Sterling Silver Christian Jewelry: History and Significance

Sterling Silver Christian Jewelry: History and Significance

Gems and jewelry, including sterling silver Christian jewelry, have played crucial roles in many periods of human development. In some cultures, it has served as a form of currency and has been used as a religious symbol. Modern pieces, like the Cross of the First Family, continue to be part of the modern image of the faithful in expressing their deepest-held and most essential beliefs.  

What is the Significance of Sterling Silver Christian Jewelry and Other Religious Jewelry?

Again, religious jewelry (like sterling silver Christian jewelry), which can be found in almost every culture throughout history, is typically crafted centrally with important symbols that matter to the faithful. When we examine jewelry’s long and illustrious past, we find that religious symbols were frequently incorporated into its design and use.

While modern jewelry is available in various designs and materials, ancient religious jewelry was typically crafted from priceless metals. Gold’s malleability and ability to be hammered into thin sheets make it ideal for creating intricate shapes. In addition, in the Stone Age, Gold was one of the most accessible metals, making it one of the first to be manipulated by humans.

Ancient Egyptian jewelry is one of the earliest surviving examples of religious jewelry. Both sexes in the Old Kingdom wore earrings. They frequently featured gold or bronze construction; some even housed valuable gems like lapis lazuli. The Eye of Horus was a typical design on jewelry, especially earrings. It was believed that whoever wore it would be safeguarded, and it came to represent those qualities as well as wholeness and healing.

Historically, Native American jewelry has been a rich source of meaning. For example, the bear, often associated with Earth Mother, is a powerful symbol for many indigenous peoples. Therefore, bears were often revered and offered as presents to Mother Nature. Likewise, historically, many Native Americans placed a high value on turquoise due to the widespread belief that the stone emitted a healing glow when held up to the sun. This is why turquoise has always been a symbol of vitality and fruitfulness.

Roman Catholics have been using religious jewelry as a form of expression in the visual arts ever since the religion’s inception. The crucifix is the primary religious icon used by Roman Catholic artists. It depicts a man hanging from a cross, symbolizing Jesus’ death for humanity. As a result, the Cross is one of the most significant signs used by Christians. It is a symbol of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and can be found in jewelry, paintings, and even whole structures.

Religious jewelry has developed into its art form over time. While many adherents still proudly display crosses and other religious emblems, artists have begun surprisingly reimagining these symbols. Barbed-wire crosses, symbolizing the eternal conflict between good and evil, are a popular choice for contemporary jewelry.

The Cross Symbolism in Christian Jewelry

Cross jewelry, at the fore of sterling silver Christian jewelry for its aesthetic value and symbolic significance, is a perennial best-seller in almost all parts of the world.

Cross pendants come in an almost infinite variety of designer labels and styles. Diamond-studded crosses are popular for pendants, but the options are limitless. A cross necklace worn as a symbol of faith communicates the wearer’s beliefs, brings solace and raises awareness.

This explains why cross jewelry has been worn for centuries and is popular today.

The Cross represents Jesus’ death and subsequent resurrection as a central symbol in Christianity. Crosses were meant to be worn to ward off evil; today, it’s more of a symbol of faith and safety.

Although cross jewelry can vary in appearance depending on denomination, most people have no problem combining different styles to express their tastes.

The various crosses and their respective meanings are listed below.

Papal Cross

The Pope is the only person allowed to use this special Cross with three horizontal bars. In addition, a shorter top and a more extended base are present.

The Papal Cross symbolizes the supreme leadership of the Catholic Church. The Pope, as the leader of the Church, is given this heraldic emblem. It consists of a staff with three horizontal bars of progressively shorter length attached to its top. Given its status as the papacy’s official symbol, the Papal Cross has traditionally been off-limits to other churches and organizations.

The Papal Cross is not to be confused with the Archiepiscopal Cross, a two-barred cross representing an archbishop. The Cross of Lorraine, which consists of two horizontal bars placed at right angles on a vertical bar, is also not to be confused with this design. The original Knights Templar were presented with this heraldic Cross and took it with them on their Crusade expeditions. In the Catholic Church, the Cardinal is symbolized by this Cross Lorraine with four equal arms.

The Pectoral Cross

While this six-inch wide Cross is not usual for laypeople who wish to wear sterling silver Christian jewelry because it is reserved for only bishops, it is worn in the center of the chest rather than on or near the collarbone.

The fullness of the Sacrament of Holy Orders is symbolized by the vestments worn by bishops: the pallium, the crozier, the miter, the ring, and, of course, the pectoral Cross.

A bishop can be recognized by his pectoral Cross and ring, which are part of the customary regalia. The Abbots, Bishops, Cardinals, and the Holy Father wear the pectoral Cross (crux pectoralis). The Latin word pectus, meaning “breast,” is where we get our English word “pectoral.”

This cross pendant is designed to be worn on the chest, close to the heart, and is typically hung from a chain or cord. The pectoral Cross initially held a piece of the True Cross or a saint’s relic. Although not all modern pectoral crosses still feature a relic, the practice is still widely observed.

In an exciting turn of events, in 1889, the Holy See suggested that a relic of the True Cross be transferred from the pectoral Cross of a deceased bishop to his successor.

Traditionally, a bishop will pray, “Munire me digneris,” as he dons the pectoral Cross, reminding himself of Christ’s suffering and death on the Cross.

The Roman Catholic Cross

Although the Cross is straightforward, the vertical bar is significantly longer than the horizontal one. The Roman Catholic Cross is pervasive in the sterling silver Christian jewelry.

Catholics have been making the cross symbol for millennia. It has been passed down from generation to generation as a sign of prayerful intent to bless and receive.

Priests and ministers traditionally bless by pointing a finger, usually the thumb, upwards toward the people or objects they wish to honor. Still, the general populace only uses their index finger or middle finger.

This is akin to raising one’s hands during prayer or bowing one’s head to God in contemplation. Each believer’s relationship with God is unique, and so is the physical act of prayer.

This religious rite has been passed down through the ages as a part of the culture. Catholics credit St. Basil for passing along the information that the sign of the Cross was initially taught to the Church by the Apostles of Christ.

The crucifixion of Jesus Christ was central to St. Cyprian’s doctrinal development in the third century.

Blessing someone, usually with some sort of holy liquid like water or oil, usually involves making the sign of the Cross on them to communicate the motivation behind the gesture. Faithful prayers are concluded by making the sign of the Cross and proclaiming aloud or in thought, “in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.”

The Celtic Cross

The Celtic Cross consists of a circle centered on the intersection of the Cross’s vertical and horizontal bars. It is also common in modern sterling silver Christian jewelry.

The exact historical context in which it first emerged is unknown. Still, it is likely connected to the areas that Irish missionaries spread Christianity to between the ninth and twelfth centuries and the Celtic Revival in the nineteenth century.

As depicted, the Celtic Cross is an ancient Christian symbol with multiple symbolic meanings, including Irish national pride. Therefore, it is a widely used symbol, but not by extremists. Most modern representations of the Celtic Cross follow the general pattern of other Christian crosses by having an elongated vertical axis (often accompanied by Celtic knotwork).

White supremacists occasionally use this Celtic Cross design, but its widespread, non-extremist use does not indicate racism or white supremacy when no other hate symbols exist.

The Russian Orthodox Cross

Two extra horizontal beams can be seen in the Russian Orthodox cross. The first and shortest beam symbolizes the signposts on the Cross. The thickest and most central crossbeam symbolizes the spot where Jesus’ hands were nailed. The footrest is the lower beam, which is inclined upward and located in the lower half of the vertical bar.

The Cross of the Russian Orthodox Church is unique compared to the Cross of the West.

It’s common for the Cross to have three crossbeams, two of which are perfectly horizontal and one of which is skewed slightly. The top crossbar represents the sign that read “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” and was nailed to the Cross above Christ’s head. Christ’s hands were nailed to the crosspiece.

This lower bar serves as a footrest. Russian Orthodox iconography depicts the nailing of the feet not at a central point but on the two sides of the footrest.

The crooked line represents the two criminals who were crucified alongside each other. To Christ’s right, one went to Heaven while the other descended into Hell. To that end, the Cross’s bottom bar represents a scale on which the paths to Hell and Heaven are laid bare for all to see.

The North is always indicated by the beam’s topmost point, which is another exciting feature. Consequently, a church cross can function as a navigational aid.

The Crucifix

Almost every Christian group uses the crucifix, which represents Christ hanging from a cross, as a symbol. The Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Catholic, Lutheran, Moravian, and Anglican churches use it, but the Roman Catholic church is where it takes off.

The Greek Cross

The horizontal and vertical bars are the same size as the Greek Cross. The famous Greek mathematician and astronomer Pythagoras of Samos used this symbol before it became associated with Christianity.

He also established Pythagoreanism, a mystical school of thought. Since Pythagoras spent his formative years in Egypt, he was exposed to the ankh and its symbolism at an early age. Perhaps inspired by his interest in geometry, he reinterpreted this potent symbol with four arms of equal length to represent the elements of air, fire, water, and earth.

The overall goal of the composition was to symbolize cosmic harmony. People would take their oaths under the sign, much like how modern-day Christians will still exchange their vows beneath a cross or Bible.

In contrast to its Latin counterpart, the Greek cross was not designed to represent the Cross on which Jesus died but rather the Church itself, as the gospel was spread to the four corners of the earth and the four cardinal directions, as well as the four spiritual elements. This makes its connection to the Egyptian Ankh and the Pythagorean Cross abundantly clear.

The idea that symbols and their meanings change and evolve is an intriguing takeaway.

The early Christians in Greece appropriated preexisting symbolism with social power and meaning, much like the United States appropriated the Greek architectural style for government buildings to tribute to the rule of Democracy and its origins. It’s an intriguing strategy for refocusing the attention of the masses on a slightly different issue.

The Armenian Cross

Each of the eight rays of the Armenian Cross is adorned with a different design element.

The Canterbury Cross

The equal length of the vertical and horizontal bars gives the design a brooch-like rounded appearance. It’s a symbol of the Anglican faith and a mark of the Church’s authority.

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