Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Wartime Wednesday: Let Me Call You Sweetheart

Wartime Wednesday: Let Me Call You Sweetheart

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The “Great War” or “The War to End All Wars,” sent young men across the globe to fight. In addition to letters, many of the soldiers sent keepsakes home to families and girlfriends. Dubbed “sweetheart jewelry,” the items were often handcrafted while in the trenches. Twenty years later, the world was again at war, and the custom of sending these pieces flourished. By this time, most of the items were machine-made and sold to U.S. soldiers.

Despite the moniker, sweetheart jewelry wasn’t just given to girlfriends. Mothers and sisters also received items from sons and brothers. Brooches, pendants, and bracelets were the most popular pieces, but with metal being tightly rationed, the jewelry was manufactured with Bakelite (a resin), celluloid, wood, mother-of-pearl, shell, ivory, rhinestones, enamel, and sometimes wire. Rarer pieces were made with platinum, sterling silver, silverplate, brass, gold plate, gold-filled, and even solid gold.

Patriotism was the prevalent theme of the jewelry, with the American flag and eagle most often
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depicted. Hearts were also used on a large percentage of the pieces, as were the nation’s colors of red, white, and blue. During the war, V is for Victory became a catchphrase, and manufacturers began to use Victory as a marketing tool on everything from Victory Wax Paper to Victory Fly Swatters. Therefore, it’s unsurprising that the V made its way into the jewelry industry. In addition to signifying the region of the world where the soldier or sailor was serving, sweetheart jewelry often featured a V, with wings being another symbol widely used.

Heart-shaped lockets, bracelets, earrings, and rings were most often sent to girlfriends and wives. Another popular item was a sweetheart compact. Also heart-shaped, the compact could also be found in other shapes such as oval, square, rectangular, or even in the shape of an officer’s hat.

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The women who received these items wore or used them with pride, and perhaps created a connection with their loved ones thousands of miles away. Having received a charm bracelet from my husband while we were dating and adding charms associated with an event as the years have passed, I understand how valuable sweetheart jewelry was to the recipients (although I cannot relate to the worry they must have felt). Whenever I visit the sweetheart jewelry display at the Wright Museum, I wonder about the stories and relationships behind each piece.

Have you ever received a piece of jewelry of great significance?


Estelle's Endeavor

Will a world at war destroy a second chance at love?

Estelle Johnson promised to wait for Aubry DeLuca, but then she receives word of his debilitating injuries. Does she have the strength to stand by him in his hour of need?

Aubry DeLuca storms the beaches at Normandy, then wakes up in the hospital, his eyes bandaged. Will he regain his sight? Will the only woman he’s ever loved welcome him home or is he destined to go through life blind and alone?

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