I recently came across a few pieces of “love token” jewelry and was intrigued. I did a little digging and loved the story, the sentiments, and, of course, the history of them. While they are not hard to find they are quite pricey to buy. I’ve been on a little quest to get them and was able to snag 2 bracelets to repurpose. Here’s the back story….
Love tokens are generally defined as coins where one side (or sometimes both sides) has been smoothed down and engraved with initials, names, phrases and/or scenes. These were often given to young ladies as “tokens of love” by suitors.
The manufacture and practice of giving “love tokens” seems to have originated in Great Britain in the early 1800’s, and then migrated to the United States in the mid- to late-1800’s.
The Liberty Seated dime is perhaps the most popular used to create love tokens, perhaps because of its smaller size and silver content, but love tokens are known to have been made from all denominations of U. S. coins from half cents through twenty-dollar gold pieces as well as numerous world coins and denominations.
In the late 18th and 19th centuries, love tokens were common. Coins personalized for a sweetheart were given as an expression of love, and often as a proposal of marriage. What a wonderfully romantic gesture!
These coins, engraved with their loved one’s initials, or sometimes their name, were a precious and cherished gift. Some love tokens withstood the test of time and now, years later, they serve as a testament to a love that was – a romance of old. Valentine’s Day is a happy time when people show their devotion to one another. Being personalized items from a wide variety of creators, each love token has its own personality. Each one of these coins represents a love shared between two people.
A love token isn’t really a token. It is a coin that has been defaced by planing down and engraving one or both sides. In the European tradition, which began in the 17th century, such items are simply called “engraved coins.” Leave it to the Americans to give them a fancy name.
Love tokens didn’t become popular in the United States until about the time of the Civil War. By the turn of the century, the custom was waning.
Most American love tokens you’ll encounter will have the initials of a person, sometimes a name or a message. A few will have an ornate depiction of some object or symbol, such as a bird or a heart. The collectible 19th century U.S. love tokens are all engraved by hand.
Looking for that special gift for Valentine’s Day to give to your loved one once…….. I think you’ve found it!
I made one necklace from one of the bracelets. I just felt it sort of told a story, of sorts. The 6 coins on the front have: calligraphy initials AEP; the name “Jess”; calligraphy initials GMG,; interwoven initials C and B; the name Grace with a little engraved house (!!!); and calligraphy initials CEW. (All initials are guesses, use the magnifying tool to see for yourself) The back sides are all seated Liberty dimes dating from 1857 to 1883. The clasp is the original clasp from the bracelet and has two coins, one with initials FHB and the other with GLD. I hung a Swarovski crystal heart dangle off the back and vintage sterling silver chain connects the 6 coins to the clasp.
The other bracelet I took apart and hung them from simple chains. I kept one of the tokens for myself as it has a wonderful dog head engraved on one side. I was also able to find a “Paula” token and am waiting for “Art” to arrive. (Not because I have a guy named Arthur in my life but for art, my passion). I hung “Paula” and the dog head on a chain and “Art” will join them when it gets here! I have single love tokens with initials that are ornate and just gorgeous but also have more specific ones for “Mother”, “Grandma” and “Jim”!