jeweler was the first to create acrostic jewelry and that Napoleon Bonaparte popularized it by commissioning jewelry to spell out important names, events and victorious battles. So while acrostic jewelry may have had its start in France, it was in Victorian era England, with its delight in the surreptitious, that the trend became popularized. Gemstones set in rings, bracelets and brooches spelled out “Regard” Dearest” and “Adore.”
The woman’s basket of gemstone flowers was a Victorian acrostic– a piece of jewelry that spells out a word. The gems left to right are Ruby, Emerald, Garnet, Amethyst, Ruby again and Diamond – spelling out “Regard”
This pin would transmit a very clear message. The basket symbolizes home; the turquoise dotting the basket connotes strength and tranquility; the six gemstones “flowers” are arranged in the style of forget-me-nots. The pendant’s recipient would understand this to be a token of long term affection and a desire to marry.
I’m not a gemologist so I cannot calculate the intrinsic value of the metal and gemstones. I only know that pins and rings like this – Victorian tokens of special regard – are highly sought after by jewelry lovers and usually sell for more than the value of the gold and stones.
Happy Mother’s Day. In honor of Moms everywhere, I’m pretending I’m wearing a Moonstone, Opal, Topaz, Hematite, Emerald, and Ruby brooch.