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On a recent visit to the National Museum of Australia in Canberra, I spent some time studying the exhibition of convict love tokens. Created between 1762 and 1856 by convicts in England around the time of their sentencing to transportation to Australia, the tokens were given to family and friends as remembrances of their loved ones so far away. On the whole, the tokens in the exhibition remain in reasonable condition.
Using both sides of ordinary coins, the convicts prepared the surfaces for engraving by beating them flat and smooth, then used pinpricks to stipple the text and often decoration. A large copper coin known as the 'cartwheel penny' first minted in 1797 was a popular choice. The tokens display various lettering styles from simple and rough to elaborate and elegant; some messages are printed in lower case, some in upper, and others written in cursive script. The name of the convict, his or her date (most tokens were formed by men, with some by women), and the name of the loved one appear together with a few words; embellishment is often incredibly detailed on such a small surface. Hearts are frequently portrayed, while many creators, clearly artistic, depicted people and their clothing, flowers, birds, animals, ships and other objects possibly important or relevant to both convict and recipient. Defacing coins of the realm was a crime; to replace the image of King George III with their own work perhaps gave the already sentenced offenders a surreptitious pleasure.
As a romance writer, I like my characters to give each other small 'tokens' as reminders of their love when they have to part, either temporarily as in the recently released Silver Linings, or as in Hot Ticket when they believe the parting must be for ever. In Silver Linings, jewellery designer Cassandra fashions a stylish silver pendant for
Alistair, while he makes an intricate wooden jewellery box for her. Hot Ticket's Callum collects owl images and
small sculptures. and he knits (no, he is not the nerd Olivia originally suspects); he gives her a top he's designed and knitted. She finds for him a life-size owl.
A major part of my story creation is developing personalities. Among several aspects, I like working out the characters' interests and, in their backstories, how they came to have these. This can involve a lot of research (for the above stories, the only interest I knew anything about was knitting); this for me is an enjoyable though often time-consuming part of being a writer.
Happy reading! Priscilla
Source: National Museum of Australia