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The History of Lockets

The History of Lockets

Lockets are a very unique piece of jewellery and often hold an incredible amount of sentimental value to the owner. This is generally because, as lockets are designed with a clasp, they can hold something that reminds the wearer of a loved one. Lockets are commonly worn with a necklace, ring or bracelet and are a great option for those looking to accessorise in a diverse and more personalised way. 

But, before we look at lockets in closer detail, we must first look at how they came to be. To do this, let’s go all the way back to the 16th century. 

The History of Lockets

16th Century

It’s understood that the first lockets to appear in Europe evolved from ancient amulets, with heavy inspiration taken from their designs. The way people used their lockets varied too, with some wearing them to ward off evil spirits and others filling them with a small piece of cloth soaked in perfume to mask unwanted smells. 

Before photography was invented, which is a common locket keepsake these days, lockets often contained strands of hair or other small items. However, there is an example of an old ring locket from 1575 containing a picture - Queen Elizabeth I’s ring, which contained a portrait of her and her mother Anne Boleyn.

17th Century

Around this time, enclosed lockets with elaborate designs became more popular. Keeping a small lock of hair of a loved one inside the locket to remember them became commonplace too. This stemmed from the followers of Charles I who wore miniature portraits of him in lockets to remember him after his death. 

18th Century

Synonymous with the loss of a loved one, heart-shaped lockets were popularised in the 18th century and in some cases featured a transparent casing so that the lock of hair inside could be easily seen. Diversifying this trend, people began to wear transparent lockets with nothing inside to signify purity. 

19th Century - 20th Century

Up until this time, lockets had been expensive due to their gemstone encrusted design. However, since the introduction of photography, the production of lockets also became cheaper. This made them more affordable for the everyday person, with more people wearing lockets with small pictures inside. This became even more prevalent during the First World War when family members of soldiers would wear lockets with pictures of their war heroes inside.

21st Century

Today, lockets are worn for many reasons - not just to remember or mourn a loved one. In fact, these days gold lockets are often used to remember happy memories or to celebrate a special occasion, with lockets often being given as gifts at weddings or to a partner as a romantic gesture. The locket’s rich history and evolution over centuries has established this piece of jewellery as a timeless accessory.

How are Lockets Made? 

To make a locket, two pieces of material (often a type of precious metal such as gold) are joined by a hinge, so it can be opened. It must also have space for a chain to be hooked through so it can be worn - most often as a necklace. In most cases, a locket will have a slight ridge on the inside so that a picture or other object can be held in place.

Depending on the shape of the locket, the manufacturing process may vary slightly, but the concept remains the same. In the case of a standard locket, one side of the locket is flat and the other side is curved to create space inside. Some lockets also feature clasps or magnets to keep them closed and prevent the contents from being lost. Lockets can also be made from a variety of different materials including yellow gold, rose gold and white gold

Different Styles of Lockets 

There are various different styles of lockets that range from modern to vintage and include shapes such as hearts, ovals, circles and more. 

Modern-style lockets - often made in fashionable metals, such as rose gold, and sometimes encrusted with gemstones or diamonds. 

Vintage-style lockets - commonly made from brass or yellow gold and engraved with elegant detail.

Locket Types

Whether you choose a vintage or modern-looking locket, there are many different types of lockets for a variety of uses. Due to the style of lockets continually changing throughout history, there are a wide range of locket types to treasure, including: 

  • Standard Locket - This traditionally shaped locket features space for one picture or engraving inside.
  • Multiple Photo Locket - This locket has space for a picture on each side of the locket.
  • Scent Locket - These lockets are either solid or enclosed and feature a scent packet inside.
  • Memento Locket - This locket is able to fit small objects inside, such as dried flowers and small notes.
  • Glass Locket - The glass locket has a transparent front to display a picture placed inside.
  • Gate Locket - Instead of opening on a hinge, the front of this locket slides open.

If you're looking for a locket that will really catch the eye and stand out, why not look out for some of these unusual locket types:

  • Rotating Locket - A rotating pendant which features space for multiple small photos.
  • Matching Lockets - A locket consisting of two separate pieces, worn by different people (two sides of a heart, for example).
  • Floating or Framed Locket - Similar to the glass locket, framed lockets feature glass casing on both sides with a metal frame around the edge, putting the contents on show.

What Materials are Lockets Made From?

Lockets are made from a range of materials including gold, silver, platinum and more, so you’ll have plenty of choice when selecting the perfect piece to suit your style. The type of precious metal used can influence the price, with a high-carat gold locket typically being more expensive than a 9ct option. 


It’s common for lockets to be made from various types of gold, including:

  • Yellow gold - gives you a lovely classic look and is regularly associated with vintage-style lockets.
  • White gold - a more neutral option and works well as a more subtle piece.
  • Rose gold - used for modern-style pendants and creates a very elegant feel.

Top 5 Things to Keep in Your Locket

As the style of lockets has changed over the years, so has their contents. As you will see from our history of lockets timeline, different historic events have influenced the design and use of lockets over time. But what’s kept in lockets nowadays?

Perfect Portraits

Perhaps the most common thing to keep inside a locket is a picture. Either enclosed inside the locket or on display through a glass front, a small picture is a delightful way of keeping your loved ones close.

Touching Notes

A sentimental note is something you want to keep with you at all times. With a memento locket, you can keep your precious note safe and on your person to be read at any time.

Unforgettable Engravings

Lockets don’t always have to have something inside them, but there may be something you hold dear and want to have engraved on your locket as a reminder. Birthdays, wedding dates and names are all common engravings to see on lockets and make for the perfect alternative to a picture or note.

Elegant Scents

A scented locket is a great way to continually radiate your favourite perfume so you’ll not only look super stylish, you’ll smell fantastic too. Some scent lockets feature perfume that can be removed and applied to your body while others feature a scent packet that is dispersed by your body heat.

Locks of Hair

If you’ve lost a loved one, keeping a lock of their hair inside a locket can help you feel closer to them. A lock of hair adds a very personal touch to any locket.

How to Put a Photograph into Your Locket

The first thing you’ll need to do is measure the size of your locket, which will allow you to accurately gauge how big the photo you’re inserting will need to be. Once you’ve chosen a photo that’s small enough to fit inside the locket, you’ll need to cut it to the exact shape and size to fit the space inside your locket. If it’s a circle locket, using a coin or similar object will help you to achieve a neat edge. If the space inside your locket is a more tricky shape, such as a heart, you should practice cutting out the shape using a piece of card first before snipping into your precious photograph! Once you cut a piece of card that fits the shape, you can use that as the guideline to cut around your photo.

If your locket has an insert, you can replace it with the photo and it should sit inside comfortably. If not, use a small dab of glue on the back of the photo to hold it in place. How well it fits will depend on how accurately the image is cut, so it’s important to print a perfectly-sized image first.

How to print locket photos

Step 1 - Measure the size of your locket, to ensure that the image you're printing is the correct size.

Step 2 - Once you’ve done this, you can use the measurement of your locket to resize the image on your computer. 

Step 3 - Next you want to make sure that you print the image on photo paper to give your photograph that beautiful, high-quality sheen.

Step 4 - Now that your photograph is printed, simply cut it out and slot it into your locket. If the photo doesn’t quite fit, just re-measure the locket and print another copy.

Locket FAQs

How do you clean a locket?

The best way to clean a locket is to fill your sink with warm soapy water and let it soak for around 15 minutes. Make sure to empty your locket first to protect the contents. If you’re just giving it a little touch-up, gently scrub the locket with a sponge. But, if the locket is quite dirty, using the bristle side of a sponge or a toothbrush will have it shining again in no time.

Do men wear lockets?

Yes, men can wear lockets - they aren’t gender-specific. There are a range of lockets available for men in both necklace and bracelet form. Typically, lockets for men have a more minimalistic style compared to some designs which use rose gold and diamonds to give a more feminine appearance. 

Are lockets waterproof?

Unless your locket is specified as waterproof, the likelihood is that it’s not. If a locket has a picture or object encased in glass, there’s a chance it may be completely sealed and therefore waterproof. But, if it’s a standard gold locket that opens with a clasp, any water from a shower or bath could damage the contents. 

Are lockets still in fashion?

Lockets are timeless pieces of jewellery and can be worn in many ways to suit different styles. Whether you opt for a gold locket or a silver locket, there are plenty of options that look excellent for wearing on many different occasions. 

What do lockets symbolise?

Although lockets have historically been synonymous with being worn to remember the loss of a loved one, they are now worn for lots of reasons. It’s all down to what you choose to put in your locket that defines its symbolism. Scented lockets, for example, don’t necessarily have to symbolise anything - they can just be worn as a fashion statement. 

Lockets at Hatton Jewellers

At Hatton Jewellers, we stock a wide range of stunning lockets that are made from yellow, white and rose gold. As one of the UK’s most trusted jewellers, we ensure each piece comes with a full hallmark stamp to guarantee the gold’s purity. So, whether you’re buying a locket as a gift or to treat yourself, we’ve got a great selection for you to choose from.

Explore our jewellery online or, for more updates, visit our blog. Additionally, if you’d like to get in touch, you can fill out the contact form on our website. Show us your favourite locket look on Facebook or Instagram.