In Her L’Amour Collection Samantha Jackson breathes new life into silver keepsakes
Last week I devoted an article to enchanting medallions and charms that represented luck and love. In keeping with the spirt of sentimental jewelry, I am reprinting a blog post by jewelry designer Samantha Jackson who designs both the gothic yet feminine Heavenly Vices collection as well as the L’amour collection.
As hopeless romantic and a collector who gets excited by the hunt, I am amazed by Samantha’s ability to amass over 1000 tokens in her collection for which she has begun to bezel in different diamond set halos, creating a new life for them. Born and bred in New Orleans, Samantha says she has a feeling for ‘rebirth’ and explains, “these tokens intrigue with how they were gifted and worn by the previous owner. The tokens also evoke how the sentiments and meanings can change and with the next owner. I love how one piece can have multiple lives.”
Personally, I wear a few gold versions with family initials and names which I have found with beautifully engraved letters and a few with pretty chasing, but these silver coins represent a different world of creativity, featuring romantic imagery and motifs as well as names, words and monograms that takes these tokens to a whole other level—or at least those in Samantha’s collection of one-of-a-kind designs. Names with birds dancing above or floral engravings had me falling in love with silver in a way I have for years and also want to know more about the history of the art.
Here is Samantha’s post –I could not have written it better –or captured her feeling for the medium as aptly. There is also a brief addendum in which she talks about marriage tokens, which she has also collected and framed into pedants to wear today or give as bridal gifts.
“Ever since I was young, I’ve been told I have an old soul, which, I suppose, explains my love for antiques. Shortly after I started my jewelry business, I stumbled upon Victorian love tokens and was immediately transfixed. Love tokens are antique coins that were rubbed down on one or both sides and embellished with names, personal messages, images and bon mots. The most common technique used is hand engraving (SWOON), followed by enameling, cutouts and overlays of precious metals. In the picture above, the large love token in the rose gold halo has yellow, green and rose gold applied as the initials of the lucky recipient. It is spectacular.
Since the vast majority of people who see these coins know nothing of them, I thought I’d explain their history, so readers can become equally charmed by this romantic lost art. The exact origin of this practice is up for debate: some numismatists trace the history back to 13th century England and the practice of bending coins. When asking a favorite saint for a favor, coins were bent, and pledges were made as a physical token of the pledge made. The practice of engraving coins took off during the late 1600’s through the 1800’s, when coins were engraved with everything from primitive to highly skilled techniques in equal measure.
Typically, the minted words and images were removed from the obverse side of the coin – the front of the coin, or what we call heads when we flip a coin as they are commonly decorated with the bust of a prominent person. In some cases, the reverse of the coin was used as the blank canvas for the embellishment, which is why you may see a love token of the same year with a different backside. While both sides of the coin are interesting, using the reverse side makes it difficult to determine the year in which the coins were minted.
Love tokens were executed on practically all denominations of coins in many countries. According to the US Mint, the love token phenomenon caused a shortage of dimes during the peak of the craze. Dimes were not a huge amount of money to throw away, thus their popularity. When other coins were used, the choice of coin communicated social and economic status: gold coins and larger denominations of silver coins were a sign of the givers’ wealth, whereas nickels and pennies were seldom used as they were considered common due to their composition – nickel and copper versus silver or gold.
While love tokens started off as gifts from a beau to his belle, their popularity extended far beyond these traditional boundaries to commemorate more than just romantic love. I have numerous love tokens in my collection that say Mama, and also Papa, Father, Brother, Uncle and even an Aunt Helen, which I am saving for my own Aunt Helen.”
As an addendum to Samantha’s post, she writes also about the marriage medals she has found.
“The marriage medal found its origins in a ‘treizain de marriage’ which consisted of thirteen coins or tokens in gold or silver was giving by the groom to the bride during the marriage ceremony. This custom dates back to approximately the fourteenth century, The symbolic meaning of which relates to Jesus and the Twelve Apostles. The bride brought goods or land, the groom brought the coins. Not so romantic yet? Just wait. They were stamped with French sayings, all relating to the enduring union of marriage and the one-time love that this union held.
Between one and three of the coins were kept by the priest presiding over the ceremony and the others were kept by the couple, but they were often spent during hard times (although they were meant to be held forever as a keepsake.) And, this is why it is extremely rare or almost impossible to find a complete treizian today.
Then in the Nineteenth Century, the treizain was replaced by a much more practical jewelry item—a medal, most often crafted in silver and sometimes in gold. The names of the couple and the date of the marriage were engraved. And after being blessed, along with the rings, the medal was mounted for the bride as a pendant or brooch.”
Samantha concludes, “What I cherish most about all of these coins is the history behind them, even if I will never know what it is, I can use my imagination. The most mysterious coins are not the ones with names, but the ones with words or phrases. Some of the best ones I have in my collection are: Pickles, Excuse me, Wild and Stories. These coins speak to us in a language all of their own, that we can then make our own.”