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The Secret Meaning of Flowers on Upcycled Silverware Jewelry.

This week while processing some new upcycled silverware jewelry creations, I noticed that most silverware pieces feature flowers as part of their design if not the whole design. For example, the spoon ring above is really all about Lilies as the design is a Lilly all the way around. Same with the spoon cuff bracelet featured showing a full design of a carnation. 

Upcycled Silverware Spoon Cuff Bracelet Featuring Victorian Flower Motif of a Carnation

If you look at most of the silverware pieces we use for our upcycled silverware jewelry creations, I’d say that abut 75% of the pieces feature or include flowers as part of the design. While I am not completely sure why flowers have such a presence on vintage and antique silverware, I suspect it may have something to do with the secret flower language called Floriography that was popular in the previous century.

During the Victorian Era, giving a bouquet of flowers was more than simply a kind gesture or gift of beauty. These bouquets were often intended to convey a secret feeling or a message to the recipient. This was known as Floriography, or flower language and is not too different from modern day emojis. Often these bouquets were very cryptic and conveyed a feeling or idea that could not be spoken in the oh-so-proper Victorian times. The beauty of this method of delivering a message is that any meaning could be easily denied, thereby absolving the giver of any inappropriate and or socially unacceptable thoughts or behavior.

Victorian Image Calla Lily Victorian Bouquet of Violets Tied with a Blue Ribbon
While the history of floriography is rich with many characters and continents, it is most often attributed to Lady Mary Wortley Montagu who was married to the English ambassador to Turkey in the 1700s. In one of her letters home she described the Turkish “selam” which was a secret flower language used by harem women to communicate while keeping their thoughts unspoken. Her letters were later published as the “Turkish Embassy Letters” and the secret language of flowers quickly took hold of the imagination and interest of wealthy educated readers of the time.

Eventually dictionaries were written to help decode the meaning of flowers and by the turn of the 20th century, you could find about 98 different dictionaries across the United States alone.

But it wasn’t just the types of flowers presented in the bouquet that conveyed meaning. There were other types of messages as well from the hand which the flowers are presented (given to someone using the right hand, indicated the answer “yes” to a question. Given to someone using the left hand, indicated the answer “no.”) to the colors of the flowers themselves (red suggests passion, white suggest purity, etc.).
Victorian Right Hand Holding Lily of the Valley Bouquet

There are many online sources for the meaning of certain flowers. But since we are make jewelry out of silverware, we are going to list only those flowers that we see most often on antique silverware.


(Note: While flower colors are not depicted on antique silverware, it is still notable and interesting information and we are including it here.)

CARNATION - Fascination; Divine Love; womanly love; devoted love

Pink Carnation - I'll Never Forget You, Gratitude
Purple Carnation - Capriciousness
Red Carnation - My Heart Aches for You; Admiration, Flashy
White Carnation - Sweet and Lovely; Innocence; Pure Love; Remembrance; Woman's Good Luck Gift
Yellow Carnation - You Have Disappointed Me; Rejection; cheerful
Green Carnation – St.Patricks Day; homosexuality (per Oscar Wilde)
Solid Color Carnation - Yes
Striped Carnation - No; Refusal; Sorry I Can't Be with You: I Wish I Could Be with You

DAFFODIL - Regard; Unrequited Love; You're the Only One; The Sun is Always Shining When I'm with You

IRIS - Fleur-de-Lis, Emblem of France: Your Friendship Means So Much to Me; Faith; Hope; Wisdom and Valor; My Compliments

LILY
Calla Lily - Beauty
Day Lily - Coquetry; Chinese Emblem for Mothers
Eucharis Lily - Maiden Charms
Orange Lily - Hatred
Tiger Lily - Wealth; Pride
White Lily - Virginity; Purity; Majesty; It's Heavenly to Be with You
Yellow Lily - I'm Walking on Air; False and Gay

LILY-OF-THE-VALLEY - Sweetness; Tears of the Virgin Mary; Return to Happiness; Humility; You've Made My Life Complete

MAGNOLIA - Nobility

ORANGE BLOSSOM - Innocence; Eternal Love; Marriage and Fruitfulness

PEONY - Shame; Gay Life; Happy Marriage

ROSE (note there are many more than listed here)
Thorn less Rose - Love at First Sight
Orange Rose - Fascination
Pale Peach Rose- Modesty
Pale Pink Rose- Grace, Joy, thankfulness
Red Rose - Love, Respect, passion
Yellow Rose - Joy, Friendship

VIOLET- Modesty
Blue Violet- Watchfulness; Faithfulness; I'll Always Be True
White Violet- Let's Take a Chance on Happiness

The next time you receive flowers, or perhaps an upcycled silverware spoon ring, spoon cuff bracelet or other upcycled silverware creation with a floral motif, think twice about what the giver may be trying to say overtly or not-so-overtly.

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Other Blog Posts

Vintage Silverware Tells a "Story" Just Like Vintage Photos Tell a "Story"

Silverplate vs. Sterling? What's the Difference?

Welcome to Laughing Frog Studio

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