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An inspired token of affection

Alex Monroe and The Foundling Museum’s tribute to a touching tradition

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An inspired token of affection

January 27 2013
Lindsay Macpherson

Valentine’s Day trinkets can often be saccharine-sweet or clichéd. But British jeweller Alex Monroe has come up with a token of affection that manages to be both original and genuinely romantic: a limited-edition and intricately handcrafted silver combination-lock necklace (first picture, £240) with rose gold tumblers whose code reveals the pendant’s secret message.

The piece was inspired by Fate, Hope and Charity, a poignant new exhibition staged by The Foundling Museum, the institution set up to tell the story of the refuge, hospital and charity for abandoned babies that philanthropist Thomas Coram, artist William Hogarth and composer George Frideric Handel founded in 1741. The exhibition focuses on the hospital’s collection of foundling tokens: the small objects, charms and talismans (example in second picture) that mothers pinned to their babies’ clothes upon admission, to be used as a means of identification should they ever return to reclaim the child. Heartbreakingly, only 152 of the 16,282 babies from the period the tokens span (c1741-1760) were ever reunited with their parents, and the exhibition displays hundreds of unmatched examples, including pennies, keys, buttons, charms, poems, playing cards and even a single acorn­­.

Throughout the length of the exhibition, Monroe’s touching tribute will be on sale exclusively in the Foundling foyer shop, and on Saturday February 9 and Saturday March 9 Monroe and his team of craftspeople will be on hand to engrave visitors’ own meaningful messages – Valentine’s or otherwise – on a selection of his own vintage and specially designed silver tokens (from £115).