Jewellery Symbols and their Meanings
Disclosure: *Some of the links on this website are affiliate links. This means that if you click on the links and make a purchase I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. This helps support our small blog.
Jewellery is hugely symbolic. We love to wear jewellery that carries great significance to us. This has been the case since the beginning of time.
The wedding ring is a perfect example of the significance of jewellery symbols – using an endless circle in a ring to symbolise eternity. Even the wearing of the wedding band on the third finger of the left hand carries significance.
Centuries ago, warriors would carry gemstones, or other emblems that were said to hold special qualities, with them when they went to battle as they believed these emblems gave them strength, luck and protection for their ordeal ahead. Many of us now love to wear our birthstones.
At some points in history, people would even risk their freedom by showing their support to an exiled leader by carrying an item with a specific emblem, or the engraved initials, on which signified that particular leader. It was like being part of a ‘club’. They would often hide the engraving within a locket on a neck chain or a ring. To the wearer, it was a form of ‘protesting’ and showing their allegiance, despite the danger they placed themselves under by carrying such a thing.
Throughout the Victorian era, jewellery designs often carried significant meaning. In particular, designs of flowers became hugely popular, as Queen Victoria loved flowers and set a trend. They attributed meanings to types of flowers and incorporated these into jewellery to be given as meaningful gifts. You can read more about the meanings of different types of flowers here.
This was also the era when the tradition of carrying a departed but dearly loved relative’s lock of hair in a brooch or pendant, called a mourning ring or pendant, as a way of keeping them close, became commonplace.
Many of us purchase a piece of jewellery on a holiday or during a period of our life, which will always carry a special meaning to us.
But what are the most used symbols incorporated into jewellery design?
In this post we examine, in alphabetical order, the symbols used in jewellery designs and their meanings. Most of the emblems have a separate post dedicated to their full meaning and significance, but this is a whistlestop tour of the most used jewellery symbols. All can be purchased as charms or pendants alone, to add a chain of your choice or most can be purchased with a chain.
Often parts of a symbol would be made in a contrasting colour to emphasise parts of the jewellery piece – a gold plated leave or centre of a flower on sterling silver, for instance – this is popular with silver and Welsh gold.
The anchor has been a symbol of hope for centuries, symbolising a brilliant, happy life.
It is a symbol of stability and safety, to keep us grounded whilst all around us may be chaotic.
The mighty oak grows from a single acorn and so this lovely emblem signifies growth, perseverance and knowledge that all good things start from something very small and come to those who wait.
Known as being intermediaries between heaven and earth, the angel is a guide and a comfort in trying times. Wouldn’t it be nice to think we have a guardian angel, watching out for us and guiding us on life’s path?
Most often in jewellery, angel wing(s) are used as a symbol of an angel.
A symbol of ‘life’, ‘eternal life’ or ‘breath of life’ which is an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol. It was also called the ‘key of life’.
The arrow signifies triumph after adversity, like the tension in a bow before the arrow is released. An arrow resting on a bow can signify peace and achievement.
Bees are hugely popular jewellery emblems and this has grown since the focus on sustainability, knowing the good that bees bring to planet earth. Said to bring blessings, good luck and fertility, they also show industry and work ethic.
A bell often symbolises weddings, celebrations and hence love and joy. It can signify beginnings and endings.
Bells can also symbolise many flowers, like the bluebell.
Guardian Bells, Spirit Bells or also known as “Gremlin Bells” are a good luck charm for motorcycle drivers, to keep them safe on their travels.
Birth Month Flowers
Much like birthstones, there are birth month flowers attributed to each month of the year.
Just like with birthstones also, there are sometimes there are two flowers to a month.
You can read our blog post with a summary of all the Birth Month Flowers here.
The birthstones are precious and semi-precious stones, attributed to one of the twelve months of the year, and are very popular to give to someone on their birthday.
It’s one of the most popular gifts, to give a piece of jewellery with the wearer’s birthstone in. Many months have two or even three birthstones attributed to it.
The butterfly emblem signifies spiritual rebirth and transformation, mirroring the changes a humble caterpillar goes through before emerging into a brilliant butterfly. This marcasite butterfly brooch is a lovely example.
Chinese New Year Zodiac Animals
The Chinese Lunar Year festivities welcomes in the New Year at the end of January each year and with it a new Zodiac animal – one of twelve. 2022 was the Year of the Tiger, 2023 is the Year of the Rabbit and so on.
These make popular jewellery gifts as wearing or carrying something with the Zodiac animal, or another zodiac animal which is compatible with the current one, is supposed to bring luck.
Symbolising love, friendship and loyalty, the Claddagh features three symbols – a heart (for love) which sits within cupped hands (for friendship), topped by a crown (signifying loyalty).
The Claddagh emblem originates from Ireland and is very symbolic of those who have connections with or feel their heart is in Ireland.
You can read all about the Claddagh used in jewellery making here.
Claws represent ferocity, showing the prowess of the birds or animals they came from. Detailed claws designed just like a bird’s talons are sometimes used to hold stones or pearls.
Men wore larger claws, like a bear’s claw on a pendant, in jewellery since ancient times. They believed these symbols to carry the qualities of the animal or bird that they came from.
The never-ending circle, meaning eternity, the circle of life, wholeness, perfection, with no beginning and no end. It holds within it everything. From chain links to actual pendants, the circle is an age-old symbol incorporated into jewellery.
A Christian religious symbol worn to symbolise the wearer’s Christianity and make him or her feel close to God. It symbolises love, sacrifice and hope, triumphing over evil after Jesus died on the cross but rose again. People believe the cross protects the wearer from harm.
Called the Luna, the crescent moon is waxing or waning, and symbolises the ebb and flow of life, patterns of fertility and femininity.
Representing glory, power and sovereignty, with its more obvious royal associations. They stamped a crown on precious metals to show their purity.
The dragon symbol brings good luck, fortune, and prosperity. It is a symbol of power.
Like the butterfly, the dragonfly symbolises change, ancient wisdom (the dragonflies have inhabited the earth for over 300 million years!), spiritual growth and spontaneity.
The eagle-eyed eagle is the king of the skies and flies higher than any other bird. The eagle symbolised strength, courage, honour and pride.
Often worn by men, especially in their rings, it has a wonderful symbolism that brings encouragement to keep going and you will prevail
The Evil Eye amulet, which usually has a cobalt blue colour, originated in the Middle East to protect the wearer from the “evil eye” of others – a type of barrier or shield against malevolent people and their curses. You can read about Evil Eye jewellery in our article here.
Eye of Horus
From ancient Egyptian religion, the eye of Horus represents a strong protection, and also healing and well-being. It has been used for thousands of years by Egyptians.
Eye of Providence
The eye of providence (the all-seeing eye of God) symbol is an eye shape inside a triangle with rays of light emanating from the triangle. It is a strong good-luck symbol.
Eye of Ra
The Eye of Ra is very similar to the Eye of Horus apart from the Eye of Ra depicts the right eye, whereas the Eye of Horus shows the left eye. In Egyptian methology it is the feminine of the sun God Ra – a strong force that subdues its enemies.
Faith, Hope & Charity
The three theological virtues are faith, hope and charity – represented by a large cross, a cross on an anchor and a heart. The heart represents charity, which often signifies love.
A feather symbolises freedom, like the birds flying in the sky or the heavens. Many believe you will see feathers as messages from departed loved ones, “when feathers appear, departed loved ones are near”.
You can read our more detailed blog post all about the Feather symbology here.
Fleur de Lis
The fleur-de-lis, a stylised lily, although used all over the world, was also a Christian symbol of the Virgin Mary, and therefore stands for chastity, purity and light. It is the national badge of France. It is still a widely used emblem and used a lot in jewellery designs.
Flowers are popular jewellery motifs, although different flowers (and even different colours of the same flower) hold different meanings.
There are birth month flowers, the same way there are birthstones for each month. You can read our blog post with a summary of all the Birth Month Flowers here.
Another well-know symbol of good luck. Four-leaf clovers actually symbolise faith, hope, luck and love. They are hard to find in nature, amongst fields of three-leaf clovers. It is said that Ireland has more four-leaf clovers than any other place – giving rise to the well-known expression “the luck of the Irish”.
Signifying strength, courage, leadership and wisdom, griffins were believed to guard treasures in the high mountains.
We know griffins to be mythical creatures of protectors and guardians. A griffin has a body of a lion, an eagle’s head and forelegs with claws, plus a feathered chest.
The harp is the oldest known musical instrument and is the national symbol for Ireland. We associate harps with angels and life and death.
They are symbols which stand for the bridge between life and death.
Gold Harp Coin Necklace – Etsy
Horn of Plenty or Cornucopia
The word ‘Cornucopia’ is from the Latin, Cornu (horn) and Copea (abundance). It depicts a large horn-shaped receptacle giving an endless supply of food, flowers, nuts – all being aspects of nourishment.
In Greek mythology, baby Zeus was being looked after by a goat called Almathea, (‘Nourishing Goddess) when he broke off one of her horns!
The horn supplied him with an endless supply of food. This is how the Horn of Plenty came to represent endless abundance, prosperity, and all good things.
Much like the Evil Eye icon, the hamsa hand is a sign to offer protection of the evil eye to the wearer.
You can read our blog post talking all about the Hamsa Hand here.
The well-known heart symbol signifies love, devotion, affection, and care. No one can forget the first heart someone you care for gives you.
Perhaps the most well-known symbol for good-luck, the horseshoe can be hung or worn with the ends up, where the good luck is ‘collected’, or worn with the ends pointing down meaning the good luck spills out and surrounds the wearer (or the home and people within it, if hung over a front door).
The infinity sign (a sideways figure of 8 symbol) has no beginning and no end.
It is a mathematical sign and also used metaphorically to mean limitlessness and eternity.
The Ouroboros, (the snake eating its tail) is variously shown as a circle or an infinity sign shape).
You can read our blog post all about the Infinity Sign here.
Initials are hugely popular jewellery emblem and the wearer can wear the initials of his or her loved ones, as well as their own initial.
The key has been a heavily symbolic emblem for thousands of years, and is rich with meaning. Only entrusted to those who held responsibility and, therefore, power and prestige, they make perfect coming of age presents. They also symbolise good luck and fortune; mark the end of one chapter and the wonderful introduction to new horizions. Also a sign of freedom, protection and love. A perfect symbol for anyone to carry. Read our blog on the meaning of key necklaces here.
The beautiful lotus flower grows out of the mud into a perfect flower. Every evening, it returns to the murky depths of the muddy pond, only to open and unfurl its perfect petals each morning. This gives rise to its significance of rebirth, spiritual enlightenment, and purity.
The lotus is one of the most sacred of all flowers.
Ladybug / Ladybird
The ladybird, or ladybug, is known around the world for bringing good luck and good fortune. Ladybirds appears on crops around Spring time and farmers always believed that seeing them meant a subsequent harvest would be bountiful.
The “kiss” emblem, like a letter ‘x’, symbolises a kiss, just as it does when we sign a letter or card.
Sometimes used as one half of mismatched earrings or a necklace, with the other side being a circle – the two emblems signify hugs and kisses.
The knot signifies unity, an unbreakable bond, or unbreakable pledge. The Celtic knot was used to propose marriage – with it being accepted if the proposal was.
Knots are popular in jewellery design. There are many ‘Lucky Knot’ designs.
Perhaps because of the connection with a lizard shedding its skin regularly, lizards signify regeneration, rebirth and renewal. In some cultures, lizards are lucky creatures.
As lizards blend into their surroundings, the lizard is also a protective emblem.
A locket is a pendant, or sometimes a ring, which is hinged and holds something precious inside.
It can hold a picture or two, or some hair, or a small charm or keepsake. The significance is that it holds something precious to us to be cherished for many years.
We think of owls as wise creatures, all-seeing and ever-watchful. Because of this, they represent wisdom, knowledge, and insight.
Native Indian stories involving owls often mean spiritual foretelling, death, birth and renewal.
The ancient Greeks believed that the olive branch drove away evil and represented plenty.
Associated with the Goddess of Peace, Eirene, it is now considered an emblem of Peace (along with other symbols like the dove).
The Om when sounded out (“Aum”) sound like a three-part word – the “A” meaning “Creation” the “U” meaning manifestation and the “M” sound means “destruction”.
The ancient symbol of the snake eating its own tail, the Ouroboros, symbolises endlessness.
Sometimes shown as an image as a figure of eight on its side shape, like the infinity sign, or as a circle. It also signifies the circle of life and death.
Internationally recognised, the peace sign also became the symbol for nuclear disarmament.
The rainbow is a universal sign of peace and was said to be the connection between man and the gods, represented by the Goddess Iris, who was God’s messenger.
In recent times, we have associated the rainbow with the environment and the LGBT movement.
You can read our more detailed blog post on the Rainbow symbol here.
Symbolising love and passion, the red rose signifies love (hence we often gave them on Valentine’s Day).
Different coloured roses give different meanings – yellow, for instance, symbolises warmth and happiness. Many other colours signify gratitude.
Square and Compass
The square and compass is a symbol of Freemasonry and comprise three symbols, the square, the compass and the letter G.
The star is a symbol of divine guidance and protection. Stars also symbolise enlightenment and achievement – think of the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Star of David
A Jewish symbol of Jewish identity and Judaism.
Skulls warded off evil spirits in many cultures and were protection for the wearer.
During the renaissance period, the people couldn’t fathom how the snail could reproduce, carrying its heavy thick shell as it does. Therefore, they associated snails with Virgin births.
A snail is symbolic of being patient and taking things slowly, achieving everything you desire in a mindful, perfect manner. Snails also symbolise protection and retreat.
A misunderstood creature, scary to some, the spider represents feminine intuition and the weaving of magic and mystery and a great creative force.
Known as the patron saint of travellers, St Christopher is usually depicted as a man carrying a child on his shoulder.
The ultimate bestower of light and life, a cosmic power that allows all things to thrive and grow. Many cultures believed the Sun to represent the Divine Father.
Swarovski Sunshine Pendant – Goldsmiths
Representing strength, prowess, courage and power and protection, the sword is an auspicious emblem. In Christianity, it also symbolised the power of the Lord.
Tree of Life
The Tree of Life symbol encompasses our place within our family, our connection with our ancestors, friends, family and loved ones, and our place in the world.
The circle of life. It signifies our individuality but also our connection to others, like the branches of a tree. It helps us notice that life has moments of barrenness and bleakness, but that the shoots will appear again and new leaves will burst forth with abundance.
You can read all about the Tree of Life symbol in our blog post on the subject here.
Often given as engagement rings, the trilogy ring has three stones which represent the past, the present (the central stone) and the future.
You can read our more detailed blog post all about the Trilogy symbology here.
An unbroken wishbone is a good luck symbol and, hence, is a popular symbol used in jewellery design, making a beautiful jewellery gift.
In astrology, there are 12 signs of the zodiac which representing the constellations that appear the sun passes through them at certain times of the year.
Zodiac Sign Rings with Onyz – Gemondo