Lover’s Eye Jewelry: A Token Of Secret Affairs


The early 19th century Britain seemed to adopt the most intimate show of their love affairs by wearing mini portraits of their lover’s eye clamped to any piece of jewelry or accessory. When love affairs were often frowned upon, the Georgian era set this almost mysteriously sensuous fashion among lovers where individuals would wear pendants, bracelets, rings or brooches with their secret partner’s eye embarked.

Lover's Eye Jewelry: A Token Of Secret Affairs
via Amazon

This fashion trend was set by the Prince of Wales, who later became King George IV. His love affair with Catholic Maria Fitzherbert was one of the most scandalous affairs of the early 1780s. Due to the Act of Settlement of 1701, British Royals could not marry Catholics and, therefore, their fate to be torn apart was sealed. Even then, he infamously tried to woo her in ridiculously romantic ways. Some of these were faking a suicide attempt, sending her the very first ‘lover’s eye’, along with a marriage proposal, which was a miniature portrait painted by the famous British miniaturist Richard Cosway. Fitzherbert, in turn, also sent her own miniature portrait for the Prince to keep with him at all times.

The couple were wed and forced apart soon, but their token of love set a trend for lovers all over Britain. With only the eye of the lover on one’s body, the intimate jewelry symbolized their secret connection, and even acted as a watchful gaze of their partners.

A great number of ‘lover’s eyes’ appeared between 1780s and 1830s, in Russia, France, England and even America. Usually, the eyes were framed by jewelry and precious stones, but they were also made into other trinkets like snuff boxes, toothpick containers, ivory plaques and mirrors. One could also make these for a beloved family member or a friend.

Only about a thousand of these exist today; you can see them in the Birmingham Museum of Art in Alabama. You can also visit the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts where they have displayed several of these miniature symbols of love.

Woukd you carry your lover’s eye with you? In a piece of jewellery that is. Share with us in the comments below!

Lover’s eye jewellery was how our ancestors showed love. There are other ways, like these 10 Valentine’s day traditions from around the globe


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