The Art of Symbolic Jewelry Design


Throughout history, communication, and therefore symbolism, has been an integral part of human interaction. Symbols play a powerful role in expressive rituals and we use thousands of them every day. Literal representations of objects are given new meanings, so they can be used to instantly convey information and ideas. If obfuscation is the goal, the symbols can be disguised and imbued with secret meanings shared only by a few initiates. Demonstrative symbols of power, love, strength, spirituality and beliefs unite us and provide us with a common language that gives us a unifying platform. Cults, countries, religions, clubs, and rituals rely on symbols, some imbued as talismans, to unify.


The use of symbolism has been an important part of adornment ever since the first cave man or woman hung a rock carved into some shape around their neck for beauty’s sake. What better way to protect yourself, and outwardly project his beliefs and affiliations or project strength and power by displaying his symbol as a piece of jewelry. Whether trying to communicate overtly or covertly, symbols speak louder than words.

A gift of jewelry depicting a life event was a new and extremely popular Victorian tradition, and these displays were always filled with sentiment. The Victorians became completely obsessed with this secret language of symbolic jewelry, assigning dates of love, as friendship gifts, keepsakes for lovers, friends and family. Gems and jewelry were used as a discreet means of communication, with elaborate messages being sent and received. The gemstones were arranged in patterns that, when the first letters of their names were put together, messages like “Je t’adore” appeared. Every day or routine motifs were assigned meaning, the dog represented “faithful service”, a butterfly and a flower indicated “I am resolute” and the list went on.


Hearts, which became very popular in Georgian times continued in Victorian jewelry. There is a whole language of symbols associated with hearts, but they are all variations on the most iconic symbol of love and romance. A heart symbol that became popular in Victorian jewelry is the witch’s heart, which implies that the giver had become bewitched to fall in love with the recipient.

English Victorian pendants and brooches displayed a hand holding out a heart as a gesture of affection. Other heart styles include interlocking hearts with connotations of “continuing and everlasting love” similar to the infinity sign. Double hearts placed side by side signify two hearts together as one while double hearts with a crown were associated with the fidelity that reigns over a marriage. Crowned hearts just mean “rule my heart.” A heart with a flame on top symbolizes burning with passion.


Sentimentality and signs of love and loss of loved ones are characteristic of Victorian jewelry. Lockets are made for three different moods in different materials.

There were lockets with secret compartments that could contain photos, messages or pieces of hair from a loved one during life and after death, also gaining popularity in this category of jewelry. When Queen Victoria went into mourning, Lockets designed in remembrance of lost loved ones became all the rage. The symbolism that reigned throughout the Victorian period also included meaning for gemstones. The Shrines were also adorned with diamond horseshoes for luck, and anchors for hope and a safe home during the sailors’ passing love. Reliquaries are also often worn and engraved with names and dates representing births, marriages, and deaths.


The perfect example would be Rachel Brown’s jewelry collection. Her craft is the result of a profoundly personal and spiritual journey. Numerology, tarot cards, astrology, and her own mystical beliefs all play a role in her life. Her modern urban chic aura stems from the symbolism of her research into universal spiritual and religious archetypes. Rachel Brown Jewelry can be found in upscale accessory and clothing boutiques across the United States and Europe.

Rachel has collaborated with several retail brands, including Donna Karan’s Urban Zen. She collaborated with the Jewish Museum in Vienna, the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam, and the Jewish Museum in Moscow on the “Kabbalah” retrospective.

Rachel’s ability to tap into her most basic creative wellspring and produce work that reflects universally appealing ideas of spirituality, sentiment, and self-expression has contributed to the brand’s phenomenal success. Rachel has dedicated her life to spreading this Light through the medium of her jewelry designs.

She hopes that those who wear her symbolic designs will experience the energies she has instilled: peace, love, and global unity.


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