Heavenly Vices is for dreamers and storytellers and romantics, for those of us who look at single objects and see the beguiling allure of lost secrets and true but forgotten love.
Each piece of Heavenly Vices jewelry starts with a love token.
These remarkable artifacts were once coins – actual legal currency – that have been scraped clean on one side and engraved with a lover’s initials, a treasured name, a phrase of significance, or other meaningful symbol. The altered coin would then have been gifted to a lover, friend, child, or parent; a tangible representation of enduring feelings presented before long separations, to commemorate anniversaries and engagements, or for no particular reason at all.
New Orleans-born Samantha Jackson has spent years amassing a huge collection of these love tokens and now her jewelry line, Heavenly Vices, is giving these remarkable objects new life.
Each Heavenly Vices jewel is a palimpsest, a piece of currency turned secret message turned artifact turned adornment. The love tokens are set in precious metal and wreathed in diamonds.
This one is particularly elaborate and bears the word “Doll” in rose gold. Was it an endearment? Someone’s name? We’ll never know, but it’s stunning to look at, especially in that rose gold setting.
This style of love token may date from as early as 1300’s England and peaked during the oh-so-sentimental Victorian era, when it was common to have love token stands set up shop at fairs: they’d customize your coins for you right on the spot. Each love is a tiny, tangible piece of someone’s story that history has left behind of us to find.
Many of the Heavenly Vices love tokens are very simple, but others are exquisitely elaborate. These two beauties fall into that second category: similar to the “Doll” above but even fancier, with swirling, elaborate monograms in multiple colors of gold with coordinating gold or rose gold settings and chains.
Some of the Heavenly Vices love token pieces feature stationary pendants on chains (like these two), others are charms that can go on anything for maximum versatility.
One of my very favorite things about the Heavenly Vices designs is that the back of the pendant is left open. The vast majority of the love tokens still look like a coin on the reverse, although a few special pieces have double-sided engravings.
Many of the coin sides bear the marks of time more than the engraved side; these two are a perfect example, with the ridges through the middle of the one on the left and the gentle, consistent wear of the one on the right.
This may seem like an unimportant aspect of the overall design of these jewels, but to me, the fact that Heavenly Vices shows such reverence for the history of the artifacts incorporated here makes all the difference to me.
If you’re anything like me (and a lot of you are!) then you’re as fascinated by the history of the love tokens themselves as you are by the beauty of the finished Heavenly Vices pieces. It won’t surprise you to learn that Heavenly Vices designer Samantha Jackson is a kindred spirit as well; we had a long conversation about the evolution of her very specific designs and here’s a bit of what she shared with me:
Everyone in my family is a big talker/ storyteller and I just loved how these coins had been part of someone’s story, whether or not we may ever know what it was as is the case with some of the odd tokens I have been posting this week, or even one which I recently acquired that is not the best one I have by far but I couldn’t resist its backstory.
During the demolition of a pottery store, an enormous safe was found, with most of the contents being junk. The shop owner was an avid coin collector and hoarded away some of the best pieces that came into the shop as payment (as his father had done). When the safe was discovered, a long time coin collector volunteered his time to verify the authenticity of the coins in the safe.
So in all kinds of ways these coins are connected to people in a deeply passionate way – whether as an expression of romantic or familial love, love for a restaurant as in the case of my fantastic menu coin, or just for love of coins.”
Doesn’t the idea of that huge safe filled with love tokens make you drool? I’d love to paw through Samantha’s secret collection of coins waiting to become Heavenly Vices designs!
In the course of building her love token collection, Samantha Jackson of Heavenly Vices has come across a countless variety of names and initials, as well as some truly unusual coins: a couple of favorites are “Stop yer tickling, Jock” and “Pickles.”
Another rare love token in Samantha’s collection is the legendary French restaurant menu coin, which not even I have gotten to see firsthand. There are also sub-genres within the love token realm:
In my search for love tokens I have also found and purchased Trezains, or French Marriage Medals which are embedded with a lot of religious symbolism and Convict Tokens which English prisoners in the 18th century would engrave and leave behind with their loved ones before being shipped off to Australia or other British penal colonies.
One thing I recently discovered are Foundling Tokens, which are just heart breaking. They were engraved coins left behind in London’s Foundling Hospitals by mothers who had to abandon their children as a way they could identify their children if they were ever to be able to come back and collect them. I have never seen one on the market, and the only ones I have ever seen are in the Foundling Museum where they belong.”
These unusual ones are unicorn-level rare; I recommend DMing Samantha the second they show up on the Heavenly Vices Instagram, because you know there’s never going to be another “Pickles.”
Here’s the infamous “Excuse me,” which I did get to play with! It’s very simple in design, but it’s so unusual that it immediately became my favorite of the batch I photographed.
Who had this made and WHY?? What did it mean? Was it an inside joke? A pickup line? I couldn’t possibly love it any more than I do. Rock on, whoever you were that commissioned or created this. You did you.
I haven’t bought “Excuse me” from Samantha yet, but I may change my mind about that before I make this blog post public. WE WILL SEE. #hazardsofthejob
The majority of the coins have names or initials. There’s an enormous variation in style, which is truly what makes Heavenly Vices so incredibly cool: it’s not like you’re going to a department store and choosing which of three similar factory-made designs you want, instead, you’re waiting for the perfect treasure from the past that speaks to your soul.
Heavenly Vices designer Samantha Jackson’s other passion is animal rescue, and I was touched by what she said about the connection between her two vocations:
One of my fosters is in the process of getting an article in a local magazine published and in our discussions she said something like just like you fostered homeless cats, you are fostering these coins and readying them for their new lives with new families. And I just loved that!
I consider it an honor and a privilege (and frankly a bit of a miracle) that I have been able to find all of these and hopefully will be able to steward them back to life where they can become a symbol of passion for new people/ families/ weirdos (heehee)/ collectors.”
Heavenly Vices is actually honoring their commitment to animal rescue by donating 10% of profits through the end of the year to organizations helping animals displaced by the California wildfires.
What do you think, my darlings?
Are you as enthralled by Heavenly Vices as I am? Will you be holding out for your own name, or are you looking for the name or initials of someone dear to you? Should I buy “Excuse me”? Who’s going to get Jock? Let’s discuss.
I have approximately a million more pictures of Heavenly Vices love tokens (I got really into photographing them) so keep an eye on my IG for more names and also videos of some of the ones you’ve seen here!
The information on love token history in this post was sourced from Heavenly Vices, Collectors Weekly, and The Love Token Society.
This sponsored post is brought to you by Heavenly Vices.
these are so fun, and i love trying to intuit the stories behind them.
Me too!! They’re like secret codes left behind for us to decipher. I LOVE them.
I bet “Excuse me” was the first thing one said to the other. That’s what immediately popped into my head, at least!
I love that interpretation too!! I think it’s a very reasonable theory and I love that you love that one too.
“Excuse me” is my absolute favorite! I love when a piece of jewelry tells a story!
Me too!!! It’s so whimsical and mysterious.