Why whisper sweet nothings when you can proclaim an eternal love written in stone?
Today’s blog deals with a type of jewelry made specifically for the idea of expressing love and sentiment. While most of the jewelry we own we wear for sentimental reasons, there’s an entire segment of antique jewelry that actually spells it out in gold and gemstones. Welcome to the idea of Acrostic Jewelry.
It doesn’t take one long to realize that the people written about in Jane Austen novels spoke differently than we do today. The pages of her books are filled with phrases like, “I hold him in high esteem,” or “I have a great regard for him.” What Jane is talking about is love.
The word “Regard” was so synonymous with “love” in ages past that you will find antique jewelry that spelled out the word Regard! This example of sentimental jewelry was popular through the Georgian and Victorian periods. Rings, pendants and pins often contained small stones which, when viewed as an acronym, would spell little “sweet nothings.” The idea was to arrange stones in such a way that when you used the first letter of each stone in the sequence, the letters would spell the word “REGARD.” For this to work, one would have a ruby, emerald, garnet, amethyst, ruby and diamond set in a row or circle from left to right. Take the first letter of each stone: “r” for ruby, “e” for the emerald, “g” for garnet and so on. In that way, the first letter of each stone spells the word “regard.” So Jane Austen!
This pad lock pendant with key is from the Victoria and Albert Museum. It spells regard, as does the ring at the top.
I’ve seen these mostly as rings, but once in while examples pop up on other pieces of jewelry. These types of rings contain gemstones in the following sequence: diamond, emerald, amethyst, ruby, emerald, sapphire, topaz. In this case, the first letter of each stone spells “Dearest.”
Dearest and Regard jewelry is also known as Acrostic jewelry. It dates back to the 1700’s when a French jeweler, Jean-Baptiste Mellerio, popularized it by making jewelry that spelled out French words for Marie Anoinette and the French Court. Perhaps if I take a trip to a Paris antique store, I’ll find the French versions of these which spell “amitie`” (friendship) and “souvenir” (remembrance). Below is a bracelet from S.J. Phillips that spells the word Souvenir.
The most elaborate acrostic jewels I’ve seen are those of Empress Marie Louise. She had three acrostic bracelets that spelled out her name, Napoleon’s name, and their dates of courtship and marriage. How is that for eternal love spelled in stone?
Top: “Napoleon 15 Aôut 1769” spelled, Natrolite, Amethyst, Peridot, Opal, Lapis, Emerald, Onyx, Natrolite  Agate, Opal, Uranite, Turquoise .
Middle: “Marie Louise 12 Decembre 1791” spelled, Malachite, Amethyst, Ruby, Iris, Emerald, Lapis, Opal, Uranite, Iolite, Sapphire, Emerald  Diamond, Emerald, Chrysoprase, Emerald, Malachite, Beryl, Ruby, Emerald .
Bottom: “27 Mars 1810, 2 Avril 1810” (The date of their first meeting in Compiègne and the date of their wedding in Paris) spelled,  Malachite, Amethyst, Ruby, Serpentine ,  Amethyst, Vermeil (?), Ruby, Iris, Limestone .
If you’re looking to immortalize your own romance in gemstone form, some modern designers make acrostic rings of all forms. This is one of Erica Weiner’s DEAREST rings.