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Gothic jewelry – A Flirt With Pagan Symbols, Mystic And The Supernatural

Lady Amaranth

What can be said about Gothic jewelry, other than that it is amazing. If you want really original jewelry with a heavy touch of morbidity and mystic, pagan motifs and heavy ornamentation with gemstones, beads and even precious stones, go Gothic.

Gothic jewelry balances on the edge between gorgeous jewelry inspired by ancient times and the morbid on the brink of ridiculous. It is jewelry that have it's roots in many eras, still it is easily recognizable as something unique for our era. It is jewelry with soul, with distinct roots in the morbid and pagan, in the supernatural, and in old cultures like the ancient Egypt and the Celtic tribes.

To understand Gothic jewelry and what being Gothic represents today, we have to look at Gothic history which dates back to the beginning of the first millennium.

The Goths were southern Scandinavia or eastern German tribes, and they played a huge impact on the roman empire, with which it was constantly at war. The term Goth became synonymous with barbarian and the depiction of the pagan Gothic tribes during and after Europe became Christian.

Despite this, Goths slowly influenced culture and gradually replaced the Romanesque style that dominated until the late 1140's. Architecture changed dramatically and became very detailed with intricate deep personal meanings. Their legacy includes elaborate Gothic structures such as churches, cathedrals and mansions. They slowly changed culture and also the jewelry designs in fashion between 1140 until the beginning of 16th century.

The medieval Gothic jewelry symbolized a new sentimentality and high personal significance for the wearer. It came into fashion that lovers gave each other jewelry, something that lead to a increased supply of gems. This gave the cutting of gemstones a boost, and new ways to make them sparkle with facets lead to solid establishment of the goldsmith business.

New ways of enameling were developed, so were simple and elegant designs. Brooches, rings, pendants and other jewelry were worn by men and women in the Gothic era. Earrings does not appear to have been in fashion though. The richness blossomed, but in the late 14th century, laws were introduced that restricted the wearing of jewelry. Craftsmen, yeomen and their family were forbidden to wear gold and silver jewelry. Edward III of England even forbade knights to wear rings and brooches of gold or studded with precious stones.

This changed the meaning of jewelry, and it was no longer just a personal adornment, but became political and a way of expressing social belonging. The rich and royal bathed in luxury, something that reached its peak at the French courts of Charles VI in the 14th century.Craftsmanship was highly appreciated, so was originality in design and the use of precious metals and stones. Wearing several rings on one hand became fashion and enameling had a new boost.

Wearing jewelry in the Gothic era had many purposes. It expressed social rang, appreciation and honor towards a lady or lover, religious devotion, reward of service and political tendencies, only to mention some.

The Gothic jewelry design had its roots in earlier times as well as in the medieval. Pagan symbols and signs were used, appealing to peoples darker sides. The jewelry was often mysterious, brooding and elegant, with a pagan twist, but also stimulated by Christianity and Celtic culture in the shape of heavily ornamented crosses.

The Gothic era was succeeded by the Renaissance in the early 16th century, but have surfaced again in modern times, representing a new subculture in our society.

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The Neo-Gothic subculture:
The modern Gothic subculture sprang to life in the beginning of the 1980s. It submerged as a post punk sub genre, stimulated by rock music. Its followers started coming together for gigs and became a distinctly recognizable movement of modern times.

In contrary to the Punk movement, the Gothic movement had no aggressive or political roots. Their ideology contains an overwhelming importance of mood and aesthetic. They are apolitical, have strong individualism and tolerance for diversity. Some have a strong emphasis on creativity and a tendency towards intellectualism and cynicism. This is of course not universal for all Goths, but describes what they generally stand for pretty nicely.
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What is special for the Goths are their hang to the morbid and supernatural, symbolism but also influence form eras like the Victorian era or the Elizabethan era. Also the mix between pagan symbols and religious symbols. Some of this may come from ancient times, from the first Gothic era, where the mysterious and pagan were in fashion. But mostly it is thanks to horror movies, rock music and horror literature heavy dominated by vampires.

A publication of a book in the 18th century may be partly to blame for the morbid and dark concerning Goths. Horace Walpole published The Castle Of Otranto, and claimed that it was an actual Gothic medieval romance that he republished. The genre called the Gothic Novel was borne.

The headless Horseman in The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow from 1820 (filmed with Johnny Depp in our days) also played a significant role on the evolution of the Gothic subculture, as it gave way for the morbid romantic and supernatural.

Vampire novels and films laid the path for the use of coffins, bats, cobwebs and such in Gothic jewelry. They all made the dark side alluring and inviting, flirting with the mystic and symbolic of the past. The Adams family portrayed Goths in a humorous way, while rock musicians like Siuxie Sioux and The Cure were more serious stimulants of the development of the Gothic subculture.


Neo-Gothic fashion:
The best word to describe Gothic fashion is Black. Many movements have black as part of their attire, like heavy metal and punks, and sadly Goths sometimes get mixed up with these two groups of rebellions. Anyway, black is used if you are a Goth, and not only in clothing, but in hair, makeup and nail polish as well, occasional with a touch of pink or red hair instead of black.

As a matter of fact, Gothic clothes have a reciprocal relationship with the fashion world. Several designers use Gothic touches on the runways, and the New York Times describes it as Haute Goth.

There are of course variations within the Gothic movement, but in general Goths are very aware of how they dress and how they do their all over makeup. Little is left to chance, but is meticulously put together for an overall Gothic appearance. This includes the jewelry they wear, and that is why we have Gothic jewelry today.

Gothic Jewelry:
How would you like a bracelet designed like a skeleton hand grasping your wrist, or a ring with a scull with red glass bead eyes? Or how about a pair of dragons intertwined around a broken heart for a pendant? These are all typical Gothic jewelry of today.

If you want simple and plain jewelry, Gothic jewelry is not for you. The jewelry made for Goths is exceptional and very detailed, flirting with the mystical darkness and the morbid. You will find jewelry shaped as coffins, vampire fangs, spiders, dragons, pentagons and other symbols, skeletons, howling werewolves, barbwire and razorblades, all beautifully sculptured with or without gemstones or other colorful beads.
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There are rings and bracelets that are joined with chains or chain mail, earrings that slither up or down your entire ear, finger rings that cover the whole finger with a joint in the middle. You will find jewelry with dragons, fairies and angels, crosses that are replicas of crosses from the first Gothic period. Anything that favor the dark and mysterious you can find in Gothic jewelry of today.

You can get blood vials as pendants or earrings, where you can fill real blood for whatever reason you would like to do just that. Gothic jewelry have always been personal jewelry with deeper meanings, and a filled blood vial....well, can it get more personal than that?

In the medieval times, poison was often used to get rid of unwanted persons. It was quick, swift and often difficult to prove as a cause of death. The poison was often hidden in a ring, which quickly and unnoticed could be emptied in a cup of vine. These rings are very popular among Goths today, although they most likely are not used for the same purpose as their predecessors used them.
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Not all of the jewelry is so distinctly linked to the supernatural or mystic. Beaded collars, beautifully made from seed beads and crystals, chandelier styled earrings are also part of the Goths adornments. Mostly in black of course, but also with colored crystal or gemstones. Like with their clothes, the jewelry is a mix of genres, from ancient Gothic inspired to pompous replicas from the Elizabethan era heavily mixed with mysticism.

Not all Goths use body jewelry, but when they do, the jewelry is highly expressive, just like the rest of their costume and jewelry. The piercings are probably one of the things that causes the wrongly assumption that they are Punks and not Goths. Just as the crosses and pagan symbols lead people to mistake them for heavy metal or even satanists.

There is one thing that is certain though, and that is that Goths and their jewelry are highly eye catching. They are pompous, they are large and very, very expressive.

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