The heart has its reasons.
Inscribed on a heart-shaped Cartier charm presented to Wallis Simpson by a man besotted, these five simple words signify the essence of every explanation King Edward VIII of England could offer for choosing love over a kingdom. Wallis Simpson—a twice-divorced American woman—enchanted the king from almost the moment they met. Spellbound by affection, Edward VIII rebuffed the protestations of his family and advisors, renounced his throne, and spent the rest of his life loving the woman to whom he had given his heart.
Throughout the kingdom, there were many bewildered by Edward’s choice to abdicate in favor of affection—his own mother among them. But for nearly as long as people have existed, they have also been falling in love. And anyone who has known the marvelous magic of true love knows for themselves exactly what Edward meant with the famous inscription: The heart always has its reasons.
Wallis & Edward, The Duke and Duchess of Windsor
Now an ideogram easily recognizable almost the whole world through, early interpretations of the heart as a symbol of affection first found their way into artistic renderings in the 14th century. Initially shaped more like a pear or an inverted pine cone, these embodiments of adoration in physical form resembled the seeds of the silphium plant. Used as an herbal contraceptive, these seeds empowered individuals to enjoy the otherworldly pleasures of sex apart from the duties of procreation. It’s likely more than mere coincidence then that the freedom to explore the boundaries of physical delights coincided with a shift in the appearance of the heart. Taking on a scalloped shape with a dent at its base, the heart we recognize today is said to have its roots in celebrating certain features of the female body.
Silphium seeds and early heart shape on an ancient Libyan coin with the plant on the other side.
In the 15th century, the heart as we know was incorporated into jewelry design as artisans of the Middle Ages took to crafting the figure from metal and precious gems. Ever vigilant against the influence of black magic in the lives of ordinary folks, these superstitious masters of creation crafted a heart slightly peculiar in its form. Known as the Witches Heart, this shape features tails at the bottom of the heart which curve to one side. Initially believed to offer a shield of protective love against the evil eye, the Witches Heart was once most often found pinned to the blankets of babies to ensure they would not be snatched away by fairies or harmed by workers of the dark arts. A mother’s love, it was believed, sealed into the token of a heart, could go a long way towards safeguarding a child from misfortune and mischief.
Coinciding with the rise of love as the ideal primary reason for marriage in the 18th century, the unique emblem of the Witches Heart took on a new life in that era as a sign between lovers that they were utterly bewitched by the other. Celebrating the enthralling thrills of romance, the Witches Heart was believed to seal the adoration between two people in an unbreakable bond. Symbolic of feelings both fierce and tender, mystical but familiar, ethereal and yet somehow the most substantial thing in the world, Witches Hearts were said to hold all the power of their namesakes to charm the ones adorned by them.
A tribute to the intangible made corporeal, heart-shaped jewelry is always an excellent choice for honoring the adoration and appreciation held in your heart for your beloved. And for a singularly magical affection, a Witches Heart is particularly meaningful. Captivating in both appearance and symbolism, heart adornments celebrate all the exhilarating, ordinary, intelligible, and mysterious reasons one soul becomes entwined with another.