Lore, Love and Lockets

by gingermeekallen on January 15, 2010

I remember being mesmerized by lockets as a little girl. And now, I still am.

I love surprises. And secrets are exciting. Loving something enough to circle your neck with it and wear it on your chest gives strength. For all these reasons, I adore lockets.

Sterling GMA Locket

Lockets throughout history

American Civil War soldiers headed off to war would leave a lock of hair at home. Should he be killed in battle, his betrothed would then wear a locket containing the tress.

During the Victorian era, lockets were often heart-shaped, symbolizing the joining of the hearts of the wearer and the loved one whose image was held inside as the heart-shaped locket brushed the heart of the wearer’s chest. The interior images then would have been a tiny hand-painted portraits, done by a gifted artist with the ability to capture the likeness of someone in often less than a square inch.

Many other uses of lockets have been documented – as a sachet for the body containing a cotton ball soaked in perfume oil, as a place to hold baby teeth, as an opportunity to keep lip balm at the ready in a dry climate, or even a place to keep your poison, should you need it.

Only in the last century have photographs become the primary contents of lockets.

A surprise contained

In the moment when you hold a tiny container in your fingers, you become aware that there is something inside. Wonder consumes your thoughts – what’s in there?

You begin to search for the way inside. How does it open? As you reveal the interior, you discover an image, or a message engraved. Or, perhaps it’s empty, waiting for its purpose to be fulfilled.

This moment when a symbolic container is opened is one of the reasons I love to create lockets. I also celebrate the symbol and meaning for the wearer. And, I do love to build.

Technical challenge

Building a container with an attached lid – as a locket – is great fun for me. It involves the symbiotic interweaving of many skills at the bench, and I truly enjoy complex technical problem solving at the bench.

Unlike many other objects made in the metals studio, measurements matter, math is involved, and parts must fit. These are the keys to building a locket. I highly recommend The Metalsmith’s Book of Boxes and Lockets by Tim McCreight. My copy is well-worn. From the introduction:

Lockets and boxes offer a wonderful format for metalsmiths. Technically, they call upon a set of skills that can challenge anyone: hinges that slide fluidly, seams that disappear, catches that click with confident assurance.

I am never sorry that I took the time to measure twice, cut once.

Come together

It’s all worthwhile in the end. Taking the time to work through both the aesthetics and the technical always creates satisfaction with the finished product and its worthiness to bear a symbol of life, love, lore or loss.

Upcoming Post: The Elizabeth Locket




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