The swallow exudes the life and vitality synonymous with the upcoming (and long-awaited!) change of seasons. The bird’s streamlined yet delicate body is designed for efficient flight. The male swallow uses his aerial skills to attract a mate. Once mated, swallows are monogamous and often return to the same breeding site each year.
Swallows have held associative properties in divers cultures since ancient times. The Greeks identified the bird with Aphrodite, the goddess of love. In ancient Egypt, swallows were associated with souls of the deceased. The birds emerged from nests along the Nile at dawn and returned at night, just as souls were believed to leave their tombs at daylight and return from the afterlife at sunset.
These birds also bear meaning in sailor lore of more recent times. The old sea-story goes that after traveling 5000 miles, a sailor earned a swallow tattoo on his chest as a symbol of a safe return home. It is said that a swallow is the first sign that land is near after a long journey at sea. Also, the silhouette of a diving swallow resembles the shape of an anchor, icon of the sea and a symbol of hope.
The swallow motif gained favor in jewelry design during the 18th century and became most popular in the late Victorian period of 1880-1900. Swallows in brooch-form were particularly common, encrusted in diamonds or detailed in enamel. The lyrical lines the bird adopts when in flight appealed to the sinuous Art Nouveau aesthetic in the early 1900s as well.
Our newest addition to Heirloom by Doyle & Doyle is our 18 karat gold swallow necklace. The piece is highly detailed, yet small and delicate. It is the perfect everyday piece, especially for these wintery days as a reminder that spring is just around the corner!