Bernarda’s Blog

The Little History of Love Tokens

Love tokens, as they are most commonly known, were traditionally genuine monetary coins that were hand engraved. Often the coins were smoothed flat before they were engraved but it was not uncommon for engraving to be done directly on top of the coin’s existing design.

Engravings on love tokens were usually kept quite simple, the giver of the coin would usually get their name or initials engraved on one or both sides of the coin so that the keeper could carry a memento or souvenir of the giver with them at all times.

 

Love Token with Engraved Initials Monogram and Date

Love Token, 18th Century, British Museum

 

This simple tradition has been continued today, for example most of the engravings we complete on our wearable tokens are of a simple initial or name, a timeless and popular personalisation option that is special to you and your personal story.



Hand Engraved Love Token

Love Token, 18th Century, British Museum

 

It was less common but some coin engravings took customisation a little further with some choosing to engrave a special commemorative date, picture or symbols making the connection between two people sharing the coin a little more special, especially if the chosen engraving was of something only they share.

 

Love Token Engraved

Love Token Engraved with flaming heart and doves, 18th Century, British Museum

 

More luxurious love tokens of the era even had stones set into the metal and were enamelled to create a more unique marking. The time and effort dedicated to creating something more unique is meant to be considered a reflection of the love and dedication that the coin will represent.

 

Love Token Black EnamelLove Token with black enamel, 18th Century, British Museum

 
Although commonly known as a love token they were not only gifted between romantic lovers but also between family and friends. Collecting multiple coins was popular of the time, many women started to find ways of wearing their many coins and would pierce holes in them. The pierced coins would then be worn like jewellery, either on a chain around their neck or connecting the coins to be worn as a bracelet rose in popularity and was somewhat of a craze in Victorian times.


If not to be worn, love tokens were usually kept in the pocket of the wearer or tucked in somewhere in their clothing and carried with them at all times. Sometimes an alternative name for this is a ‘touch piece’, this was a coin or medal thought to bring good luck or good health when touched and carried around with them.

Touch pieces were not always genuine coins (unlike love tokens which would always be real coins), sometimes they were blank discs that would be decorated with specific designs and motifs relevant to the influence they were supposed to have on the person touching the piece.

European touch pieces that were meant to bring good luck to the owner were often bent down the middle or also engraved with an ‘X’ on the face to personalise them. It is thought this would be so that the owner did not accidentally spend it as money in their pocket.

Similarly some love tokens were also bent to prevent them from also being spent, making it easier for the owner to distinguish their sentimental coin from other money in their pouch or pocket. It is thought that the practise of bending a coin was taken from the religious tradition of pilgrims bending a coin when making a vow to saint, bending the coin so that it can no longer be used as currency, strictly as an offering to their saint. As with making a vow to a saint and providing an offering, some say there is a parallel with this and with doing the same to a loved one, offering them your bent coin as a vow also.

Engraved Love Token

Love Token, 18th Century, British Museum

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