Gothic style in jewelry is much older than you think. It is believed that Gothic is a subculture occurred in the 1970-80s but it has ancient roots going back to the 13th century. After a few decades of domination and the following oblivion, it revived again in the Victorian era and finally finalized as a subculture only in the 20th century. Today, we can see echoes of the bygone times in Gothic style jewelry. Those are Christian motives and floral patterns of the Medieval era, luxury, rigor, and sophistication of the Victorian period, and outrageous symbolism of the modern rendition.
Many people associate Goths with Satanists since they share common symbolism (pentagrams, inverted crosses, bats, etc.). In reality, those are people with a different outlook. Gothic subculture has been built upon the concepts of vampirism, decadence, sensuality, forbidden, passion, obsessions, romanticism, tragedy, suffering, and the cruel reality. Forming an organic whole, they define Gothic fashion in general and Gothic jewelry, in particular.
Accessories are the backbone of Gothic. The Gothic subculture evolved from the punk-rock music landscape of the 80's and accessories played a vital role in both punk and Goth images. As for the latter, they complement their look with hats, gloves, necklaces, rings, and headpieces, among other things. Even though there is a wide variety of styles within the Gothic fashion (Steampunk, Victorian, Vampire, Androgen, etc.), the accessories are a must to define a person belonging to this mysterious and diverse subculture.
Gothic jewelry revolves around so-called white metals, especially silver, platinum, white gold, and steel. White hues are adored because they contrast with dark outfits and favorably emphasize the gloom and heaviness of gems. The much-loved gems are black (Onyx, black pearls, black CZ stones) but stones that add a pop of color are also welcome. These are emeralds, sapphires, amethysts, and basically any gem of cold colors. The only exception is made for rubies and garnets, i.e. red stones, since their red finish resembles the drops of blood.
In general, Gothic likes playing with colors, despite the predominance of monochromatic shades. Gemstones of multiple colors inlaid in a special way cause associations with stained-glass windows, which are the highlight of the Gothic style in architecture.
Gothic Patterns and Motifs
Victorian Goth, Romantic Goth, Renaissance Goth, and Antique Goth – those are the styles that bank on traditions of medieval fashion and art. Products corresponding to these styles are the most beautiful, spectacular, sophisticated, and refined. The highlight of such jewelry is intricate patterns.
If you have ever seen a Gothic cathedral, you couldn’t overlook elaborate patterns embellishing exteriors and especially interiors. Refined Gothic jewelry adopted these complex motifs and patterns.
Ornaments that came from the Middle Ages are distinguished by great diversity, symbolic meaning, grace, harmony, and compliance with strict logical laws. One of the most common patterns in gothic jewelry is called lancet, since lancet arcs are an essential attribute of Gothic architecture.
Tracery, the most common and well-known type of Gothic lace ornament, that significantly enriched designs of Gothic jewelry. This ornament is extremely diverse: roses, fish bubble, shamrocks, quatrefoils, six-leaved foliage, rectilinear geometric shapes, spherical triangles, and quadrangles.
Gothic patterns are impossible to imagine without floral ornaments: stylized leaves, roses, grapevines, oak, holly, ivy, clover, maple, wormwood, fern, and buttercup. Along with rounded floral patterns, Gothic adores the images of prickly plants: blackthorn, thistle, wild rose, burdock, etc. Many patterns interweave vine (the symbol of Christ) with blackthorn branches (the symbol of passion). Other popular motives in Gothic are fleurons and Krabbes, stylized flowers, leaves, and crawling plants. Palmetto and plant shoots, as well as lilies on a high stem, continue Gothic floral motifs. Besides flowers and plants, Gothic also benefits from images of animals, birds, centaurs, human heads, individual figures (more often than not biblical characters), and episodes from the Bible.
Not every pattern was inspired by architecture though. Images popular in art and consistent with the spirit of the Middle Ages are seen in Gothic jewelry as well. Some of them denote the negative aspects of our lives, for instance, suffering, the eternal battle of good and evil, death, and so on. Those motifs are coats of arms, skulls, swords, spikes, coffins, etc. At the same time, Gothic is romantic, and we can see it through pendants and rings flaunting hearts, intertwined hands, keys, and crowns.
Three Features of Gothic Jewelry
Unlike other styles of jewelry, Gothic can’t be defined in one sentence. It is because Gothic has so many offshoots, often controversial, so that their fashion ends up being totally different from one another. Despite, we’ll try to single out a few key features:
White gold or silver Gothic jewelry is made of white metals symbolizing mortality, mystery, and restraint. Their cold shades are complemented with contrasting inlays (rubies, sapphires, black diamonds, etc.). Such a color palette has its meaning: scarlet colors stand for blood, black and dark blue imply murk and darkness.
As we have already pointed out, Gothic can’t do without symbols. Large skulls, crosses, crowns, knights, dragons, and many other themes are bread and butter of Gothic chick.
Despite the fact that Goths are associated with darkness, rigidity and occult rites, Gothic jewelry in itself is super feminine and exquisite. Many items in this style show off delicate lace lines, often complemented with pearl inserts. Much like English Gothic cathedrals featured pointed arches and sharp corners, these body ornaments convey mystery not through brutalism but rather through grace.
Studded jewelry, massive rings, heraldic amulets, Satanic symbols - this is what we see Goths and their girlfriends wearing. These items are much simpler than true Gothic. Grace gave way to massiveness, incongruity, and ostentatiousness.
Vampire Goths, which combine features of Victorian Gothic and modern subcultures, made its own valuable contribution to Gothic jewelry. In this style, each product features a distinctive semantic content (implemented through the images of spiders, bats, attributes of the afterlife, etc.). At the same time, it clearly shows a bias towards contrasts, just like in the very first feature we mentioned.
Perhaps the favorite accessory of any Goth despite a particular subgroup he or she belongs to is a cross pendant. The defining feature of Gothic crosses is their massiveness, sophistication, and a hefty weight. Both Goths and Gothesses flaunt this daring accessory.
The cross is an ancient symbol and its history is still uncertain. It was known centuries before the birth of Christianity. The images of two bars put perpendicularly can be found in Egyptian and Assyrian sculptures, carvings, and paintings. However, there are many different explanations and legends about the original meaning of this sacred symbol.
There are different reasons why Goths wear crosses. The most straightforward version is that Gothic followers are Christians. It might sound weird for many people but this is more common than you think.
The second reason also involves religion. The cross is a derivative of a Catholic crucifix. The bond between Catholicism and Gothic comes from medieval ages when the Gothic style in architecture was common for cathedrals.
The third reason is aesthetics. Crosses, despite their simplicity, look outstanding. They are a recognizable symbol that draws in looks like a powerful magnet. Combine this familiar shape with openwork designs, scattering of dazzling gems, and intricate patterns, and you will get an eye-catching accessory deserving praise and admiration.
The final reason is perhaps, outrage. Goths don’t look like regular people. Their look shocks, bewilders, and even horrifies. Either way, it doesn’t leave anyone indifferent. Taking a beloved cross and twisting its appearance (as well as meaning) is a sure way to stand out among the crowd and make people whisper behind your back. Whether those chitchats are with a touch of negativity or positivity, it doesn’t matter. The main point is that Goths are noticed.
Types of Crosses in Gothic
Crosses that we normally see in Gothic style jewelry originate mainly from Germanic culture (since this is where Gothic was born). Depending on designs and shapes, crosses can have different meanings. For example, there is a belief that an inverted cross represents death. Although this significance isn’t incorrect, the inverted cross also symbolizes the disagreement between a person and everything Christianity stands for.
At the same time, many people wear crosses for personal reasons only they are aware of. Those can be different hidden emotions that a wearer wants to convey through the cross, such as anger, for example.
There are many types of crosses, and most of them in one way or another can be found in Gothic jewelry.
The Latin cross is the most common Catholic symbol. According to beliefs, Christ was crucified on the cross, hence its other name - the cross of the Crucifixion. It has many other names - the West cross, the cross of Life, the cross of Suffering, etc. One of the most intriguing crosses in Gothic is known as the Tree of Life. Its shape, so similar to a man with spread arms, symbolized God in Greece and China long before the advent of Christianity.
Inverted cross (St. Peter Cross)
This cross is typical for Satanists. Christians believe that the cross turned upside down symbolizes a perversion of the Latin cross, a travesty of God and his symbolism. Dark wizards and sorcerers often used the inverted symbolism to belittle good and exalt evil. While the reversed cross really projects the ideas opposite to Christian ones, in fact, it is directly connected with one of the most revered saints - the apostle Peter.
According to legends, St. Peter was crucified on such a cross. The unusual way of death, or rather, such an instrument of death, was chosen by Peter himself as a punishment for betrayal of Christ. Peter was crucified upside down and he died in this position.
So why is this cross widely used among Satanists then? A regular cross has four ends, and each of them has its own meaning: the upper end is God the father, the two lateral ones are God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, and the fourth, lower end of the cross means Satan. Turning the cross upside down, people placed Devil above the Holy Trinity, thereby belittling it.
The tau cross is named after the letter T of the Greek alphabet, although this shape is widespread in many other ancient cultures. For ancient Egyptians, the Tau symbol denoted both fertility and life. Combined with the circle (which stands for eternity), it became the "ankh", the signifier of eternal life. In biblical times, since this symbol was the last letter of the Hebrew letter, T gained the mean of the end of the world. It also represented the sign of Cain and the sign of the salvation Its alternative names are the Egyptian cross and the cross of St. Anthony. Due to its resemblance to the gallows, it is also called the gallows cross. Some believe that this was the shape of the cross on which Christ was crucified.
Ankh didn’t have any particular significance in Gothic until it was seen the Hunger movie, the story about vampires who happened to wear an Ankh necklace. Since then, it became one of the most sought-after accessories.
The Celtic cross is sometimes called the cross of Jonah or the large cross. The circle incorporated in this cross denotes the sun and eternity and arguably has pagan roots. There are speculations that the Celtic Cross derived from Chi Rho, a monogram from the first two letters of the Christ's name in Greek. Therefore, although the original shape of this cross came from the pagan times, it became a widespread symbol of Christianity in Ireland.
The unusual shape, original patterns (such as Celtic knots or floral motifs), and complex meaning made the Celtic cross popular among Goths. They appreciate its beauty, soft and strict shape, and eye-catching quality. Besides, Goths elaborated on the meaning of the circle placed at the intersection of the bars – this is the light to ward off demons.
Gothic can be intimidating but for the most part, it is irresistibly beautiful. You don’t have to be one of the Goths to rock Gothic accessories. Moreover, most jewelry in Gothic style has little to do with the Gothic subculture, since the art style born in the Middle Ages and the modern movement share little in common besides the name. But maybe this dissimilarity and diversity are what makes Gothic even more intriguing.