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Lockets are small cases of metal such as silver or gold, into which the wearer can place small photographs, a lock of hair, or another tiny memento. They are usually worn on a chain around the neck, but can also hang from a pin-backed brooch.
Lockets are traditional items of jewelry and evocative of Victorian sentimentality. Victorian young ladies might use lockets to hide a picture of their beau or the man they wished were their beau. If the loved one offered up a lock of his hair to cherish, the romantic situation could be considered quite serious indeed, and a proposal of marriage should be expected to shortly ensue. Lockets as gifts were considered a statement of intent.
A more somber type of locket was the mourning locket, which held a lock of hair from a departed loved one. In the nineteenth century, with its rigid social structure, mourning had some very distinct observations. One of these was that a widow must wear black for an entire year after she lost a spouse, only being able to wear the most subdued of colors, such as mauve and grey, at the end of the first year. During this period, mourning jewelry was the only type of jewelry allowed. Any other adornments would be seen as a lack of respect for the departed.
Mourning jewelry might include a locket containing a miniature of the deceased, a brooch containing a lock of his hair, and possibly a cameo of a suitably mournful theme, such as an angel draped dejectedly over a tomb.
Lockets today carry no such connotation and are often simply a convenient way to carry around a photo or two of your first grandchild, for example. Lockets specifically made for proud moms and grandmothers even contain a lengthy pull-out section into which a number of photos can be inserted.
And of course, with the advent of 'flash memory' modules that allow you to store many pictures on a lanyard around your neck, it's only a matter of time before some savvy manufacturer comes out with bejeweled flash memory unit lockets, in which you can store all your photos of your children, pets and anything else to access wherever you go.