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17th Century Cypher Mary Heart

Item 6607

The practice of placing cyphers within jewelry flourished for about one hundred years. Almost entirely the provenance of the British isles, the roots of this unusual technique are embedded in the mournful beginning with the execution of Charles I.

Mementos were constructed with fine gold wire woven into intricate patterns and initials. Initially, for the Charles I supporters, the tokens contained his initials. Later on this was adopted by others who transmuted the pure into personal. People’s own initials were then coiled and wound for sentimental and emotional purposes.

Here, the entire name of “Mary” is found. You can make out the M on the left, the A, the R and Y if you look carefully. Is this homage to Mary of Roman Catholic tradition? More than likely. It is encased within faceted glass and edged as were many objects around the later part of the 17th century, and has a strong gothic pointed, almost serrated and decorative border in gold gilt silver. Rimmed with herringbone metal work, the combination of the glass and facets, all create a shadow box-like world.

Circa 1670, and English in origin, it still retains its original top bale of herringbone pattern.

Measures 1-7/8 in length with top bale; 1-7/16 inches for just the heart by 1-1/8 inches in width (4.8 cm or 3.6 cm by 2.9 cm wide). Width is 5/8 of an inch (0.9 cm).

A true relic of astounding age, reverence and history.