What if you could find an antique piece from the 1800s with your initials already engraved on it or a word and image that holds deep significance for you or a loved one in your life? You would be awed by the magic of finding pieces that literally speak to and about you and you might become addicted to them in the way of Samantha Jackson of Heavenly Vices did when she first began to find what was aptly named love tokens in the 19th century.
Although there are dealers who carry love tokens and sell them ‘as is’ on eBay and Etsy and at antique shows, Samantha went on the hunt to find the most unique and unexpected words, phrases, motifs and engravings that she could find. Over the past three years, she amassed over 2,000 pieces from the 1800s onward, developed an idea for how to build a collection around them and coined a new phrase and way of wearing pieces from the past for the modern woman. She has named the collection Souvenir (after one of her favorite coins she found), a word with origins in France in the late 1800s that meant ‘remember’, Today, this is a word we think of as pieces we collect to help us recall memories of our favorite times, people and places, thus its the perfect word for a line that is steeped in mementos of the past, yet is re-imagined in a contemporary context. Her pieces that are meaningful for the self-purchaser, gift giver and/or recipient.
Samantha launched this collection by first working with one-of-a-kind pieces. She explains, “these are actual coins in different denominations in sterling silver, different karats of gold and copper which were ground down in the front to personalize and give as a token of friendship, familial or romantic love.” Her ingenuity and passion for hunting down the most beautifully executed engravings, heartfelt, playful and surprising sayings, mottoes and rebus coins led her to want to frame them in exclusive bezels and halos or hang them from sparkly bales or both, creating a new life for them. This combination of modern and antique is quickly becoming a huge hit with both vintage jewelry aficionados and contemporary jewelry enthusiasts. Samantha creates diamond and gemstone halos, but also can personalize the coins with bezels, bales and /or one small stone set directly into the piece. These can be a woman’s birthstone, favorite gem or acrostics, in which the first letter of each gemstone spells out a word of affection such as ‘Amie’ or ‘Dearest’ for different emotional connections.
Born and bred in New Orleans, Samantha says she has a feeling for ‘rebirth’ and explains, “these tokens intrigued me with how they were gifted and worn by the previous owners. They also evoke how the sentiments and meanings can change with each new person who wears them. I love how one piece can have multiple lives.”
When Samantha noticed that motifs and sayings in the coins spoke to a wide demographic of jewelry collectors and when clients began asking her for the coins she had featured on her website or Instagram but already sold, she rethought the collection. She is producing an exclusive group based on the authentic tokens in silver and all karats of gold, with solid blank backs that can be completely individualized with initials and/or dates that hold meaning for the wearer. These romantic recreations are a relevant part of what’s going on in jewelry today-expressive and creative pieces to which different women can relate.
Up next, Samantha is working on pendants and signet style rings with her own original sayings and symbols or piece that feature rebus combinations—which means different puzzles that combine the use of images and words to convey different meanings. “Part of the thrill of searching for love tokens is finding something I wasn’t looking for, as with my rebus coins. I can’t help but smile when I land a good one; they are charming and cheeky at the same time. Linguists believe that Egyptian hieroglyphs used a similar writing system – they have endured for so long for good reason.”
Although love tokens started off as gifts from a beau to his belle, their popularity extended far beyond these traditional boundaries to commemorate more than just romantic love. In Samantha’s collection, she has numerous love tokens collection that say: Mama, Sister, Daughter, Aunt, Grandma, and phrases such as “Remember Me” or a rebus that represents Friendship with the word Friend and an image of a ship.
Samantha’s range of tokens, both authentic and re-cast with engravable backs are perfect gifts for the special women in your life for Mother’s Day, to honor or remember your mom, or other women who have inspired you, guided you and to whom you want to show your appreciation with a special gift of affection and one or more souvenirs of sentiment.