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Shapes of the Heart: The Story Behind the Five Most Romantic Jewellery Motifs

By Sarah Royce-Greensill 3 Minute Read

Whether given to a partner, friend, parent, sibling or child, every piece of jewellery carries meaning and memories.

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Certain symbols are inextricably linked to love and have been used to symbolise matters of the heart for centuries. Here, we look at the history behind the five most romantic motifs in the jewellery world.

Infinity

Thought there was nothing sentimental about algebra? Think again: the infinity symbol is where mathematics and romance collide. While the figure-of-eight motif can be traced back to Greek philosophy, it was first used to represent a number with no end by mathematician John Wallis in the 17th century. Also known as a lemniscate, from the Latin for “decorated with ribbons”, the symbol expresses eternal, endless love. Its elegant silhouette parlays beautifully into jewellery, such as this more abstract link in Georg Jensen’s Sterling silver bracelet and pendant.

Knot

Like the Celtic handfasting ritual, in which a married couple’s hands are tied together – literally, tying the knot – a knot represents love and lasting commitment. Love knots have appeared in jewelled form over the centuries: from Ancient Greek jewellery and Celtic knot rings to sailors’ rope bracelets and Victorian jewels. Symbolic but not saccharine, knots continue to appear in contemporary jewellery design. Mappin & Webb’s 18ct gold knots are easy to wear everyday items of jewellery.

Flowers

Nothing says ‘I love you’ better than a bouquet of flowers – except an everlasting display wrought from precious metal and gems. Floral jewellery blossomed in the early 19th century after the publication of Le Langage des Fleurs, which assigned meanings to different botanicals: tulips for love, blue violets for faithfulness, ivy for fidelity. Victorians, who loved symbolic jewels, embraced this new language with naturalistic depictions of flowers in diamond brooches, rings, necklaces and tiaras. The trend continued into the enameled blooms of Art Nouveau. Contemporary floral jewels are simpler and more stylised: Roberto Coin’s pretty pansies are made up of four diamonds within every petal.

Circle

Wedding and eternity bands are an everyday reminder of a couple’s enduring love and commitment: the unbroken circle is a universal symbol of devotion. The circle is a metaphor for wholeness, perfection, and eternity; one of the most ancient and powerful symbols in existence. It’s also one of the most aesthetically pleasing, making it a timeless favourite in jewellery boxes. Mappin & Webb’s Empress design features pear-shaped elements joined together to create a double halo: a dazzling way to express eternal love.

Heart

The most unmistakably romantic emblem of all, hearts have been used since medieval times as a token of love. They were hugely popular in the Victorian era – Queen Victoria owned a bracelet strung with a heart-shaped charm to represent each of her children. In recent years, the heart has become one of the biggest trends in fine jewellery. From Suzanne Kalan’s hearts composed of baguette-cut diamonds to Chopard’s celebrated Happy Hearts collection and Gucci’s logo-adorned designs, there’s a heart to suit any style. Mappin & Webb combines the motif with another huge trend, chunky yellow gold, in its 18ct gold Fortune heart pendant.

Explore more romantic jewellery here at Mappin & Webb online or visit one of our stunning showrooms.

Author Credit: Sarah Royce-Greensill is the Jewellery & Watches Editor at The Telegraph, where she covers everything from royal tiaras to the latest trends in fine jewellery. She is also a contributor to Vanity Fair, Conde Nast Traveller, Tatler and Country Life, among other titles.

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