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  • Writer's pictureValerieBound

May Flowers – the Pansy in Jewelry Design

Today is the last day of May, and the last of my May Flowers series (check out my other posts on roses, lotus flowers, and squash blossoms). Today we’ll be talking about the pansy. This delicate, charming little flower is one of my personal favorites and comes in a variety of colors. Over time, it’s come to have a sweet meaning – simply that another person is thinking of you!

The word pansy comes from the French pensee – meaning to think or ponder. People often talk of the “faces” of pansies, and indeed they do sometimes look like little faces lost in thought.

A Tale of Two Flowers

Pansies in your garden today came from the viola. Both pansies and violas grow in the wild, pansies in alpine meadows and on rocky ledges, violas along stream banks. Violas were cultivated way back in the fourth century BC for their medicinal properties. Pansies are actually completely edible.

A couple of very dedicated people began crossing violas and pansies in the early 1800’s. Lady Mary Elizabeth Bennett of England and her gardener had lovely specimens to show off in 1812 and 1813. Elsewhere in England, a man named James, Lord Gambier and his gardener, William Thompson also crossed species in the same time period.

<img class=" wp-image-3191 lazyload" src="" alt="Sweet pansies" width="490" height="368" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w" sizes="(max-width: 490px) 100vw, 490px" /> Sweet pansies

By the mid 1800’s, there were over 400 varieties available. And most importantly, they had crossed the Atlantic and were available in America. Americans LOVED pansies, so much so that an 1888 mail order catalog described the pansy as “the most popular of all flowers grown from seed.” Today, pansies are easy to grow and remain popular.

Georgian Pansies

I first started seeing pansies in jewelry in the Georgian period. This period covered most of the 1700’s and the 1800’s until about 1840. This period saw some strange jewelry trends, like hair jewelry. Yes, people put the hair of loved ones into pieces of jewelry. This was also the time period that produced the lover’s eye, a creepy trend that I discuss in a previous blog post. This was not an era known for flowers, although they were around. Cameos were big in this time period, as well as diamonds, and lots of choker necklaces. And everything was handmade.

<img class=" wp-image-4310 lazyload" src="" alt="An example of jewelry from the Georgian period (image courtesy of The Antique Jewellery Company)" width="500" height="375" srcset=" 1120w, 300w, 768w, 1024w, 510w, 1080w" sizes="(max-width: 500px) 100vw, 500px" /> An example of jewelry from the Georgian period (image courtesy of The Antique Jewellery Company)

Victorian Courtship

Ah, what a time it was in Victorian England…. Everyone was so prim and proper, and you couldn’t really discuss your feelings. Enter flowers! An amazing book called Le Language des Fleurs was translated into English in 1820. It was essentially the very first dictionary of floral meanings. It said, for example, that daisies represent innocence, roses love, and our little pansy meant thoughtfulness.

The pansy became used for couples to secretly court one another. Because you couldn’t convey any outward signs of affection, you took a pansy and placed in the middle of what was called a tussie mussie (a hilarious term for a bunch of herbs wrapped in a doily). Ah, how romantic!

<img class=" wp-image-4308 lazyload" src="" alt="An example of a tussle mussie with pansies" width="500" height="584" srcset=" 570w, 257w" sizes="(max-width: 500px) 100vw, 500px" /> An example of a tussle mussie with pansies

The pansies go dark

I found lots of examples of pansies being used in mourning jewelry. Mourning jewelry was all the rage in England after Queen Victoria lost her beloved husband when he was only 42. She never remarried, and spent almost forty years in mourning, until her own death. The whole story is very sad.

<img class=" wp-image-4307 lazyload" src="" alt="Some examples of pansy jewelry in Victorian times" width="480" height="360" srcset=" 800w, 300w, 768w, 510w" sizes="(max-width: 480px) 100vw, 480px" /> Some examples of pansy jewelry in Victorian times

Pansy Perfection

I found the vast majority of pansies in jewelry during the Art Nouveau period. It makes sense, right? Art Nouveau was all about nature, and botanical themes were especially popular.

<img class="size-full wp-image-4306 lazyload" src="" alt="Pansies in the Art Nouveau period" width="800" height="800" srcset=" 800w, 150w, 300w, 768w" sizes="(max-width: 800px) 100vw, 800px" /> Pansies in the Art Nouveau period

Art Deco & Oscar Heyman

The Art Deco period was known for its bold, geometric designs, and lots of diamonds. A famous jewelry company, Oscar Heyman, added beautiful pansy brooches to their repertoire. Aren’t they lovely?

<img class="aligncenter wp-image-4303 lazyload" src="" alt="" width="626" height="626" srcset=" 800w, 150w, 300w, 768w" sizes="(max-width: 626px) 100vw, 626px" />

Pansies Today

Pansies are still around today. They’re not super popular, or unpopular. But they are findable. I’m personally in love with Sofia Kaman’s exquisite ring. What do you think? Gorgeous, right?

<img class=" wp-image-4302 lazyload" src="" alt="My current favorite pansy ring (image courtesy of" width="455" height="520" srcset=" 600w, 262w" sizes="(max-width: 455px) 100vw, 455px" /> My current favorite pansy ring (image courtesy of

Don’t forget to check out my Pinterest board with great images of the flowers I’ve talked about this month! Is there another flower you’d like me to research? Let me know in the comments.


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