Lover’s Eye / Memento Mori Jewellery: Salvador Dali, The Skier Collection & Other Museum Pieces

A “lover’s eye” miniature is a painted miniature of the giver’s eye, presented to a loved one. The notion accompanying this very short lived fad (c.1790 through 1820) was that the eye would be recognizable only to the recipient and could therefore be worn publicly keeping the lover’s identity a secret. In contradiction however, portraits from the period rarely show the sitter overtly wearing or holding an eye miniature thereby perhaps indicating that the wearers concealed these intimate portraits from view to further guard their secrecy. – Antique Jewelry University

Only 1000 of the eloquent pieces are known to exist today.




An English Georgian 18 karat gold and porcelain enamel Lover’s Eye pendant necklace with half pearls. The pendant necklace has 47 half pearls approximately 3 mm. in size surrounding the pendant. This unique pendant is composed of symbolic elements of memorial jewelry. In this piece, the pearl frame signifies tears, white–a traditional memorial color–is used heavily, and a bucolic garden–yet another symbol of memorials–is featured prominently. The flaming heart and the lover’s eye denote a passionate love that had ended. As Ginny Dawes notes, “In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries there was a fashion in love jewelry, for Memento Mori or ‘vanitas’ pieces which meant, literally, ‘remember you must die’,” and to memorialize the love that has departed. Circa 1800’s. Discussed in Georgian Jewelery 1714-1830 by Ginny Redington Dawes with Olivia Collings, Antique Collectors’ Club,2007, pages 132-168.

[Source: ]



Georgian era, blue guillioche enamel, male Lover’s Eye pendant with diamonds.



Princess Charlotte’s right eye, with blue iris, brown eyebrow and several brown curls painted in miniature and set in a gold serpentine bracelet clasp with six chains of gold links. An eye of Princess Charlotte of Wales by Charlotte Jones (1768-1847) is in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh.(PGL 1279).


First recorded in the Royal Collection during the reign of George V. Possibly once mounted as a brooch worn by Queen Victoria.

[Source – Royal Collection Trust]





‘Eye’, by Charles John Smart (1741-1811), miniature water-colour in ivory in case. England, ca. 19th Century.

Photo: Copyright © Victoria and Albert Museum, London / V&A Images



georgian-english-lovers-eye-brooch-from-a-unique-collection-of-vintage-brooches-1stdibs-comGeorgian era, English Lover’s Eye brooch.





Gold navette-shaped brooch and pendant, ca. 1830.

[Source: Collection of Dr. and Mrs. David Skier]




Portrait of a Woman’s Left Eye, c. 1800, England.  Gift of Mrs. Charles Francis Griffith in memory of Dr. L. Webster Fox, 1936-6-13

[Source: Philadelphia Museum of Art]




The eye of Mrs. Maria Anne Fitzherbert, secret wife of the Prince Regent. Water-colour on ivory, ca. 1786.





The Eye of a Lady by Anonymous, ca. 1800.

[Source: Smithsonian American Art Museum]




Oval gold Lover’s Eye ring with white, blue and pink enamel, ca. 1795.

[Source: Collection of Dr. and Mrs. David Skier]




Salvador Dali’s brooch ‘The Eye of Time’, was designed by the artist himself and made famous by jewelers  Alemany & Ertman in New York, as a gift for Dali’s wife in 1949. With Dali’s permission, the company made several copies from his original designs.

An Italian man in the 1950’s had purchased a Dali piece which  had been passed down through his family. The artist hadn’t designed  many pieces of jewelery – perhaps 20 in all. The piece went up for sale at auctioneers Dreweatts of Newbury, Berkshire, and had been expected to sell for £12,000.

[Source – MailOnline]


Light blue man’s miniature eye, hand painted on ivory, set in a yellow
gold, round pendant mounting, surrounded by wire-strung seed pearls.
Shows signs of an old repair on back. Suspended by chains from an added
rectangular hair brooch, which is  also surrounded by split seed pearls. The
hair pin has some separation in the metal on back. ‘O’ rings have been
added to the hair pin so it can be worn as a pendant, ca. 1820.



Georgian Eye Miniature | An eye miniature brooch, circa 1800, set in gold and
silver and  surrounded by diamonds. The water-colour on ivory miniature depicts
an eye in clouds and beneath it is a most unusual motto and poignant motto : il ne voit et ne veira que toi [he sees only you and he’ll have eyes for you only].

[Source: Rowan & Rowan]


Georgian era, gold seed pearl, enamel navette-shaped Lover’s Eye brooch.

[Source: eBay]




The most famous story of Lovers’ Eyes is this:

In 1784, the Prince of Wales (later to be King George III) fell in love with a commoner and widow, Maria Fitzherbert. Her Catholic faith and the Royal Council would never consent to the union, but the Prince literally couldn’t live without her. After a suicide attempt by the future King, Maria consented to marriage, but fled to Europe instead of setting a date. Some say it was to quell his affections, some say she did it for the sake of her country. No one knows for sure.

On November 3rd 1785, the Prince of Wales wrote to Maria Fitzherbert proposing marriage a second time. In his letter, he included a ring with a portrait of his eye painted by the miniaturist Richard Cosway (the superstar portrait painter of the day). The Prince added a post script which reads, “ P.S., I send you a Parcel…and I send you at the same time an Eye, if you have not totally forgotten the whole countenance.  I think the likeness will strike you.”  It is unknown if it was the letter or the ring that tugged at Maria’s heart strings, but she did return to England and married the Prince in a secret ceremony on Dec 15, 1785. Shortly after the ceremony, she commissioned Richard Cosway to paint a portrait of her own eye that she then presented to the future King. As all with all secret things in England, then and now, it was of course, common knowledge. 

[Source – jewelrynerd]




The All-seeing Eye of God.

[Source: unknown]

– altered by Hystoria

This entry was posted in Collections, Death & Culture and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s