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Monograms are part of history and culture. They have been used for centuries not only as an artful design adorning a favorite item, but as a religious symbol in Christianity. Though the modern monogram is only about 150 years old, it is still a rich and classic way to identify ones self.
The standard monograms we are all accustomed to are the three letter monograms. This type of monogram will have three letters each identifying the first, middle, and last initial of a name. The first initial will go on the left, the middle initial on the right, and the last initial directly in the middle. Often times these monograms are decorated with artistic calligraphy or flowing embellishments. This type of monogram is commonly used in items such as wedding invitations, towels, jewelry, and other household items to identify the owner.
The basic three letter styling of monograms has not been changed much since the late 19th century to the early 20th century and are still the most commonly used today. Before then, however, monograms consisted of usually one initial, that being the first initial of the last name. Royalty would commonly use this form of monogram with an elaborate family crest intertwined throughout. Single letter monograms are still used today but usually in the monogramming of linens. A single "M" could be used for either the last name, Mally, or the fist name Michael. In recent years a single letters on pendants have been used extensively as a first name identification monogram.
As of late the most popular monograms have been on jewelry and other keepsake items. In fact, there are stores dedicated to just this such thing. Most of these jewelry items with monograms are made of stainless steel, which is a softer metal than gold and easily engraveable. A matching necklace and bracelet set with monograms are a great gift for that special occasion or holiday. A champagne glass set with matching monograms are very popular for brides and grooms to use for toasting at their wedding and is a desirable bridal shower gift. Baby blankets with custom monograms for the baby are also wonderful gifts and keepsakes.
Monograms have also been used throughout history to mark gravestones. These were much more than artistic embellishments. The initials of the deceased were oftentimes engraved in the top portion of the gravestone for easy identification. Many of these gravestones were commissioned by the wealthy and were usually put on already elaborated memorials. Irish ancestors put monograms of IHS on their gravestones in some areas of the country denoting they were of the Christian faith. The letters IHS are a direct Latin reference to Jesus Christ. Monograms of IHS are also commonly found on crucifixes.
Whether it is a piece of jewelry, or a religious artifact, monograms have had many purposes and uses throughout history. There are more around than one would think. Next time, stop and look and see for yourself, I'll bet you find some interesting monograms.