Gothic subculture is inspired by the grim aesthetics of the medieval novel, Gothic music, and films. Goths, aka people wearing-all-black, worship death, night creatures, and otherworldly spirits. The subculture originated in the late 1970s on the heels of the post-punk movement. Goths took punks’ desire to shock and outrage, added a great deal of vampire aesthetics and gloomy outlook, and in such a way shaped their own legacy. You can trace their philosophy and views through their signature wardrobe and jewelry. We have already created a post about Gothic fashion; you can take a lot at it here. Today, we’d like to dive into the world of Gothic jewelry.
Types and Highlights of Gothic Jewelry
For the most part, Goths rock jewelry with distinctive symbolism crafted from white metals. The most widely used material to construct Gothic jewelry is silver.
Goths, as we have already noted, worship the forces of the night and often call themselves children of the night. Therefore, they gravitate to everything reminiscent of darkness - pallor, dark skies, cold moonlight, etc. Silver, being the moon metal, reflects the aesthetics of this subculture in the most comprehensive way. Gold and any other yellow metal is not acceptable for Goths because it is associated with the sun and daylight.
Gothic jewelry can also be made from all sorts of "silver substitutes" such as nickel silver, steel, etc. The main thing is that the metal should be of white or silver shades.
When constructing Gothic jewelry, artisans often inlay pieces with semiprecious stones, in particular, garnets, rubies, agates, onyx, etc. Goths do not attach much importance to the symbolism of stones and gems. The only thing that matters is how these stones will look when being framed by silver metal. Therefore, they are partial to bright but cold colors such as crisp green, violet, and blue. Red, although it is a warm hue, is probably the main accent color in Gothic because it resembles blood (and this is important given the close connections between Gothic and vampirism).
Paradoxically, Gothic women's jewelry is often embellished with white pearls. Such a choice can be explained by the fact that Gothic originates from the Middle Ages when women wore elaborate and sophisticated necklaces and tiaras, often encrusted with pearls. Some of the Gothic styles, such as the Antique or Romantic Goths, incline to this romantic and feminine side of Gothic.
Since the punk subculture majorly affected modern Gothic, Goths often complement their looks with piercing. This trend is especially pronounced among followers of Cyber Gothic, Vampire Goths, and Steampunk Goths.
Goths adorn their fingers with various kinds of rings. There is no single design for this jewelry. Gothic rings can be of regular shapes, phalanx rings, full-finger rings covering almost the entire finger, or claw rings. They are distinguished from traditional rings by gothic motives and catchy design.
Gothic bracelets can feature any shape and size ranging from thin delicate leather straps to massive silver chains and spiked bracelets. The look and design largely depend on the specific type of Gothic. While Antique Goths show off elegant, elaborately crafted openwork bracelets, Fetish Goths lean towards BDSM themes featuring cuff bracelets and wide leather straps dotted with spikes.
Female Goths adorn their heads with various diadems. Sometimes enthusiasts Tribal gothic rock headdresses made from feathers or plants somewhat resembling shamans' headpieces.
Neck jewelry is common among both Gothesses and male Goths. Design-wise, these products differ depending on the specific style of Gothic. Basically, Gothic necklaces are silver chains and black leather straps or their combinations complemented by Gothic-themed pendants.
Symbolism in Gothic Jewelry
The system of symbols in the Gothic subculture is eclectic. This system is comprised of the ancient Egyptian, Celtic, and Christian components, as well as some Satanic symbols. The following brief overview of Gothic symbols will help understand this mysterious subculture.
Mystical Gothic Symbols
The most Gothic symbol is the Egyptian Ankh. We can only guess how the ancient Egyptian symbol of justice turned into the gothic sign of "infinity and immortality". One of the popular versions explains this transformation by the influence of vampire films, mainly, the Hunger. In this movie, the Egyptian ankh was introduced as a vampire sign of immortality.
The Ankh is known as the Egyptian cross. It looks like a cross with a loop. Its form can be interpreted as the rising sun, as the unity of opposites, as masculine and feminine. Ankh symbolizes the marriage of Osiris and Isis, the union of the earth and sky. This sign often became an element of hieroglyphs. For instance, it was part of the words "welfare" and "happiness." The symbol carved on amulets to prolong life in this world. There was also a tradition to put an Ankh-adorned amulet during the funeral ceremony. It guaranteed life in the other world. The key that opened the Gate of death was shaped like an ankh.
On top of that, ancient Egyptian wore charms with the ankh image to promote fertility. Along with that, ankh was a magical symbol of wisdom. It can be found in many images of the Egyptian deities and clergymen. Later, ankh was used by witches in fortune-telling and healing.
People believed that this symbol could save from floods; hence it was drawn on the canal’s walls. Another association of ankh with water can be seen in anchor images. Indeed, with a circle at the top and cross-like shape, an anchor resembles ankh.
The gothic is firmly connected with the religion and church; more precisely, with the idea of a "little man." The Lord is great, while a man is just a grain of sand.
The goal of the Medieval Gothic was to suppress a person. That’s why Gothic architects erected magnificent and formidable temples and churches. These grand buildings overwhelmed the congregation with their power and heft. The Christian tradition to suppress a person with divine attributes has taken roots in the modern Gothic, although in a different, more tragic, way.
Although the Gothic subculture makes use of various crosses (Latin, Greek, Maltese, etc; read more about various types of crosses in this post) the most common cross to be seen in their jewelry is Celtic cross. It has equally-long arms and a circle in the middle. It is considered to be the symbol of Celtic Christianity, although it has more ancient pagan roots.
Sometimes a Celtic cross is called a solar cross. It symbolizes the sun, air, earth, and water in unity. The cross appeared in Ireland around the VIII century. There is a popular myth that the Celtic cross became known thanks to St. Patrick, the missionary who converted Ireland to Christianity. According to this belief, Celtic cross merged a cross, the symbol of Christianity, and a circle, the symbol of the sun, to give people converted to Christianity the idea of the importance of the cross by linking it with the symbol of a pagan solar deity.
In accordance with another interpretation, the circle is the so-called “Sun of Faith” - the non-fading light of faith in God. In addition, the circle also refers directly to the Lord because, as the Holy Scripture teaches, God is the sun.
An interesting meaning has the Neuron Cross. Its more common name is a peace sign. In its original meaning, it denoted the upturned and broken crucifix. It symbolized hate and contempt for Christianity. Many people wear this symbol without even knowing what it really means.
Romantic Gothic Symbols
Eye of Ra
Another ancient symbol taken from ancient Egypt but with a completely different meaning in Gothic is Eye of Ra. While for Egyptians Eye of Ra symbolized the Sun god, i.e. Ra himself, Goths inverted its meaning turning it into a signifier of gloom and grim.
Eye of Ra is otherwise known as Uadjet or Wadjet. It denotes the left falcon eye of the god Horus. The god lost his left eye in the battle with Seth. The right eye of Horus is associated with the sun and the sun-god Ra, while the left eye represents the moon and the moon-god Aah. This eye, healed by the god Toth, became a powerful amulet worn by many Egyptians, both pharaohs and the common people. It personified various aspects of the divine world, from regal power to fertility.
Nobody knows for sure but most likely, Goths turned their attention to Uadjet because of its ties with the Moon. Another version says that the outer corner of eye of Ra with a curved extension caught the attention of Gothesses. They started mimicking this Egypt-inspired look in their make-ups. This, Eye of Ra settled in the Gothic culture.
Heart and Dagger
Gothic, being associated with the dark sides of human existence, often expresses itself through pain and suffering. Some admirers of this subculture, such as Fetish Goths, revere physical pain, while Romantic Goths comprehend themselves through mental agony. One of the symbols of romantic but tragic love that makes their souls ache is a dagger piercing a heart. It signifies a betrayal of the beloved one, treason, as well a fatal wound caused by the betrayed love. In rare cases, such an image also has a sense of cruelty and revenge.
In Christianity, a heart pierced with a dagger is a popular Catholic version of the Sacred Heart of Mary. It represents the Grieving Mother of Christ, who is often called the Mother of God (“The sword must pierce your soul,” said Simeon to her in the temple).
In fact, the symbol of a heart and a dagger has migrated to other religions and cults, for instance, voodoo. There, it personifies Erzulie Dantor, a spirit of revenge and cruelty, which in many respects is opposite to Mary.
The real power of the Dagger and Heart is in the combination of the two symbols, each of which has its own unique meaning. The heart is the source of emotions and the very essence of a human. In ancient times, it played an important role in the fate of a soul in the afterlife. Nowadays, the heart is associated with love and romantic feelings.
At the same time, the dagger is more than just a weapon. It is easy to hide; hence, it became a hidden weapon of assassins. Thus, a dagger causes more damage than a stab wound. It brings the sense of betrayal and resentment since an assassin must come very close to his victim.
Symbols of death
Satanic symbolism has strong bonds with Gothic, although it is not always found among the Gothic followers. The most well-known Gothic symbols of death are skulls, coffins, grim reapers, etc. Other popular motifs are those attributed to mystical creatures and evil spirits such as mice, rats, bats, etc. Such symbolism is a direct influence of punks, who introduced death-themed accessories into the Gothic fashion. Vampire aesthetics has also left an imprint on Gothic symbolism.
The most prominent Satanic sign is a pentagram. The straight pentagram is a five-pointed star inside of a circle with the tip at the top. Its shape resembles a spread-eagled person. This symbol is often used in white magic. An inverted pentagram differs from a straight as it is pointed downwards. This pentagram, just like the inverted cross, is utilized by Satanists. Goths wear both straight and inverted crosses and pentagrams, depending on their beliefs and personal tastes.
The human skull is a symbol of death. As with death itself, the attitude to the skull varies among different nations and cultures.
In Catholic, skull and bones are not only a symbol of death but also they signified humility. This sign is closely associated with hermits. By wearing the skull symbol, hermit showed that he had resigned himself. He is ready for death to come after him whenever it happens. He despises everything that belongs to earthly, including his own body. Many superstitions in medieval Europe are associated with hermits and their gloomy robes. In particular, it was believed that hermits, showing up in towns and villages, caused epidemics and wars. Therefore, when seeing a hermit, people fled in horror.
The skull was used by the medieval philosophers as a symbol of the human wisdom repository. When it was established that a skull contains the brain, scholars created numerous medical and philosophical treatises about the mind and its connection with the body. The skull is also a philosophical symbol of the afterlife.
In ancient times, let alone today, the skull associated with witchcraft and black magic. The skull denoted human sacrifice to cause the death of the enemy. In this context, it was believed that all black sorcerers and witches must have human skulls and bones in their arsenal.
In the modern interpretation of Gothic, the skull symbolizes one of the basic principles, memento mori, i.e. remember about death. People should live as if today is the last day of their lives.
Gothic worships the forces of evil and supernatural spirits. Goths personify these otherworldly forces via images of various animals such as bats, snakes, dragons, cats, etc.
The most mysterious creature that Gothic idolizes is the dragon. To unravel the meaning of this symbol, we should turn to medieval alchemy. This ancient science is based on the great Law of the matter unity. The whole universe comes from the same matter and returns to the same matter. The matter is uniform but it takes on different forms by combining with itself and producing an endless number of new creations. This Primary Matter, which existed before the elements, was also called the Chaos, the cause, the world substance, and was designated by the oldest alchemical symbol - the dragon or snake biting its own tail. It received the name Ouroboros ("tail eater"). The image of the ouroboros was accompanied by the words “All in One” or “One in all.”
The dragon is the spirit of change, and therefore, the spirit of life itself. Initially, this symbol had a positive meaning of the waters carrying life. In the Middle Ages, to portray a dragon, people took different parts of the body from seven animals. The image of the dragon united four elements.
One of the most common mythological scenes is the battle with a dragon. A hero, thanks to his courage, defeats the dragon and seizes his treasure or frees a captured princess. This story tells about the duality of human nature, about the internal conflict between light and darkness, as well as about the might of the unconscious, which can be used to achieve both constructive and destructive goals. The battle with the dragon symbolizes the hardship that a person must overcome to gain the inner knowledge, defeat his dark nature, and achieve self-control. Only by killing a dragon, a person could bring true light and salvation to the world.
Originally, Gothic ornament could be found in the painting, stone and wood carving, as well as in the elements of the medieval architecture. They featured profound symbolism associated foremost with Christian culture.
The geometric ornaments of the Gothic, in contrast to the Antiquity, mainly used curvilinear shapes. Such an ornament received the name Masswerk (from the German mass - “measure” and werk - “work”). Masswerk is a decorative frame ornament based on an intricate interweaving of straight and convex lines. This technique adopts various shapes, for example, the popular flamboyant and rayonnant ones.
The main motifs of the floral ornament are grapes, oak, ivy, burdock, clover, roses, lilies, and ferns. The double-leaf and trefoil themes were especially widely used. These heraldic symbols are borrowed, most likely, from the druids.
The trefoil is a triangle comprised of three arcs. It is a Christian symbol of the Holy Trinity. Sometimes it may look like a triangle inside a circle or vice versa, a circle inside a triangle. For the ancient Celts, it symbolized the unity of the real world with the world of spirits. It meant birth, death, and new rebirth, thus tying together all stages of the life cycle. According to legends, St. Patrick, who brought Christianity to Ireland, used the shamrock as an example of the trinity: Lord, Christ, and the Holy Spirit.
Gothic ornaments often carry the image of quadrifolia (four-petalled pattern) and, of course, the Gothic rose, which is a circle with a stylized flower inside. You can often see so-called Gothic crosses (“Fleuree”). They look like a cross which arms expanding like flower petals. This sign symbolizes a mature Christian person.
The most popular Gothic floral motif is fleur de lis, otherwise known as heraldic lily (although there is a version that this flower is iris). Fleur de lis is a symbol of royal power. The Gothic style depicts it with distinguished sharp and elongated outlines.
In French, ‘fleur de lys’ means the flower of the lily. Since the twelfth century, Louis VII carried this symbol on his shield. According to historians, ‘Lys’ stands for Louis. They also emphasize that lily personified the Holy Trinity and Mary the Virgin. In any case, it was a symbol of divine power and blessing of kings.
Among other Gothic ornaments with floral motives are stylized prickly plants such as thistle and blackthorn. They denoted spiritual trials, or, more precisely, the torments of Christ.
If you are looking for jewelry with Gothic symbolism, Bikerringshop is a place to visit. Whether you want to enhance your Gothic image with an original ring or head-turning pendant, you’ll find everything your heart desires in our extensive catalogs. Every single item we sell is made by hand according to the highest industry standards. We use durable sterling silver to make sure our Gothic jewelry stays attractive even after many years of use. We often embellish Gothic rings and pendants with precious and semi-precious stones – rubies, garnets, emeralds, amethysts, etc. Despite the top-notch quality, we keep the price affordable. Browse our inventory for eye-catching collections of Gothic jewelry.