Like many a Grand Dame, the Brooklyn Bridge is rife with secrets. To finance the behemoth undertaking, various structures were built in the foundation of the bridge, including a never launched shopping arcade and vaults that were rented out for storage of wine and champagne on either side of the bridge. Just as today, real estate is all about location, location, location - city records show storage on the Manhattan side cost $5,000, Brooklyn a mere $500. The cellar on the Manhattan side was known as the Blue Grotto, and was decorated with frescoes depicting European vineyards. The vaults closed for good in 1930, but a later visit in 1978 revealed an inscription “Who loveth not wine, women and song, he remaineth a fool his whole life long”
We have had a few Brooklyn Bridge love tokens over the years, but not as magnificent as this one. A single boat cruises under the bridge while birds fly overhead, and underneath the image the year 1883 is engraved. What is so special about that year - it is the year the bridge was opened! What a magnificent commemoration of a truly beautiful and iconic landmark of NYC. We have this beauty in our current favorite, a ruby and diamond bezel, but this can be set in any of our style and stone combos - just slide into our DMs and we can get this party started!
Love tokens are antique coins that were planed down on one or both sides and embellished with names, personal messages, images and bon mots.
The exact origin of this practice is up for debate: some numismatists trace the history back to 13th century England and the practice of bending coins. When asking a favorite saint for a favor, coins were bent and pledges were made as a physical token of the pledge made. The practice of engraving coins took off during the late 1600’s through the 1800’s, when coins were engraved with everything from primitive to highly skilled techniques in equal measure.
Typically, the minted words and images were removed from the obverse side of the coin - the front of the coin, or what we call heads when we flip a coin as they are commonly decorated with the bust of a prominent person. In some cases the reverse of the coin was used as the blank canvas for the embellishment, which is why you may see a love token of the same year with a different backside. While both sides of the coin are interesting, using the reverse side makes it difficult to determine the year in which the coins were minted.
Love tokens were executed on practically all denominations of coins in many countries. According to the US Mint, the love token phenomenon caused a shortage of dimes during the peak of the craze. Dimes were not a huge amount of money to throw away, thus their popularity. When other coins were used, the choice of coin communicated social and economic status: gold coins and larger denominations of silver coins were a sign of the givers’ wealth, whereas nickels and pennies were seldom used as they were considered common due to their composition – nickel and copper versus silver or gold.