Jewellery: Magic, Power and Symbolism

Jewellery: Magic, Power and Symbolism

I love to explore ideas of jewellery as personal talisman, from the enduring symbolism of the ring, a circle with no beginning and no end, to the rich and ancient lore around precious stones and their uses in jewellery and ritual.

Last month my research took me to the historic Goldsmiths Hall, London, and a session in the Goldsmiths Company library to look at books and artefacts from the archives all about jewellery’s link with magic, faith and supernatural power through the centuries.

Goldsmiths Hall, London, and the grand gilded Livery Hall

The library is housed in the glorious Goldsmiths Hall, which is a destination in itself - the breathtakingly decadent Livery Hall is gilded from floor to ceiling in 24 carat gold leaf and lit by enormous crystal chandeliers, it absolutely glows.

The cosy library, stacked with books, hand-illuminated manuscripts and historic artefacts

Up the grand marble staircase is the Goldsmiths Company library - all wood panelling, antique desks, cosy chairs and the most incredible collection of books, prints, and artefacts. 

The centre image above is a hand lettered and gold illuminated manuscript from the 16th century, a sort of workshop manual for a goldsmith, such a treasure.

Posey rings, betrothal rings, and contemporary engraved rings

Posey rings were popular from the late medieval period onwards, which were gold band rings inscribed with a ‘posey’ - a promise, a wish, and sometimes the name of a lover - and goldsmiths would have a catalogue of sweet words for customers to choose from. I spent a lot of time with a wonderful book containing all posey ring inscriptions that have been discovered to date and they are a delight.

Some of my favourites:

‘BE TRVE TO THE END’ - I love that this could be a daily reminder to be true, not just to another, but to yourself too

'BE TREU ● IN ● HART' - another one to use as a little personal mantra

‘United hartes death only partes’

‘Whilst life is myn, my heart is thyn’

‘Untill death’ - the ultimate vow, these are words that are still used in marriage ceremonies today.

I’d love to bring a few of these historic words and ring engravings into modern use - do get in touch if this is something you’d be interested in exploring!

gold memento mori jewellery

Gemstones have been associated with power and healing for centuries - science and magic were closely linked for a very long time, and goldsmiths’ manuals were written describing the best use of gemstones for helping with ailments or to achieve particular goals.

One book I looked at contained information about when and how best to use unicorn horn - I'd love to get my hands on some of that!

Memento Mori (latin, ‘remember that you will die) objects are another quiet fascination of mine, and the symbolism of time, judgement, transformation and death has been used on jewellery since at least the 16th century.

It was such a privilege to handle some of these beautiful old books, and I came away so inspired.

I am bringing some brand new treasures to my collections this summer (to stay in the loop and be notified when they're available, subscribe here), and many of the new designs have been made specifically to adapt with engravings, words of love, meaningful symbols and gemstones, to act as modern day talismans, inspired by history.



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