The History Of Gothic Jewellery
For nearly a decade Mysticum Luna has been a pioneer in Gothic Jewellery, Gothic accessories & Alternative fashion. Gothic jewellery itself is steeped in historical significance. In this article, we take a deep dive into the often dark, often misunderstood origins of Gothic Jewellery and its past. Join us in this journey through the ages as we explore the history of Gothic Jewellery.
The Gothic Style has been a prominent force throughout the decades and centuries, inspiring distinguished architecture and even influencing how grief is expressed through accessories like jewellery.
The word Goth originated from a term used by Italian writers of the Renaissance period - Late 15th to early 17th Century. The word was used in a derogatory way as a synonym for barbaric. In their eyes, this form of expression was unrefined and unsightly. And had links to the Gothic tribes that destroyed the Roman Empire and its classical culture in the 5th century AD.
The earliest influence of the alternative style on jewellery was traced back to the 1140s, Fashion and Ladies’ accessories began to be inspired by the great Gothic Architecture that had begun. Pointed rather than round forms began to be used and heavier decoration was starting to be incorporated.
A time of Castles, Peasants and Crusades saw the Medival Times span from around 500AD to 1500AD! The gothic influence started to arise around the 13th century to the early 15th century, Pearls representing purity began to be embedded into jewellery and Rings, and Brooches and belts became decorative necessities. Crosseswere heavily merged and the symbol became a significant piece of jewellery, adorned with red gems to represent the bloodshed of Christ!
Up next we have probably the most influential span on gothic Jewellery - Memento Mori. Meaning “remember you must die” in Latin this style of jewellery made its first appearance in the 14th Century and grew to be prominent among aristocrats, priests and royalty up until the 17th Century.
This era of jewellery was a symbolic reminder of the inevitability of life coming to an end. During this period, Death was overwhelming, and the plague and famine savaged many’s lives, creating an average life expectancy of 33 years old, so anxiety around death became non-existent. The underlying message of this jewellery was to treasure the life they had been given no matter how short. Utilising the importance of this jewellery, the Roman Catholic and Protestant Church presented Memento Mori in everything - Gravestones, Architecture and Furnishings. Rings became the most used statement of Memento Mori, featuring crosses, skulls, gemstones and Latin inscriptions. Simply skimming down your finger, you could quickly be reminded of how short and brief life is, with death only around the corner. It can easily be said that if Memento Mori hadn’t existed, then the very grief-inspired and also very fascinating Victorian and Georgian mourning jewellery wouldn’t have existed either. The shift in Memento Mori into Mourning Jewellery began around 1649 with the execution of King Charles I of England. At the time many were Royalists, they wanted to show their compassion and empathy for their fallen king, Jewellers were commissioned to make memorial pieces. This then grew traction among the wealthy to have their mourning pieces in remembrance of their lost loved ones - initiating a shift from the Jewellery showcasing morality and transience, to reflecting grief and consolation.
A significant movement in the Gothic Jewellery period is Victorian Mourning Jewellery from 1860 to 1880. They were heavily inspired by the Memento Mori.
The traction for this style of jewellery was fast-tracked due to Queen Victoria. After the death of her beloved husband, Prince Albert in 1861 she was thrown into a deep cycle of grief, she mourned for the last 40 years of her life. The mourning jewellery from the Victorian Era had a different theme from the jewellery of the early Georgian era, softened remembrance was the underlying muse with images of Willows, Angels, Clouds and Loved one’s initials the Victorian tokens of remembrance were more delicate in their expression of grief.
Another step towards a more gothic style of Jewellery during the Victorian era was the resurgence of serpents. This movement started after Prince Albert gifted Queen Victoria a Snake Engagement Ring. For the newlyweds, this symbolised eternal love and a promise of happily ever after. It reached a high in the 1840s, used on rings, bracelets, brooches and necklaces.
The Art Nouveau period (1890 and 1910) saw a rise in Jewellery mainly worn by women, increasing the popularity of Medusa as a motif and an evil to ward off evil.
The mortal Gorgon was a symbol of the divine feminine to many, but also created a gothic look to jewellery. With her traditional viper hair, Medusa has almost a Sinister look to her and was used as a Symbol of protection to ward off any unwanted glances - much like the one medusa was subjected to and suffered from before being punished by Athena and turned into the monster she became infamous for being. The most famous Medusa piece is a pendant by Phillipe Wolfers, a leading figure in the Belgian Art Nouveau era, created in 1898, the Méduse has now become recognised as an icon of the Belgian Art Nouveau age, showcasing Medusa in all her deathly glory.
Fast forward to the 70s and a rise in the Metal music scene created a love for all things occult and anything dark, clothes, nail polish, lipstick, dramatic makeup and dyed hair.
Gothic jewellery’s dark and highly symbolic characteristics match its wearer’s personality, driving the ornate and macabre jewellery to the forefront of goth culture. Stones used were usually either black or white as the gothic subculture shunned gaudy colours. Because of their association with blood, rubies were another common element in goth jewellery at the time.
Pretty in punk - up next came the decade of peace and prosperity, the 90s. Tartan raided everyone’s wardrobes and chunky boots were adorned on the feet of many. Safety Pins on chains were the Jewellery creation of the ’90s. Grunge began to take over even in the high fashion industry, 1993 saw Marc Jacobs put on unstructured pieces on the catwalk that featured Doc Martens and Plaid patterns. Anyone around in the 90s will remember the statement that was the Bullet Belt, this was inspired by the 80s, mainly because of the iconic band Motorhead; at many of their shows, they were often seen in the chunky accessory.
The Noughties was an experimental time for the alternative crowd, and Skull-beaded bracelets were all the rage adding an adorable but edgy vibe to any outfit. However once again the Gothic style was rippling through the high fashion industry, Gucci, Gaultier and even Yves Saint Laurent Models were paired with heavy eyeliner, and teased hair to accentuate the Chunky Silver Crossesthey were adorned in, it can really be said that crosses have never gone out of Goth fashion.
Thank you for coming on this alternative statement Gothic Jewellery Journey with us, take a look through our Stainless Steel Gothic Jewellery and stay up to date with the dark and deathly trends, while also giving a nod to the past and remembering where the culture began.