100872 | UNITED STATES. Gem inset silver Love Token.
100872 | UNITED STATES. Gem inset silver Love Token. Engraved on an 1891 Seated Liberty Dime (18mm, 2.01 g, 11h).
Floral branch (below left) and stylized petals (above right) bisected by diagonal band containing five gem insets (red, blue, white, blue, red) in sunburst patterns / UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Liberty seated right, head left, holding Phrygian cap on pole and resting hand upon union shield. Edge: Reeded, with loop attached at the top.
Cf. KM A92 (for host coin). Engraving & host coin: About Uncirculated. Handsomely toned, with some underlying luster; five gem insets on the side of the engraving.
Being borrowed from the early 18th century practice in Great Britain, and being related to even earlier forms of engraving on European coinage, "love tokens" were an extremely popular form of sentimental art that saw their high point in the United States in the mid-to-late-19th century, whereby coinage was smoothed down on one or both sides, and some form of initials, a message, and/or imagery was engraved so that it may be presented to a loved one. The most commonly encountered 'canvas' in the United States was the dime, and usually one from the Seated Liberty series. At their height, the U.S. Mint blamed an alleged shortage of dimes—a staple of most late-19th century transactions—on this craze. Rising again in the early-mid 20th century during the depths of despair that were the world wars, this form of coin art, usually referred to in this context as "trench art," would see another revival, offering soldiers a brief chance at escapism through sentimental creativity.
"Bedazzling" love tokens seemed to take off as the practice was waning in the U.S. in the 1890's, as engraving alone merely wasn't enough. In the cases of gem inset pieces, a number of colored gems—usually red, white, and blue—were added to the engraving, adding further charm and elegance, as well as a bit of vibrancy!
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