For the military during WWI and WWII, exchanging letters and mementos kept them connected with home; this strengthened relationships while time and distance separated families. Many of the sentimental items sent home by servicemen have been referred to as sweetheart jewelry. Starting in WWI, young men began the tradition of sending the jewelry home; this custom grew even more popular during WWII. Some of it was handcrafted in the trenches but much of it was machine-made and sold to soldiers, who then sent it back home. During World War II, most precious metals were rationed and used to build weapons, tanks, ships, airplanes, and other machinery needed for the Allies’ campaign. As a result, most of the sweetheart items from this time were made from non-precious or semi-precious materials such as Bakelite, celluloid, wood, mother-of-pearl, shell, ivory, rhinestones, enamel, and cheap, readily available wire. Though “sweetheart” is the word used to describe the jewelry, not all of it was given to actual sweethearts; indeed it was also given to mothers, sisters, and wives. (Pieces meant for moms often have the word “mother” incorporated into the designs).
Sweetheart Pins are meant to be worn on a coat lapel or “discreetly” on a dress. Some are brooches ~
Some are enamelled, like these maple leaf pins ~
Others have the maple leaf as an integral part of the design ~
Of course, wings indicating the Air Force were the centrepiece ~
Lockets were made ~
Sometimes the sweetheart jewelry came in sets ~
This beautiful set belonged to the mom of our Collections Management Chairman, Mel. It was a gift to her from his Dad during WWII. Notice the wedge cap!
And sometimes a handkerchief was given ~
And did you know that there were also sweetheart pincushions? This is First World War period ‘sweetheart’ pin cushion that was possibly commercially produced as a kit for convalescing and disabled soldiers as well as civilians. (courtesy Imperial War Museums)
** In our Museum nothing gets accomplished without a sense of TEAM. This is true of this website posting as well. Thank you, Mel, Deb, and David for your support; you all gave so willingly!