Nothing says ‘I love you’ like a nit comb

With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, here are some unusual love tokens from the museum’s collection….

Love Spoon, Welsh, early 19th century


Carved love spoons were hung up as decorations rather than used.  Acceptance of a love spoon didn’t necessarily imply commitment: a popular girl could build up a wallful!  Curator of Applied Art Sylvia Crawley says ‘You can read love spoons just like a letter. This one comes from a sailor (anchor) offering his sweetheart a key to unlock his true love (heart). But he is hedging his bets – the name plate at the bottom is left curiously blank.’ 

Love spoons sometimes had miniature spoons attached, with the number of little spoons indicating how many children the giver hoped to have with his sweetheart. One spoon on display at BMAG has 31!

H-comb, French c.1500


As Sylvia says, ‘If you’re seriously rich in the 1500s and want to give something a little more personal than a card, send a nit comb.’  500 years ago this beautifully-carved box-wood comb represented an expensive love token: the giver could afford to commission someone to make his present for him. The play on words featuring a heart and hart suggests that although it was probably made by a French craftsman, it was given to an English lady.

You can see more wooden love tokens – from snuff boxes to gingerbread moulds – in the new applied art displays at BMAG.

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