A Vocabulary of Symbolism

  • Ivy = Friendship, fidelity, or marriage
  • Fern = Fascination
  • Bluebells = Constancy
  • Forget Me Nots = Remembrance
  • Salamanders, Lizards = Passionate Love (it was believed the animals could survive fire)
  • Arrows = Love (Cupid's arrows)
  • Crowned Heart = Love Triumphant
  • Dogs = Fidelity
  • Butterfly = Soul
  • Doves = Domesticity
  • Daisy = Innocence
  • Harp = Ireland or Constant Love
  • Lilac = First feelings of Love
  • Mistletoe = A kiss
  • Clasped Hands = Friendship or Lasting Love
  • Musical Instruments = Harmony
  • Flaming Heart = Passionate Love
  • Fly = Humility, Like the snake this symbol changed over time. In Elizabethan times, the fly who could go anywhere and observe everything without being noticed was used to denote the possession of wisdom based on hidden or obscure knowledge.
  • Wishbone = Wish and Hope. The shamrock and horse shoe as symbols of Luck and indeed the concept of adventurism and luck came into popularity in the next major period, Edwardian.
  • Roses = many meanings, depending of the type of bloom and color. (One book of the era lists 35 different meanings for different roses).
  • Specific gems could have specific meanings, for instance:

    • Pearls = Tears
    • Amethyst = Devotion
    • Diamond = Constancy
    • Emerald = Hope
    • Ruby = Passion

    Gems were used as a type of code to spell out words. The first letter of the gems' names would stand for letters. In this way, a piece set with a Diamond, Emerald, Amethyst, and Ruby (in that order) would spell the work "DEAR". Other examples of this "code" can be found spelling out: Regard, Fidelity, Gratitude, Ever Thine, Baby, Mother, and individual names. This practice went on in various countries. A piece of code jewelry could be spelled out in various languages, and this can make deciphering the code of a specific piece now out of context quite tricky.