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Your Guide To Motifs & Symbolism In Jewelry

If you have ever wondered the meaning and sentiment behind a particular motif, or marvelled at the years of history standing betwixt yourself and your latest treasure, we are here to tell you just what those popular symbols mean, and where their provenance and popularity first lay. ................................................................ We couldn't possible dive into the motifs without first discussing the Victorian era; A period of time where luxury and finery were at their peak, while overt and outward displays of feeling and affection, were not. Emotions and feeling were kept fairly under wraps during this era, which led to quite the fascinating manufacture and design of many different ways to convey your emotions to a treasured beau, indicate if you were taken, and also what luck you hoped to bring. Queen Victoria's reign enjoyed immense popularity with these motifs. The Victorian's perfected the art of using symbolism in jewellery, although these symbols existed well before the 19th century and hail back to ancient time periods as showcased in art, artifacts and jewellery unearthed from tombs around the world.

Image source ; Charlie Luxe Vintage, shop catalogue The Crescent Moon Considered a feminine symbol, associated with female empowerment representing the moon goddesses. Also recognised to symbolise change with reflecting the nature of the waxing and waning moon, and aligned with magical, spiritual beliefs. The crescent moon symbolizes the cyclical nature of life, death, and rebirth.

Image source ; The V&A museum, 'metalwork collection' (Anchor bracelet Ca 1860), Shirley Bury, Jewellery 1789-1910, The International Era, Vol. II. p.687, colour plate 192 Anchors Associated with sailors, this symbol encompasses protection, discovery and hope. Often seen alongside the cross and a heart for 'faith, hope & charity'. Anchors also symbolise grounding oneself, quite literally anchoring yourself. A simpler recognition of this motif is symbolic for the sea, and all that surrounds this area of the Earth.

Image source ; The V&A museum, 'metalwork collection' (1750-1800), Gold and blue enamel ring in the form of a garter. English, 1750-1800. Buckles & Belts Used to symbolise holding tightly to a loved one and protecting them. Can be seen paired with gemstones to represent deeper sentiment such as eternal love, passion and faithfulness. Also seen engraved with hearts and swallows to symbolise love, desire and friendship.

Image source ; Charlie Luxe Vintage, shop catalogue The Horseshoe The lucky symbol that we all recognise for it's lucky connotations. When the horseshoe is worn facing upwards, the luck is said to be kept in. When worn facing downwards, it is said to show you with the luck, or alternatively send out luck to the universe.

Image source ; Wikipedia, Empress Elisabeth of Austria in Courtly Gala Dress with Diamond Stars by Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1865 The Star With a magical and inspiring appearance, is it any wonder we enjoy adorning ourselves with this symbolic motif ; The star represents guidance, taken as a guiding star ( such as polaris ), or as a beacon and symbol of hope . It is also seen as a symbol of positivity, happiness or renewal. We still look to the stars to make sense of the world around us, using astrology and planet alignment to explain the unexplainable, and seek answers in the mystery.

Image source ; The V&A museum, 'metalwork collection' (1st century-3rd century) Snakes One of the earliest mythological symbols, the meaning behind this motif is incredibly diverse; Queen Victoria's engagement ring was famously a serpent set with her birthstone, an emerald, to signify the eternal love between herself and Prince Albert. The snake has been associated with good and evil, but for our purposes we will focus on the more positive and symbolic meanings intended for snakes worn in jewellery. It remains an iconic motif, symbolising love, as well as a never ending cycle when worn as an ouroboros to depict infinity. Snakes symbolise worship, magic, love, health, immortality, death and even wisdom.

Image source ; The V&A museum, 'metalwork collection' (1875-1900), 255 - Goldstein Collection number The Love Heart First adopted in the middle ages to represent love, the heart motif at its core, symbolises love. With a selection of further meanings, when paired with other motifs, there are many deeper symbolic intentions displayed in jewellery; double hearts indicate our hearts beat as one, when stylised as a witch's heart the meaning is 'to bewitch', hearts pierced with an arrow for lovestruck. ............................................................................. This comprehensive list is ever changing and updating, drop us a comment below if you have a particular motif in mind you would like to know about and see added to our guide. For further reading, research and general immersion in motifs in jewellery, we recommend ' The modern guide to Antique Jewellery' by Author Beth Bernstein, visiting the V&A Museum in London, and Wikipedia for history on lore associated with Gods & Goddesses depicted wearing these motifs.


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