Symbols of hope and love: WWII Sweetheart collectables Sweetheart jewellery, gifts and souvenirs are such a charming way to remember and preserve a little piece of love and history. Servicemen in the WWII era passed out these little bits of their heart to their loved ones during the time of their sacrifice. Women on the home front, or in the service themselves, were proud to wear and show the world their patriotic symbols of hope, love, duty, courage and patience. Syd Divine has this story. Sweetheart items were available in whatever branch of service you were in from Navy, Air Force, Marine, to Army and so on. They showed the world that you were united as a couple and cared about patriotism. On the lighter side, if a gal on the home front had to get permission from her G.I. to attend a local dance, it was proof that she had a loved one, who anticipated coming home to her. When I first sat down to write this article, it was specifically going to be about Sweetheart jewellery. The more I sat down to write and think about things that I have learned, researched or collected in the past, the more I had to say about not only Sweetheart jewellery, but also the other simple gifts and souvenirs that were so important in supporting the morale of the solider during the war effort. I have included some pictures from my personal collection of Sweetheart souvenirs. With the exception of a few pieces that belonged to my own Grandmother, most of my collection lies in the favor of the Navy or USN collectibles. Due to the fact that about five years ago, while rummaging through a yard sale, I found a USN locket with a picture of the handsome solider still in it. This struck a deep sentimental chord in my heart, and from there I began to expand my study of the Navy and build up my USN Sweetheart collection. Many of the jewellery items available were things like lockets, pins, bracelets, earrings, wings and pendants. There was also a plethora of other everyday items, produced and stamped with the memory of war, a daily reminder of what the young generation was enduring at that time. Even though Sweetheart jewellery was also made and gifted to cater to the mothers of sons in service, I just think that there is something to be said about a lover, girlfriend or young bride who is anxiously waiting for her life to begin, at the chance that her serviceman returns home safely. A Valentine’s Day surprise, if you will, to reassure her that for that moment he was still alive. Regardless, the horrifying fact of your loved one going off to war just kept you on an emotional roller coaster, never knowing if you would ever see or hear from them again. Going sometimes months on end without a single word or letter to let you know about their status. Or the heart wrenching thought of a devastating Western Union Telegram, or a home visit from the Kernel. The brave, strong and un-denying passion of the women of World War II would not be broken, women on the home front, in the factories and in the heart of the battlefields is what kept this country going and their men alive during the time of their absence. One of the most popular and collectable pieces of Sweetheart jewellery today, is the Victory emblem. V for Victory was a very popular slogan of encouragement during WWII, and the little symbol of patriotic hope was all over the place to prove it. On many pieces of Victory jewellery you will see three dots and a dash. In Morse Code that identifies the letter V. A few of the non-jewelry items that were produced during this time were things such as pillowcases, hankies, scarves, compacts and other small household items that women used on a daily basis. Most of these items are still available to find in Antique stores and purchase on sites such as eBay and Etsy. Another popular wartime gift of planning and happy future was the Hope Chest. Even though the Hope Chest had been manufactured well before WWII, it was during the period from 1942 to 1945 that it had its heyday. The Hope Chest had already earned its credit as a symbol of domesticity to many young ladies. Well, it says it all in the name: young women would store in it their prized belongings such as clothing, trinkets, sentimental items and small decor, hoping she would be married, quickly ready and carted off to then later use the hope chest as a first piece of furniture for the home. The clever advertising tagline said it all in one short sentence: “The gift that starts the home” During WWII, the same hopes were on the minds of many young women, you could only imagine the rising popularity of the Hope Chest. Cedar Lane, the company that manufactured these chests knew it well and took full advantage of using the Sweethearts of War in their advertising campaigns. The dreamy young beauty with the stars of her future in her eyes. Or the dapper servicemen in uniform and his perfectly patriotic Sweetheart locked in a romantic embrace of hope. These images aspired thousands of GI’s on the verge of shipping out, to purchase the Hope Chest for the lovely ladies that were left waiting for their return. Oh to be in love during WWII, such honor, sacrifice, romance and patriotism. No wonder couples married during that generation are still together. If the children of the depression and young adults forced to grow up faster than they had liked during the WWII era could survive through and prevail, what’s a little struggle? With each piece of Sweetheart jewellery or small gift there is a love and life story to be told. Did he return? What was made of their life together? Who wouldn’t want town a little piece of that sentimental journey. 6 Responses Lya de Putti February 15th, 2010 Aw how sweet. Lovely article thankyou x kay February 22nd, 2012 Really nice article but just want to mention the word “Kernel” is spelled Colonel. Joanne February 22nd, 2012 Lane continues in business today and are still selling cedar storage chests: http://www.lanefurniture.com/Furniture/Cedar-Chests/Storage-Chests.aspx. Obviously the concept of the Hope Chest is a little outdated, but even when I was a small child in the 60’s these pieces were bought for brides-to-be to store their engagement and wedding presents in and take to their new homes. When I graduated high school in 1980, we all got a free cedar keepsake chest with ads for Lane cedar chests in them. Jackie February 23rd, 2012 My mom bought me a hope chest when I was a baby. It has all of my cute little dresses and even some that were hers. A different kind of hope I guess. I love the idea and “hope” to pass it on. Thank you for telling me about sweetheart jewelery! I am a HUGE WWII home front fan 🙂 Lena February 23rd, 2012 Oh wow that’s amazing, how wonderful! Rebecka April 19th, 2012 Great article – I knew about sweetheart jewelry but hadn’t heard about hope chests. That is so sad, yet romantic! Interesting to see how manufacturers & advertisers respond to the times.