Ask anyone what they consider the most universal symbol of love and ‘the heart’ is
almost certain to be their answer.
Today we all accept the stylised image of the bi-lobed heart shape as the embodiment of both the physical organ and the emotion that speaks of love and all things romantic.Give someone a beautiful heart-shaped pendant necklace and they immediately understand the depth of affection you feel for them. Wear a heart necklace and you show your appreciation of romantic and ultimately feminine jewellery.
The heart is one of the most popular pendant necklace designs ever - and with good reason. It carries with it centuries of romantic intent. And today the desire to express our emotion for another is often embodied in this simplified heart shape. Wearing a heart emblem just above your own heart is a strong visual statement - which is why such heart necklace has extra significance. It’s shorthand for love, and a particularly elegant way of expressing it. Over the last few hundred years the simple heart shape ♡ has taken the world by storm. It’s so widely used: from countless emoji, to being shaped by our two hands to indicate love. It is even used as its own verb - “I heart this”. So it’s not surprising that Valentine’s Day jewellery choices more often than not take a heart-shaped form; as do keepsake love tokens for weddings, anniversaries or just times when people want to show their love.
Heart icons have been in fashion ever since the Middle Ages. But even before this, in Grecian times, it was widely accepted that emotion and love reside in the heart. Scholars have argued that the heart symbol has its roots in the work of the Greek philosopher Aristotle, who wrote of the human heart having three chambers, with a small dent in the middle.
However, one of the first appearances of the heart design we recognise today was on Roman coins. These popular heart outlines actually represented the shape of a silphium seed - a type of fennel now extinct. It turns out that silphium was known for its contraceptive properties and great value placed upon it. The seedpod’s association with love and sex is thought to have kickstarted the symbolism of this heart shape.Heart icons have been in fashion ever since the Middle Ages. But even before this, in Grecian times, it was widely accepted that emotion and love reside in the heart. Scholars have argued that the heart symbol has its roots in the work of the Greek philosopher Aristotle, who wrote of the human heart having three chambers, with a small dent in the middle. Sound familiar?
From the Middle Ages onwards the heart became heavily associated with love and romance, given impetus by its inclusion in the poetry and songs of French troubadours and minstrels. Your heart was what you pledged or gave symbolically to your lover. It was also extensively used in religious paintings depicting the Sacred Heart of Christ, which was viewed as a symbol of “God’s boundless and passionate love for mankind”.
By Victorian times the imagery of the heart and production of Valentine’s Day cards (often with fancy real lace and ribbons) were the perfect marriage. In the first year after the 1840 introduction of cheap postage with the Penny Black, over 400,000 were sent.And now, with social media the go-to method of communication, there are heart symbols everywhere. They indicate approval (likes), show appreciation for a great night out (xox♡xo♡♡!!!), and also express the deepest emotion of humankind.
It was over 40 years’ ago that the graphic strap line “I♥NY” was created in the back of a taxi to promote the Big Apple. That sketch is now in the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan. It’s been a long journey for the heart motif but now millions are wearing their hearts not on their sleeves but proudly round their necks. We all heart ♥s!