The term, mizpah, has a biblical origin. It literally means ‘watch tower’ in Hebrew and the term goes back to some of the earliest stories:
“And [it was called] Mizpah (Watchtower); for he said, The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.” (Genesis, 31:
In those biblical times, a mizpah signified a contract or bond between two people, and, not necessarily one of love!
In the book of Gensis the story of Jacob and Laban (Jacob’s father-in-law) tells how Jacob left Laban’s home one night, taking with him his two wives (Laban’s daughters) and livestock, with the intention of never returning, Laban having previously reneged on several promises made
Thinking Jacob had taken his daughters forcibly, Laban caught up with and confronted Jacob. After arguing, the two men agreed that they would go their separate ways and Jacob agreed not to take any other wives and treat Laban’s daughters well (Laban acknowledging that his two wives had willingly left with Jacob).
Together, Jacob and Laban created a pile of stones to formalise these promises to each other. This mizpah, as the small pile of stones was known, was to represent a watchtower between them, indicating that God would know that they had made promises to each other and what these promises were. In this way then, a mizpah, might be thought of like a seal to an agreement, perhaps a secret or unwitnessed pact, between two people, to which no one else was privy.
Given this, it can be seen why mizpah has come to represent a token between lovers or friends. It is a seal or marker acknowledging that relationship or agreement between the two parties. It is enough to know that there exists the token - it is the proof that the relationship exists and only the two parties know the nature of that
Mizpah jewellery really came to prominence in Victorian times and flourished into the early 20th Century. It was a symbolic gesture of an emotional tie between two people - friends, lovers, betrothed and engaged, particularly when one or other was absent - for example, away at war (mizpah rings were a popular Edwardian item of jewellery).
Today, mizpah jewellery remains popular and collectible. Victorian examples with diamonds or gemstones are highly sought after, as are designs with hearts or different coloured golds. See our Mizpah jewellery collection.