Collectors Weekly: Was some supposedly romantic or “sentimental” jewelry more about asserting control?
McLaughlin: Lover’s eye jewelry, which literally features a miniature painting of the eye of one’s lover, is generally interpreted as an outward display of love, but I’ve also read that it could be seen as said lover never letting the wearer out of his (or her) sight. There are so many possible interpretations, though.... Some eye jewelry features pearl tears, which suggests mourning, while other pieces surround the eye miniature with gemstones that may have been chosen for the symbolism attached to them. A frame of coral, traditionally a stone meant to ward off the evil eye, could be interpreted as protecting the person whose eye is depicted, or the person wearing the jewel, or both, while a frame of garnet may simply symbolize friendship, and have nothing to do with a so-called “lover.”
Collectors Weekly had a long chat about jewelry with The Hairpin's own Monica McLaughlin. (Read her Estate Jewelry column archives here.) [Collectors Weekly]