Jewelry, the Secret Language of Women
Throughout history, women have found ways to speak their minds in the silent rebellion against their restricted status. The wave of a fan. The type of flower worn in the hair. The position of a ring on a finger. The history of jewelry design is rife with examples of women voicing their thoughts of love, anger, support, or disfavor without ever moving their lips.
Love and Marriage
The earliest wedding bands were more signs of property than love. Sometimes worn on wrists, ankles, or toes rather than fingers, they were made of pliable materials like hemp or bamboo. Not as enduring as vows, for sure. It wasn't long before some enterprising ancient person began to use bone and shells to make jewelry, and by Roman times, the gold ring was born.
Rings have long been used by women to display their love or availability to the world. An Irish Claddagh ring is a classic example. Worn upside down (heart out) is a woman's way to signal her heart has yet to be won, but when the heart is turned in, she's already taken. Rings have been used to hide locks of a forbidden lover's hair or to boast about a husband's riches.
There was a time when it was not only forbidden for a woman to voice her thoughts, but it was also dangerous. Even England's famed Queen Elizabeth I had to be cautious with her secrets. Not long after coming to power, she had a locket ring made that bore the images of herself and her mother, Anne Boleyn. She never spoke of the mother she tragically lost to execution when she was two years old, but she was rarely seen without this ring, holding her secret grief.
Women used locket jewelry to transport messages in wartime, to hide poison pills to help them gain power, or to carry devotional images so as to hide their true faith in times of persecution.
Charm bracelets are a more modern manifestation of the enduring tradition of infusing happy memories into wearable art. In days of old, necklaces and bracelets were formed of family heirlooms, or hung with bits of a woman's past, such as part of a silver baby spoon or polished stone from the land of her mother's birth. Sometimes worn for luck or protection, each charm meant something unique to the wearer. Today's charm jewelry can tell you where a woman has traveled, how many children she has, her favorite colors, and her passions. Rife with meaning, handcrafted charm jewelry is each wearer's personal time capsule.
History favors women for their subtle displays of disfavor, usually done with a wit that often goes unnoticed in a crowd except by those to which it is directed. A modern example of a woman wearing her thoughts upon her sleeve, or hat or lapel, is found in the collection of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's brooches.
In silent, if perhaps defiant, answer to Saddam Hussein's remark calling her "a serpent", she wore a snake pin for the remainder of that set of Iranian diplomatic talks. That sparked the rest of her "Read My Pins" style. She'd wear happy creatures when talks with other nations were optimistic, and plodding creatures when frustrated. The Russians claimed to be able to predict how a talk would go by what they saw pinned to Albright that day.
Unless you are a diplomat, today's women are much freer to speak their minds, but there's something to be said for walking into a crowded room wearing jewelry customized to your personal thoughts and memories. Want your own unique declaration of spirit? Contact us for a custom design. It'll be our little secret.