One in five women keep secret hoards from past relationships, says Museum of London

By Ben Miller | 12 December 2013

Secret jewellery stashes point to former relationships across the land, according to a survey of 2,000 people by the Museum of London

A photo of a woman looking at jewellery inside a museum
One in six women told the Museum of London they had an obsession with jewellery© Museum of London
Even as mementos of reneged romanticism, memories are more important than sparkle, with swathes of the population confessing to secretive hoarding as part of an extensive investigation carried out under Museum of London questioning.

Having asked 2,000 people about their collecting habits, the museum reports that a fifth of women cherish keepsakes from old flames without the knowledge of their current beau. One in six still own unrequired engagement rings.

Men, according to a commission inspired by the current Cheapside Hoard exhibition of ancient jewellery, are sentimental creatures – a quarter keep birthday cards from previous partners, with gig tickets, jumpers, underwear and dried flowers all featuring among the most cherished keepsakes on a list topped by photos.

Perhaps most tellingly, 70% of women said the cost of jewellery had no bearing on its value.

“We seem to need tangible proof that something actually happened – maybe even more so when we have lost contact with the other person involved,” says Beatrice Behlan, the Senior Curator at the museum.

“It is not surprising that jewellery appears high up on the keepsake list as it is often used to convey feelings or to mark a significant stage in a relationship.

“Many of us will have emotional objects that remind us of people and periods in our life. Some are stashed away, others we might carry with us every day.

“Although we might not yet know all the secrets of the hoard, now known to be a jeweller’s stock-in-trade, we can certainly connect with the objects. Not just because of the craftsmanship each jewel reveals, but because we can imagine them being given as tokens of love and affection.”

Three in ten of the female respondents said they would “intently question” their partner in the event of items from a past fling surfacing. Drawers and shoeboxes proved common stash places.

“This study confirms just how much we relate emotions to objects,” reckons Behlen, who sees the Hoard as the world’s finest collection of Elizabethan and Jacobean jewellery.

“From Roman carved gemstones to medieval pewter heart badges and Elizabethan rings given as tokens of goodwill during courtship, this is an act that has been prevalent across the ages.”

The most common keepsakes kept by women:

Birthday cards
Piece of jewellery
Cuddly toys
Valentine's Day cards
CDs or playlists
Engagement ring
Tickets to gigs or concerts
Jumper or item of clothing
Programmes or mementos from venues
Cinema tickets
Underwear received as a gift
Dried flowers

More on the Cheapside Hoard:

Hidden intaglio provides vital clues in story of The Cheapside Hoard: London's Lost Jewels

Dodgy 17th century jeweller Thomas Sympson named as Cheapside Hoard fraud

"Almost unbelievable" Roman archaeology find thrills Museum of London archaeologists

What do you think? Leave a comment below.
Latest comment: >Make a comment
Why does the title of this article focus on women? It seems equally sensational that "a quarter [of men] keep birthday cards from previous partners..." And what percent of men said they would "intensely question" their partner "in the event of items from a past fling surfacing"? This article seems a little biased towards making women look kooky when both genders are engaging in the same behaviors.
>See all comments
More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
  • Back to top
  • | Print this article
  • | Email this article
  • | Bookmark and Share
    Back to article
    Your comment:
    DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted at are the opinion of the comment writer, not Culture24. Culture24 reserves the right to withdraw or withhold from publication any comments that are deemed to be hearsay or potentially libellous, or make false or unsubstantiated allegations or are deemed to be spam or unrelated to the article at which they are posted.