Circa 1883, these 22k gold earrings have an interesting and poetic history. Originally coins, they were hand engraved to become sentimental gifts called “love tokens,” a popular tradition of the 19th century. These coins are a matching, but slightly different pair, with variations of the monogram CNH intertwined with foliate. Although they are initials, the graphics create an interesting geometric pattern that read more as shapes than as letters. One of the backs contains the date “November 6th 1883” surrounded by a border; the other has a banner with 1883 in the center. There is ticking around the edges of the coins, tiny details that make it easy to envision their original purpose. The coins were attached to 14k gold that so they could be worn as earrings.
The tradition of love tokens dates back to medieval times, and the coins have served different purposes throughout the centuries. They became popular in Britain and were engraved to mark significant life events like births, deaths, and weddings. In the 1700’s, the coins were traded with family members who were accused of crimes and sent off to penal colonies, so that prisoners could hold a memory of their loved ones with them at all times. Similarly, soldiers engraved coins during the Civil War to send to their loved ones back home. Over time, the tokens became a more lighthearted symbol--often used as a romantic gesture to express love or to propose marriage. The coins would contain a monograph with the woman’s first initial and the man’s last initial as a way to ask the woman to marry him.
The coins are each 1/2” across, dangling from a 1/2” earring wire. Combined, they weigh 2.75 grams. They are unmarked—the coins acid test as 22k and the wires test as 14k. The coins are from the United States and, though they were engraved for November 6th 1883, the coins were minted between 1849-1853 and were recalled by the US government to help with the Great Depression. This makes these coins rare!