It can easily seem as though, for the longest time, the typical love heart shape has been the cornerstone of romance in human culture. But, where did the heart shape we all know so well come from? Today, we’re exploring the heart shape as well as its prominence in jewellery throughout much of history.

History of the Heart Shape

The heart shape as we know it today has roots that stretch back to the Indus Valley Civilisation in 3300 BCE. Fig trees native to the area bore leaves that were similar to the shape we recognise as a love heart, and a pendant made in the same shape has since been discovered in the civilisations’ ruins.

The earliest point at which the shape was clearly used to indicate anything overtly romantic, however, wasn’t until the Middle Ages. There is text from this time period that shows the physical heart shape symbol being used as an ideograph to represent romantic love between two people. From here, the popularity of the love heart symbol grew, and rapidly became shorthand for love in many forms.

Heart-Shaped Jewellery

What Does Heart Jewellery Symbolise?

As you can imagine, hearts have been a part of jewellery for centuries. Heart jewellery – for as far back as recorded history can tell us – has been romantic from the get-go. Typically, the message and symbolism behind heart-shaped jewellery is much the same today as it was then.

Hearts are used as a symbol of affection. Usually, romantic affection is the intent with heart-shaped jewellery, often given as part of the courting ritual or even as an anniversary gift, years into a relationship, acting as a physical reminder of the strength of the love between two individuals.

french heart engagement ring yellow gold and diamond

As time wears on, however, the use of hearts in jewellery has become less strictly romantic, and entered familial and platonic realms alike. Jewellery featuring hearts is often given by parents to their daughters, particularly when they are becoming teenagers, symbolising the love and care that parents hold for their child.

Equally, with the rise in popularity of all forms of friendship jewellery, from bracelets to pendants that only become whole with all wearer’s present, the love heart has found its way into all corners of the jewellery world. Two best friends who are both jewellery lovers can easily be pictured with matching love heart pendants, or even with designs that allow each person to have half of the heart, making it complete whenever they are reunited.

What Does Open Heart Jewellery Mean?

Open heart jewellery is the name given to jewellery that features a heart motif, but where only the outline of the heart is represented. This type of design wasn’t common until the 20th century, and today even brands like Tiffany & Co. have an ‘open heart’ collection. This design element is most commonly seen in pendants, where the heart shape will hang – often from one of its arches – with the chain of the pendant going clean through it.

Jewellery that features open hearts is thought by some to be a talisman of good luck, much in the same way that an upturned horseshoe is supposed to hold one’s luck in a safe place. The openness of the heart allows it to fill with luck, keeping the wearer safe from harm.

Another interpretation that the open heart design offers is the concept of a longing kind of love. This makes it perfect for lovers in long-distance entanglements. The heart shape is represented, but there is something missing. This works as an excellent gift for someone who is anticipating having to depart from their loved ones, whether it’s a significant other, family, or simply a very good friend.

diamond and synthetic ruby 18ct yellow gold pendant antique victorian

ruby sapphire and diamond antique victorian bracelet

What Does a Double Heart Mean?

Double heart jewellery is where two love hearts are presented alongside one another, usually leaning slightly towards each other. This style was very popular in the Victorian era, and has tragically fallen out of vogue since.

The double heart motif – among the most popular in Victorian jewellery – is a symbol of two individuals in a committed relationship. Each of the love hearts involved is intended to represent each person, supporting one another through their mutual love and respect. It’s certainly long past time for the double heart jewellery type to be revived, though thankfully we have a few pieces in our inventory that sport the romantic motif.

At AC Silver, we are delighted that the heart symbol is a strong and consistent presence in our various collections, whether it’s antique jewellery, vintage, or even the occasional contemporary piece. Love heart jewellery is a strong contender for the most popular jewellery style, and for good reason!

Written by

Bethany Massey

Having graduated university with a BA in English Literature and an MA in Creative Writing Bethany then joined the AC Silver team as a content creator. Bethany spends her days writing content for the AC Silver blog and other luxury goods/antique publications.