Many of the U.S. servicemen who crossed the Atlantic to fight in World War I were teenagers, with no idea of the horrors awaiting them. The brutal realities of the battlefield made the exchange of letters and keepsakes with loved ones back home vitally important to the sanity of these young American soldiers.

These young men initiated the tradition of sending "sweetheart” jewelry back home to their girlfriends, wives, sisters, and mothers. The custom only grew more popular during World War II, when U.S. troops were once again fighting far from home. Some sweetheart jewelry was handcrafted in the trenches, but much of it was machine-made and sold to U.S. soldiers, who then sent it back home.

The women who received these jewelry pieces wore them with pride. It let them feel connected to their loved ones on the other side of the world and also show their patriotism. It was a time when almost all Americans, from the men serving on the front to their families back home, pulled together to contribute to the war effort, whether that meant working in a factory, selling war bonds, or collecting scrap metal to be melted down.

During World War II, most precious metals were rationed and used only to build weapons, tanks, ships, airplanes, and other machinery needed for the Allies’ campaign. For this reason, most sweetheart from this era was made from non-precious or semi-precious materials such as Bakelite, celluloid, wood, mother-of-pearl, shell, ivory, rhinestones, enamel, and cheap, readily available wire. More rare pieces, sometimes adorned with diamonds, can be found in platinum, sterling silver, silverplate, brass, gold plate, gold-filled, and even solid gold.

Though sweetheart is the word used to describe this jewelry, not all of it was given to actual sweethearts. Pieces meant for moms often have the word “Mother” incorporated into their designs. “In service” items worn by family members of servicemen often feature a star for each relative in the war. A blue star stood for a “family member in service,” while a silver star meant “wounded in action” and a gold star meant “killed in action.” Pieces would often signify the region of the world the soldier was serving in, whether it was in the European or Pacific Theater, as well as his military branch or unit.

Victory pins—with “Victory” usually signified by a capital “V”—are particularly popular with collectors. They come in a wide range of quality and styles, from a small wood or brass “V” to a large rhinestone or Bakelite “V” to a rare “V” in a precious gemstone or metal. According to homefront collectible expert Martin Jacobs, “V” was not only a hopeful, inspirational symbol for Americans, but also to Allies and people suffering brutal oppression under the Nazi regime. “V” stood for “yryjheid” (“freedom”) in Dutch, “vitezsivi” (victory) in Czech, “vitesivo” in Serbian, and “victoire” in French.

Wings were another widespread symbol found in sweetheart jewelry, particularly pins and brooches. These often indicated the loved one’s specialty in the Army Air Force or the Navy, as a pilot, navigator, observer, crew member, flight surgeon, or nurse. They can be found in leather, wood, Lucite and other plastics, mother of pearl, hard-cast metal, sterling silver, or 10- or 14-karat gold...

Naturally, many pieces of sweetheart jewelry come in the shape of a heart. Heart-shaped lockets, worn on necklaces or brooches, were particularly popular, but heart-shaped sweetheart jewelry also came in the form of bracelets, earrings, necklaces, and rings.

Aside from jewelry, soldiers would send their loved ones sweetheart compacts, which could be oval, square, rectangular, or heart-shaped—some took the shape of an officer’s hat. These compacts were often adorned with an image of Uncle Sam while others, like the jewelry, indicated the military branch of the man in service. Other sweetheart items sent home included embroidered pillow slips, handkerchiefs, and other giftwares.

Sweetheart jewelry is among the most affordable of home-front collectibles, even though the prices have risen in the last 10 years. That’s because these items have been growing in popularity with both military and jewelry collectors, as well as Americans who yearn to connect to veterans of past wars and express their patriotism.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Researching Costume Jewelry

Researching Costume Jewelry

Jewelry lovers, venture through this amazing database of vintage jewelry articles, catalogs, and brochures, as well… [read review or visit site]

myArmoury.com

myArmoury.com

This resource for historic arms and armour collectors provides exhaustive information on modern reproductions (cust… [read review or visit site]

Emerald City Vintage Costume Jewelry

Emerald City Vintage Costume Jewelry

It looks like we're not in Kansas anymore with Elizabeth Rowlands' site on vintage costume jewelry from the 1940s a… [read review or visit site]

The Civil War

The Civil War

Paul McWhorter’s amazing reference site tells the story of the Civil War through high resolution scans of Harpers… [read review or visit site]

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Jewelry collectors, feast your eyes on this internet gem! It's a goldmine of jewelry information featuring all styl… [read review or visit site]

Mikes Tanks

Mikes Tanks

Mike Seeber’s extensive collection of over 500 diecast tanks and military vehicles, dating back to WWII. Browse b… [read review or visit site]

All About Jewels Dictionary

All About Jewels Dictionary

This incredible reference dictionary on jewelry, from Enchantedlearning.com, is both beautiful and comprehensive. S… [read review or visit site]

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

With its vast galleries featuring clear images of jewelry and style, this site really covers it all! Divided up by … [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Rare Usmc Trench Art Wwi Aluminum Canteen Wwii Usn Sweetheart Trench Art Great! Group Of Ww1 Era Memorabilia From One Soldier. Sweet-heart Brooch / Medal & RingOriginal Ww1 Royal Flying Corps Rfc "silver" Sweetheart Brooch BadgeWw2 Group: Medal Inc Burma Star; Sweet-heart Brooch & R.a.f Burma Football MedalUs Original Ww2 Aerial Bombardier Sterling Silver Pin/sweetheart BraceletWw1 London Rifle Brigade Silver Sweetheart Brooch Vintage Wwii Era Sterling Silver Oriental Charm Bracelet Sweetheart Bracelet AWw1 Faux Tortoiseshell & Sterling Silver Royal Naval Division Sweetheart BroochWw2 Era Army Air Corp Pilot Wings Sweetheart Bracelet - SterlingWwi Trench Art Sweetheart Bracelet 148 Labour Coy British Expeditionary ForceWorld War 1 Ypres Bayonet Sweetheart BroochA Ww1 Arras Enamel Sweetheart Brooch, Badge.Rare Wwii Bombardier Wings Sterling Bomber Capt Pilot Medal Sweetheart Bracelet1940's Wwii Sweetheart 13 Sterling Silver Puffy Heart Enamel Charm Bracelet Vintage Wwii Sweetheart Bracelet Sterling Silver Navy Charm Bracelet CWorld War 1 Brussels Bayonet Sweetheart BroochWwii Coin Silver Bracelet Australian Trench Art Sweetheart 7 1/2" Long 31.3 G.Ww1 Gold Fronted Sweetheart Brooch Australian Commonwealth Military ForcesAn Antique Ww1 Era, "south Wales Borderers" Enamel & Silver Sweet-heart Brooch!Enamelled Metal Sweetheart Brooch - Raf Royal Air Force Fighter Squadron 29Vintage Wwii Era Usn Navy Sweetheart Jewelry Photo Locket Compact Necklace PinsLovely Looking Solid Silver Black Watch Regt Sweetheart Brooch BadgeLot Of Original Ww2 Patriotic Home Front + Sweetheart & Family PinsWw1 Aif Australian Rising Sun Military Silver Sweetheart Brooch / Nurses' BadgeVintage Wwii Sweetheart Bracelet Sterling Silver Military Charm Bracelet BWwi Royal Irish Rifles Sweetheart Brooch Raf. Sweetheart Brooch. 1940's. Sterling Silver1st Canadian Armoured Carrier Regiment, Kangaroos Sweetheart Broach (inv 7733)Wwi Seaforth Highlanders Of Canada 17th Sweetheart Brooch CefWwi 9ct Gold Royal West Kent Regiment Sweetheart Brooch Pin Or BadgeWw2 Cap Badge Cwac Canadian Womens Army Corps Sterling Silver Sweetheart Ring !Original Ww2 Or Korean Us Army Air Corp Sweetheart Locket Vintage Mn-vintage Ww2? Era Sweetheart Souvenier Flag 9th Marine 3rd Division JapanRare Propaganda Churchill Raf Battle Of Britain Jacqmar Sweetheart ScarfVintage Wwii Sterling Silver Sweetheart Bracelet Us Army Navy Air Force MarinesWwii 1940s Vintage Sweetheart Bracelet W/ Locket, U.s. ArmyC.e.f. 137th Durham Battalion (calgary) Gilt And Enamel Sweetheart Badge Army Air Corps Ww2 Sweetheart Phto Locket Mother Of PearlWorld War Ii Us Army Sweetheart Pin Rifle And Heart SterlingCanadian 172nd Battalion Rocky Mountain Rangers Canada Sweetheart Brooch BadgeWw2 Wwii Us Army Air Corps Wings And Enamel Sweetheart BraceletAssorted World War Ii Ww Ii Sweetheart PinsVintage Sterling Us Army Wwii Sweetheart Bracelet ~ By EmbraceletSweetheart Brooch: Leicestershire Yeomanry Prince Alberts Own Cap Lapel Badge2x Lovely Vintage Ww1 Ww2 ? South Staffordshire Regiment Sweetheart Badge BroochWw1 World War One Nz New Zealand Signal Corps Sweetheart Brooch BadgeAntique Silver American Usa Civil War Coin Sweetheart BroochMiniature Sweetheart Wwii Army Air Corps Force Sterling Silver Enamel Pin BroochVintage Wwi Royal Defence Corps Home Front Enamel Mop Sweetheart Pin BadgeUs Marine Corps Sterling Silver Ring & Marines Gold Filled Sweetheart LocketWwii Usmc Ega Eagle Globe Anchor Sweetheart Pin Long Pin Marine CorpsWwii Usn Us Navy Sweetheart Locket Heart Necklace - Sterling & Mother Of PearlVintage Wwii Army Signal Corp. Sweetheart Gold Locket, 18mm X 25mmWorld War Ii U.s. Army Sweetheart Compact Ft. Crook, Cosmetic, Vanity, MakeupVintage Wwii Enamel Sweetheart Lapel Pin Usmc Us Marine Corps Homefront Jewelry3 Vintage Wwii Small Size Son In Service Lapel Pins – Sweetheart JewelryUnique World War Ii Sweetheart Photo Pin Brooch Army Waves Dress Cap Crossed GunWorld War Ii Sweet Heart Locket Signal CorpsWwii Us Army Air Corps Force Sweetheart Wings Sterling Silver Coro Full SizeWorld War Ii Sterling & Enamel U.s. Navy Seabees Heart Sweetheart Pendant Charm