on the meaning of jewellery

jewellery inspiration

I've always been in awe of people who seem adept at giving the most perfect, and often quite simple, gifts. The perfect gift is an intentional gift. It’s one that says ‘I have thought about you and I have thought about this thing and I think you’re right for each other’.

Now, I don’t have the list of all the perfect gifts in the world, but I do spend a lot of time thinking and talking about jewellery.

As Christmas market season approaches one of my favourite parts is talking to people buying for others.

Should I buy someone a ring or a necklace? Will my friend like these studs or is she more into hoops? I’m buying for my sister-in-law, is a pendant more personal than earrings?

The answer to pretty much all these questions is really this: how does jewellery make us feel?

why we wear jewellery

Humans have an innate need to adorn themselves, but in truth the origin of this is more spiritual than vanity. Some of the earliest evidence of jewellery are amulets, intended to either protect the wearer, instill in him or her certain powers, or both.

As civilisation progressed jewellery also came to symbolise status, wealth and power.

So, in essence, jewellery is symbolic. But how does that help me decide whether to buy earrings or a ring?

Here’s the thing: each type of jewellery also symbolises how we feel about accessories and ourselves. Let me break it down ...


Whether they be tiny studs or opulent statement hoops, earrings have one overriding purpose: to enhance our beauty. As the one item that sits closest to our face, earrings are an extension of us. The shimmer of silver and gold can only draw the eye to our face even more.

If you buy earrings for yourself, whether you realise it or not, you’re most likely asking yourself how they make you look.

Are the tiny studs putting a subtle emphasis on my minimalist look? Do the long danglers draw attention to the curve of my neck? Are those fun, bright hoops matching perfectly with my lipstick?

Giving earrings as gifts is, I think, very underrated. They don’t hold the same sentimental value as a pendant so it’s likely the wearer will happily swap many pairs around and an extra pair is always welcome.

When you give earrings as a gift you’re saying ‘I saw these beautiful things and I thought they would complement your own beauty’. You’re basically enabling awesomeness.

necklaces and pendants

This should technically be two sections because we tend to wear necklaces for different reasons than pendants.

Necklaces, whether it’s a string of pearls or a simple minimalist satellite chain, tend to be worn for reasons similar to earrings. Especially when worn close to the neck they emphasise our beauty and the naturally erogenous zone of our décolleté. Overall they can make or break an outfit so we choose them carefully and probably change them often. 

Pendants, on the other hand, are symbols and sentiments. Pendants are deeply emotional choices. Like those early amulets we made out of sea shells and animal bones, pendants often represent our beliefs, our fears, our dreams and our memories. Crucifix, Star of David, locket, evil eye, crescent moon, initials … you see it now?

They sit close to our hearts; once we find one that speaks to us we may never take it off. Even if you have a special bond with several, as I do, each time you wear one it will make you feel a certain way.

If you’re giving a pendant, the giver (you) and the act of gifting will be as symbolic to the recipient as the pendant itself. Pendants are imbued with our emotions. A really special gift for your most loved ones. 

rings and bracelets

I tend to pair these together because I think their innermost meaning is quite similar: status. Our hands are our most blatant representation of our actions, they are the ‘doers’ of our bodies. 

When we wear rings and bracelets we tell those around us about our status. From the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, men and women of wealth sat for portraits with hands heavy from gold and gems. For centuries we have bent the knee and kissed the rings of those in power. Midi rings and thumb rings, popular even back then, are now the Instagram influencer’s accoutrement of choice to convey her fashion credentials.

But the status symbol of rings is not purely materialistic. Engagement rings, wedding rings and signet rings all represent a special status: one of belonging.

If you’re not in the market for one of those three, giving a ring or a bracelet can still be a lovely gift. It can speak to the personality of the recipient. A set of midi rings for the trendy twenty-something, an ornate gemstone cocktail ring for the extrovert fashion queen, or a delicate artisan piece for the minimal lover. The possibilities are endless.

over to you

Have you ever thought of how you and I, consciously or subconsciously, see jewellery?

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