EL CERRITO -- A local coin shop has uncovered a bit of history and returned it to its roots after buying a locket as part of a larger lot of collectibles.
The locket was one of a type known as a mourning locket that was created in memory of someone who had died. In doing some online research, Darlene and John Charvet of El Cerrito, owners of the El Cerrito Coin Exchange, discovered that the lockets had been popular in Europe and the United States in the early 19th century.
"It was something that came in across the counter and we set it aside, thinking it was an unusual piece," said the Charvet's daughter Monique. "We weren't going to melt it down (for the metal) or resell it."
The locket was inscribed with the names of Ruth Ann Dana and her husband Giles Dana. It was apparently created in memory of Ruth Ann Dana, who had passed away in 1836, according to the inscription. The Danas' names were engraved on either side of the locket.
"This particular style is quite typical of the 1830s and '40s, basically coinciding with the transition of the Neoclassical movement to the Neo-Gothic style that was prevalent at the time," according to an article on a website about mourning jewelry called The Art of Mourning. "You can often find pieces like this with the Neo-Gothic lettering of 'In Memory Of' or other sentiments surrounding where the black enamel is on this piece,"
The Charvets were able to trace the locket's history only because
"There's no mention of Wyoming, Ill., on the locket but we were able to link her name to her dad's name," Monique Charvet said.
The Danas married in May of 1836, according to documentation on Wyoming's history, and Ruth Ann died eight weeks later of typhoid fever.
Coincidentally, Darlene Charvet grew up in Silvis, Ill., about 60 miles from Wyoming.
The Charvets decided to make a gift of the locket to Wyoming, a town of 1,424, and the next time Darlene's mother came to visit in California, she accompanied her on the return trip and made a side trip to Wyoming to present the locket to the city clerk.
"It was wonderful experience to return the locket to where it originated," Darlene Charvet said. "It's such a small town that they don't have a museum, so they decided to display it in City Hall."