Symbol Revealed: The History of the Heart Pendant

Is there a more iconic symbol than the heart? For centuries, the beloved design has popped up everywhere, from love letters to decks of cards—and, in recent decades, on those ubiquitous “I Love New York” T-shirts. And while the meaning of the heart symbol is beautiful all year round, it’s obviously perfect for Valentine’s Day, whether you’re styling your own look or gifting jewelry to a loved one. But how did the heart symbol gain such prominence? And why doesn’t it look like an actual human heart? We explore the fascinating history behind this classic design and—bonus!—give you some tips for incorporating our HEART Pendant and Slice Rings into your stylish holiday look.


A Symbol With Mysterious Origins

Nobody is certain where the heart symbol came from, but historians do know that it goes back at least as far as the 1400s. It shows up as one of the red suits on a deck of European playing cards discovered from that time. And there are plenty of unconfirmed theories about its unusual shape too: Some people believe the heart symbol is modeled after the shape of ivy leaves (which symbolize fidelity), while others think it might be designed to look like breasts, buttocks, or other parts of the human body. Another theory is that the symbol is meant to look like the seed of the silphium plant, which was used as an herbal aphrodisiac and contraceptive way back in the day. Regardless of its origins, one thing is certain: The heart symbol quickly become associated with love, adoration, and the passions of the human heart.


The Victorian-Era Valentine’s Day

The heart symbol began to grow in popularity as it became tied to the idea of romantic love during the medieval period. We know this because the symbol shows up frequently in art from the Renaissance era, and it became one of the four official suits on playing cards. And once English Victorians began sending each other elaborate Valentine’s Day cards covered in ribbons, bows, and yes, heart symbols, it was clear that the heart symbol was here to stay.

A sterling silver Heart pendant necklace

A Modern Spin on Iconic Jewelry

We’ve come a long way since the Renaissance and Victorian eras, but the heart symbol still feels contemporary and relevant today. In fact, our HEART Pendant happens to be our best-selling pendant necklace, and the symbol makes for an especially touching addition to one of our custom necklaces. Thanks to its elegant simplicity, the pendant looks perfect on a Stringer Chain all on its own—but you can also mix and match it with other pendants, like the initials and/or birthstones of your significant other, best friends, or children. You can also work the symbol into phrases like “HEART U,” “MY HEART,” or any other expression that’s meaningful to you. There’s no need to hold back—go ahead and break those jewelry styling rules to create meaningful jewelry that you (or your loved ones) will cherish all year.

And don’t limit yourself to just a necklace! Our HEART Slice Rings are another way to add a festive Valentine’s Day touch to your look, and they make meaningful gifts your recipients will cherish. The rings come in a variety of finishes, both with and without pavé, and are eye-catching on their own or in multiples. Choose some for your loved ones—don’t forget yourself too — and get ready to turn some heads!

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