Secret Life of Antiques | Collecting Antique Lockets



There is nothing more romantic than wearing a precious reminder of someone you love close to your heart.  For centuries, the locket, a pendant with a secret, has captured our most meaningful personal stories.   Opening up to reveal a small space to insert a portrait, a lock of hair, or tiny love letter, lockets are both classic and modern.


Mysterious and alluring, lockets evoke emotion and have been a favorite  accessory for centuries. Collecting antique lockets is close to the heart of many avid collectors and jewelry lovers!







Lockets have a long history, with each generation discovering the charm of these sentimental pieces of jewelry.



Lockets evolved from ancient amulets, European designs for lockets appear to date to the 16th century, when small pendants were worn to conceal good luck charms, small fabric squares soaked in perfume to ward off the poor smells on public thoroughfares, painted portraits, and even, on occasion, poison.

Life was much more fragile than it is now, “memento mori” {Latin for “remember death”} jewelry was popular, a locket would honor a deceased loved one and keep their memory close.


Queen Elizabeth I of England wore her locket ring daily, it contained a painted portrait of her mother, Anne Boleyn and herself. She often gifted those in her inner circle with a jeweled locket containing her portrait.

The Elizabethans were enamored with lockets, the artists who painted the miniature portraits contained within them were the best artists of their time. The portraits for the lockets, as well as the lockets themselves, were only for the very wealthy as they were costly.


Lockets became a “must have” fashion accessory during the Victorian era. Prince Albert gifted his beloved Victoria with a bracelet that had eight lockets, filled with a lock of each of their 8 children. Victorian ladies wore lockets on chains or velvet ribbons.  Once Albert died, Queen Victoria wore a mourning locket with a photo of him inside until her own death.


In the early 1900’s lockets were mass produced in brass, steel and copper, bringing them within the budgets of the middle class. By the mid 1940’s, costume jewelry lockets were all the rage, known as “sweetheart” jewelry, sentimental lockets were even sold in post offices for WWII soldiers to send to their girlfriends, fiancees and wives.


What to Look For:

Highly collectable, lockets have universal appeal. Expect to pay a few hundred dollars for gold filled or sterling lockets, real gold and diamond lockets will command thousands.


Antique Heart and book form lockets are more rare to find and therefore more collectable. Lockets made from bog oak and bone are exceptionally rare, collectors snap these up whenever one comes on the market.


BUY QUALITY.  Lockets come in a variety of quality and price points: gold with diamonds and other precious stones, gold filled, sterling silver, brass and gold and silver-toned costume lockets.

BUY LOCKETS IN GOOD CONDITION. Check the hinges, the finish and the interior compartments. Try to avoid lockets with deep scratches or damage.

BUY LOCKETS WITH THEIR ORIGINAL PARTS.  With their photo covers, if possible. Some lockets were made with glass covers, some with celluloid covers, and some were made and sold without any covering for the photo spaces at all.

BUY LOCKETS THAT CAPTURE YOUR HEART.  Buy only pieces you love, and you will have a sentimental addition to your jewelry collection, with a history and exceptional old-world workmanship.


Whether you are a collector, or appreciate their timeless yet modern appeal, lockets are a personal way to display your fashion style.

You can find the antique lockets available for you to  hide your personal stories in here.


In a world where everything seems public, lockets are a personal sanctuary to keep your most valuable photos and mementoes very private.

 Do you own a locket? What secret memento would you keep in it?


15 thoughts on “Secret Life of Antiques | Collecting Antique Lockets”

  1. How beautifully evocative of a time gone by. During World War my mother wore a brooch that had a picture of herself on one side and a picture of my Dad in uniform on the other. Very touching.

  2. Allie de Montgrand

    Lockets are so special. I haven’t worn one for many years, but I’m going to find one, asking for it for Valentine’s Day! Thank you for all the work you put into these Secret Life of Antiques posts, each one is so informative.

  3. What a beautiful memory, Lisa. I can only imagine how difficult that time was for so many people! That is what makes lockets so special, isn’t it? To keep an image of someone you love close to your heart. I love it!

  4. Ginger Valdes

    Thanks for the beautiful post, Lidy. I still have the little heart shaped locket from my childhood. I must start wearing it now! Can you clarify the width of the gold filled heart shaped locket that is listed for $128? Thanks.
    X0, Ginger

    1. I love that you still have a heart locket from your childhood, that’s so sweet! I hope you start wearing it!

  5. What a most beautiful collections of exquisite lockets. When in an antique shop that carries jewelry, I often find myself looking at the antique lockets as they “speak” … speak of great sentiment/remembrance and honor. I do not have a childhood locket…something I wish I had but will make sure that my granddaughter does….Love reading your most beautiful and informative posts Lidy!

  6. I love this post on lockets. I have my locket that belonged to my Mother which I cherish. I gave mine to my daughter and her two girls each have one that is from a family member. They both love theirs too. Thank you for your beautiful posts.

  7. Gloria

    I have two lockets. Each belonged to my grandmothers. I bring them out each Christmas and put them on my tree front and center to honor them and remind me of Christmas when I was a child. They were both given to me when I was a child. they are priceless to me.

  8. What a beautiful way to honor and remember your grandmothers, Gloria. I love that idea!

  9. Carole Juth

    My grandmother gave me a locket when I was a child. It contains a picture of my dad on one side, and a picture of my mother on the other side. It is my favorite necklace.

    1. What a special treasure you have, Carole! I can see why it’s your favorite.

  10. I am now shopping for lockets, thank you for this inspiring post!

  11. Barbara Novello

    I love the lockets I have but I fall in love every time I look at your shop…not just jewelry but everything. Thank you for having the very best!

  12. S. Smith

    Hi Lidy!

    I started collecting lockets when I was 17, and I’ve only been doing it for about a year now, but I’ve learned so much in a short amount of time! I’ll definitely be on the look out for materials such as bone from now on (though I don’t know how successful I’ll be).

    All the best,

    S. Smith

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