These tokens of love were a small luxury in a time of rationing and scarcity. They provided emotional comfort for soldiers and the loved ones they left behind. Since many materials were reserved for the war effort, the jewelry from this time was often made of gold or silver plated base metal. Natural materials like mother of pearl, were used as luxurious decorations when supply of stones were limited. Most sweetheart jewelry was made machine made, and often decorated with hand done engraving. Hand made jewelry that was fashioned by soldiers is called ‘Trench Art’ or ‘Pacific War Art’.
Many pieces of sweetheart jewelry were decorated with the emblems of the different branches of the military. Others had words like ‘mother’, ‘sweetheart’, and ‘wife’ or the recipient’s name.
The most popular form of sweetheart jewelry was the locket. As Nick Snider said in his book Sweetheart Jewelry and Collectibles; “Lockets had it all, beauty as well as usefulness by holding a picture of a loved one close to the heart.” Sweetheart Lockets were usually heart shaped, but they can also be found as ovals, or even book shaped. Most lockets had spaces for two photos. Today, many old lockets can still be found with the original photos intact. Usually it is of a soldier in uniform.
Lockets were not only hung on traditional chains. Many times they came on wire or bar shaped pin with designations such as “wife” or “mother”. Others were attached to jump wing or bow shaped pins.
Occasionally soldiers would hand make objects during their downtime at the base. These pieces are called “Trench Art” or “Pacific War Art”. Soldiers would hammer, pound, mold, and carve any available piece of metal, wood, or plastic to make jewelry or mementos for their loved ones. Lucite from downed airplane windshields would be molded into heart shaped pendants. Coins were fashioned into rings, pins, and bracelets.
Sweetheart collectibles are highly desirable today because of their wear-ability and historical context. The low gold content makes them fairly affordable, but the prices are rising as high quality sweetheart pieces become more rare.