SM/ MS 22k Love Token with Applied Letters
Much as it still is today, jewelry was used to communicate status in the Victorian Era, which is why in the world of 19th century engraved coins, copper was used for Convict Tokens but rarely in Love Tokens due to it being an inferior metal in terms of value. Convicts had no status so to speak but the commissioners of love tokens had a lot to say about themselves.
This elaborate love token has quite a lot to say about the giver and the receiver - the host coin is a 22k gold $2.50, approximately $66 in today's purchasing power. No small sum to start off spending on jewelry. Add to that the highly stylized applied initials, whoever commissioned this wanted both his beloved and anyone who saw her sporting the love token that he had money to spend on her and she was worth it. Before engagement rings were popular, love tokens were used to signify an engagement, and this one made quite a statement without a doubt.
This love token is approximately 17mm in diameter and is set in a 22k YG and diamond bezel with an openable bale.
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.