The Unifying Power of Jewellery

With the ongoing Brexit debate over whether to stay or leave - a metaphor for divorce reoccurring in newspaper headlines; the unifying message of Valentine’s Day holds greater importance. We may love and live in close proximity to one another, however, the impermeable membrane of our skin ensures that we can never inhabit exactly the same space as another individual: we are islands. In 1956, Aldous Huxley eloquently wrote, after his psychedelic experience under the influence of mescaline: “From family to nation, every human group is a society of island universes”. Huxley recognised that these ‘island universes’ are not totally isolated: through speech and touch “most island universes are sufficiently like one another to permit of inferential understanding or even of mutual empathy...”[1] This mutual empathy can manifest as love and, more sensually, in lust. Jewellery is a fundamental tool exchanged to express love and lust in an attempt to lay claim to, or to enter, the physical realm of another’s bodily island.

Cabinet Containing Gold Medieval Wedding Rings, Musee d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaisme, Paris

The display of a jewel upon the body is a simple sign of possession; the gift receiver and the gift giver are both bound together in the exchange. Valentine’s Day is a clear example of this emotional exchange embodied through a material gift. The flurry of anxiety, in trepidation and excitement surrounding Chr