With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we are opening up the book of love and exploring the symbolic language behind love, relationships, and loyalty.
The most universal and enduring symbol of love, the heart has been linked with our deepest emotions and affections, dating as far back as the Ancient Greeks. Having little in common with the organ itself, it wasn’t until the 14th Century that the heart shape as we know it became popular.
Popular across the Irish diaspora, the Claddagh ring has been worn by famous faces from Daniel Day-Lewis to JFK. Inspired by Ireland's folklore, the Claddagh depicts two hands intertwined, holding a crowned heart. These symbols represent the bond of friendship (hands), the depth of love (heart), and the pledge of loyalty (crown). It is often used as a subtle declaration of the heart's status. Worn on the right hand with the heart facing out indicates the wearer is single, while a face turned in declares that the wearer is in a relationship. Worn on the left hand with the heart facing out means the wearer is married, while the heart turned in is a symbol of engagement.
The Love Knot
The love knot is a symbol of eternal love and devotion, steeped in rich, ancient mythology. According to legend, it was said to represent the legendary fertility of the great hero Hercules. Also known as the marriage knot, it is a powerful representation of the unbreakable bond between two lovers and is a promise of love, devotion, and togetherness. During Roman weddings, the Herculaen knot was tied around the bride, and only the groom could untie it; the British Museum has suggested this could have been the origin of the phrase ‘tying the knot’.
As the embodiment of love and desire, Venus, the Roman goddess of fertility and spiritual love, is often credited for igniting the flames of passion. Her son Cupid, was said to have the power to captivate hearts and minds by setting hearts ablaze with desire using his arrows.
Long-regarded as one of the most powerful symbols of protection and commitment, the key appears in countless stories of love, from St. Valentine to modern art and literature. Evoking a sense of security and devotion, the phrase “key to my heart” has become a beloved saying in romantic mythology. This symbolism endures today; just look at the thousands of love locks that show up from the Post des Arts in Paris to Mount Huangshan in China.
Nature too has been a source of inspiration for poets and lovers, with animals and flowers often used in the language of love.
Wrongly maligned as the ‘forecourt flower’, carnations are back in vogue, and their history as a symbol of love has been re-evaluated. The pink carnation symbolises motherhood and the white carnation pure love, while the red carnation is known to symbolise fertility and marriage because of its aphrodisiac properties. In art - most famously Leonardo da Vinci’s Madonna of the Carnation - it is used to represent maternal love, with the red of the flower symbolising blood and the Passion. Coupled with paper, the carnation is traditionally gifted as a 1st wedding anniversary gift.
The ‘prima rosa’, so-called for its early blooming, is commonly associated with Freya, the Nordic goddess of love, spring, fertility, and blossoms. The primrose is therefore said to represent first love, youth, and purity.
A symbol of beauty and femininity, the peony is the imperial flower of China, where it is associated with spring, while in Japan it is closely linked with fertility and marital bliss.
The most widely-recognised flower of love, the rose represents all things pure and romantic. In Ancient Greece, the rose was sacred to the goddess Aphrodite and was her emblem of beauty. It is said that when her lover Adonis was fatally-wounded, rose bushes grew from her tears and his blood.
With their faces following the sun, sunflowers are heralded as the perfect symbol of loyalty to one person. In Greek mythology, a nymph named Clytie was in love with the god of the sun, Apollo. In a fit of jealous rage at unrequited love, Clytie exposed a love rival, who was subsequently punished and buried alive by her father. Apollo was so engaged by Clytie’s actions that he turned her into a sunflower; but her love for him was so eternal that she spent the rest of her life watching him, the sun, move across the sky.
A symbol of love, fidelity, and peace, the turtle dove is celebrated as one who mates for life. The dove, connected with the goddess Venus, represents spring and sensuality, and when paired with an olive branch, signifies peace and renewed life.
Elephants are known for forming unbreakable bonds with other members of their herd and show unwavering loyalty, waiting for fallen members or recognising acquaintances several years after separation. As deeply caring creatures, elephants are the perfect representation of love and devotion.
The swan embodies the essence of love, devotion, and companionship, spending its entire life with a chosen mate. This beautiful bird symbolizes the unbreakable bond of a relationship, only interrupted by death.
Bees are known for their social nature and ability to work together as a hive, and are often used to symbolise the unity and cooperation of a relationship, as well as embodying fertility and productivity.
Inspired to tell your own tale of love and loyalty on one of our beautiful signet rings? Get in touch at email@example.com or book an appointment at our Hatton Garden workshop or via Zoom.
For those marking a special occasion, you can now book a Celebratory Consultation. Come celebrate in style with a glass of fizz, a tour of the workshop, and an engraving demonstration, as you take the first step on your Rebus journey.