Anthropology of Jewelry: A Look at Jewelry Worn in Tibetan Buddhist Sculpture

Gorgeously detailed set of doors displayed at the Rubin, looks similar to Yama depicting death, the lord of Impermanence (Death). However with the flaming eyebrows appears to be Mahakala a wrathful but more gentle Tibetan icon. He protects monasteries. So this explains him being on an old monastery door.

Buddism in its early inception in India, was not particularly visually represented as much as it was practiced or taught. As it spread, the use of sculpture and idols, as well as art in various forms became central to its expression, especially in Tibet. Buddism is ultimately about death, birth, and what we do in the world of the living. Key symbols like the wheel, which is said to have been part of the origins of Buddhism, are seen throughout the art forms. The wheel is complex, relating to death, which is often depicted in artwork along with a demonic style figure called Yama. This shows our lives are ruled by core principles like impermanence, suffering, rebirth, and passion. All of these elements can help us grow. There are “realms or levels” and 6 worlds depicted in the wheel. The Bhavachakra or wheel is often found on textiles and outside temples.  All of Buddha’s teachings are symbolically illustrated so that one can ultimately follow a path to liberation from the earthly elements that bind us, these teachings unite all creatures not just humans, to an ultimate possible Nirvana.  To try to explain all of Buddhism here is an impossibility, and most certainly a book, course, and lifetime is needed to grasp it entirely. So, for those interested in learning more about the history of Buddhism and Tibetan practices, I am including a list of suggested readings in this post.

Sculpture and Jewelry:

In terms of adornment and symbolism, the Tibetan sculptures are rich. I want to focus on the jewelry worn in the sculptures in an attempt to understand the relationship between religion, cultures, and adornment. What can we learn? Well, to start I went to see an exhibit on Tibetan Buddhism, textiles, and sculpture at the Rubin museum of art in New York. These objects were once used in a spiritual context and the deities they represent are invoked, see this Christies article for more.  I toured some exhibits and permanent installations, as their focus is on Himalayan examples. What did I see?

Interestingly enough the snake which I so love in the form of jewelry, has the meaning of one of the three fires which keep us from enlightenment in life (greed, ignorance, and hatred).  They hold fast to each other in a circle. This can be seen in the Dharma wheel (a visual representation of Buddha’s core teachings).  These obstacles prevent a good rebirth. Depending on what kind of level you are reborn into, the animal or human etc reflects the level of suffering one may endure. In the wheel, even gods can die and exist on a lower level than those who escaped this cycle.  Thus, with so many levels and beings trying to work their way out, it is believed that those on the animal realm should be treated considerately by humans.

The Dharma Wheel and Jewelry:

The statues depict the second Buddha, Buddha, and forms that have escaped the cycles of the wheel or life and death.  Many statues sit on a lotus flower in these pieces, which symbolizes having grown above the attachments of life. I think we can deduce that the earrings and hats have a strong symbolic significance for the figures as they repeat throughout. Notably, these Dharma wheel style earrings are very interesting as they are found in quite a few examples at the Rubin. There are eight raised circular areas in this earring’s overall circle, with one central stone. Possibly, a reference to the eight spokes or paths coming from the center.

Padmasambhava or the second Buddha as he is sometimes referred wearing symbols like the sun and moon on his hat. The moon symbolizing liberation. The hat as the museum description below states is a symbol for his lotus birth.

However, in the piece below the earring features 6 turquoise stones. These could symbolize 6 realms on that wheel. Again, the center of the wheel being the circle in which we find the 3 poisons or fires. The wheel is believed to have been designed by Buddha, so its symbols are important additions to such statues.

Note the body jewelry used to adorn this figure. On this object the jewelry has the appearance of another wheel in the middle.

 

The Monster: While there is the death symbol, as described here below-there are deities that set up obstacles, but also protect tantric traditions.

The skull adornment on this figure in the form of a crown and necklace is central to the theme. We see skulls on Yama, but this figure doesn’t quiet appear to be him, but the skulls remind us of death and impermanence.

 

The Tantric:

 

Again the crown appears to be the most symbolic featuring skulls, the rest of the jewelry seems to be more for beauty or in the popular styles of the time. These royal style jewels and crowns are indicators of the tantric deities.

For tantric deities that are female, the pose and belts seem to highlight the importance of that female power. Again the jewelry is beautifully done.

The amount of jewelry here again signals status and tantric deities. Firstly all of the jewelry present is quite striking. There is body jewelry that can be seen again across the stomach and legs.

Symbols are held in the hands as well, I think I see the lotus in one hand.

 

Turquoise:

This has been a fruitful exercise in the exploration of how jewelry is central to social cues, religions, genders, and power. The fact that jewelry was so intricately done and included in these relics indicates the importance of their role in Tibet. They took the time to not only include them, but to set stones like turquoise inside the examples.  Turquoise in Tibet is a stone which relates to the soul, symbolizes a higher status, is worn by brides, used in amulets ( some of the earrings and such above have an appearance similar to Tibetan amulets), and is related to prosperity and wellness.

The Rubin Museum in New York city houses some amazing examples and revolving exhibits. Their bookstore is also very interesting! I hope to continue to explore the anthropology of jewelry again soon.

TEXTS:

Awakening from the Daydream. David Nichtern.

Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind. Suzuki Roshi

The Art of Happiness. The Dalai Lama

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. Sogyal Rinpoche.

The Teachings of Buddha. Jack Kornfield.

Tibetan Religious Art Book. Antoinette K. Gordon.

Buddist Symbols in Tibetan Culture: An Investigation of the Nine Best-Known Groups of Symbols. Dagyab Rinpoche.

The Art of Buddhism: An Introduction to Its History and Meaning. Denise Patry Leidy.

Ulrich von Schroeder’s complete set: Indo-Tibetan Bronzes.

Links

Sunday Jewelry Report Card: Fred Leighton, Glamourous Jewelry Destination

Today’s jewelry report card I wanted to revisit my trip to Fred Leighton in New York. The iconic store has been around since its 1970s inception when it was an eclectic and chic boutique. I first visited and posted on the shop’s gorgeous diamond and antique babbles in 2015 during the earlier years of the blogazine and Sarara Couture on instagram. I was covering the red carpet and the Academy Awards jewelry.  For me Leighton jewels is the perfect jewelry report card A++ account to follow and fine jewelry shop to buy from, due to their long well established history of quality.  Thus, I thought I would take you back to this wonderful trip and shop some new pieces on @leightonjewels. Today, Fred Leighton jewelry is also very focused on the new line that they have created which we will also shop below. Trust me when I say though, they are still the spot for mouth watering Art Deco, Victorian, and Mid Century stunners as well. In my experience they carry some of the best mid century examples. The brand’s vintage and new pieces are carried in various department stores and online. But as you will read in the original article below our shopping guide, nothing quite compares to a trip inside the Madison Avenue store!

Shopping the New Line-What We Covet:

Why We Follow (For that Jaw Dropping Antique and Vintage Jewelry):

*All above images belong to Fred Leighton Jewelry, via their website and instagram. Below images attributed.

Read the 2015 Article Below:

Antique Snake Cuff

Stunning French intertwined serpent cuff worn by Maggie Gyllenhaal to the Golden Globes this year. Dates to the late 19th century. Photo by Sara of Sarara Couture.

When one thinks of Fred Leighton, a New York landmark, glamour should come to mind. While they have a retail presence online, from 1stdibs to Net-A-Porter, nothing quite does it for a girl or (guy for that matter) like gazing at the babbles from inside their lovely chic salon on Madison Avenue. The crisp glass jewelry cases are organized, in general, by eras. Each one is carefully arranged over the rich art deco back drop of some of the shop’s original architecture.

Fred Leighton

Fred Leighton salon image, Sarara Couture.

 

Their collection spans from Georgian jewelry to current pieces that they custom design.  Fred Leighton, the boutique, began it’s story in the 1970s, mixing eclectic fashions. The namesake fine estate jewelry store opened officially in 1984. Murray Mondschein purchased the original store, Fred Leighton, in the 70s and made it his own by adding the jewelry selection, which gave birth to a jewelry dynasty. When Murray (who changed his name to Fred Leighton) retired the Kwait family purchased the store, with Greg, who is very involved, leading the helm today.  The brand continues to exude exceptional taste with a touch of old Hollywood allure and offers a wide range of quality examples.  This style has kept them fresh and led to a collection that continues to attract jewelry lovers, stylists, and editors worldwide.

  
Meryl Streep at the Oscars in 2003 wearing a stunning emerald necklace from Fred Leighton. Now featured in the exhibit the Maker & Muse. Women & Early 20th Century Art Jewelry. c.1910.

This time of year they consult with stylists who are selecting special pieces for the most influential red carpet of the year, The Oscars.  The shop provided it’s first piece of jewelry worn to the Oscars in the 1990s, to Nicole Kidman, an vintage Australian Opal choker.  The rest is history. They were so gracious to see me this week, and offer us access to some items that have been worn on the red carpet before, as well as fine fashion examples with an editorial appeal. As the blog’s focus is fashion jewelry and accessories I was interested, in also seeing these stylish fine fashionable examples.

As discussed in the post about fashion jewelry/ textual resources, fine jewelry has had it’s design moments, which have led to pieces that have been influenced by fashion and vintage designer jewelry itself. Fred Leighton has some superior fine estate examples, which are also easily translatable today.  For the newest selection visit the store and ask for the talented buyer Dana or Lindsey (PR), who was our guide into their shiny world. While you are there, you may also see Rebecca Selva (the talent behind many reinterpreted red carpet jewelry designs) fluttering around, working on her next project. As chief creative director, she continues to help fashion the image and feel of the stores selection with grace.

They offered us a first hand peek at past Oscar looks, current Oscar/red carpet worthy glam pieces, and suitable examples influenced by fashion during my visit to the salon. So, if inspiration is what you need and you can’t wait until this Sunday for the Oscars…. we’ve got it, enjoy the glam ride. Here are past looks and current possibilities-

Some of My Favorite Past Oscars Jewelry Picks from Fred Leighton’s Salon:

View image | gettyimages.com. Rebecca Selva converted the collar/hairband used by Natalie Portman in the 2005 Oscars. The mid to late 1800s piece was made into a headband for Natalie Portman to wear.
Jennifer Aniston. Oscars 2014, wearing converted Rebbeca Selva, Fred Leighton dress clips as earrings.
View image | gettyimages.com. Madonna 1998 Oscars. Fred Leighton jewelry.

 

Taraji Henson at the Oscars in 2009. Wearing a necklace from Fred Leighton.

 

2009 Oscars image of Amy Adams in a stunning vintage collar from Fred Leighton.
View image | gettyimages.com. Nicole Kidman, 2011 Oscars. Wearing Fred Leighton necklace.

 

Maggie Gyllenhaal 2010 Oscars bracelet. She wore various Leighton pieces. This 1950s brooch featured a 67 carat emerald. It was converted into a bracelet by the store and Rebecca Selva. Up close it is such an amazing piece. Available at Fred Leighton, 773 Madison Avenue.

Maggie Gyllenhaal 2010 Oscars bracelet. She wore various Leighton pieces that evening. This 1950s brooch featured a 67 carat emerald. It was converted into a bracelet by the store and Rebecca Selva. Up close it is such an amazing piece. Available at Fred Leighton, 773 Madison Avenue.

Here are some of the Oscar worn and red carpet worthy pieces that I found in the salon Images by me), which will give you a clue to the styles that may be worn Sunday at the Oscars. This includes closeups of Maggie’s 2010 Oscar worn diamond bracelet. Fred Leighton has quite a few pieces that will actually be worn this year and as they are revealed we will update this post Sunday. (What are your favorites? Please feel free to comment below.)

50s diamond earrings

1950s 12 carat diamond earrings. Available at Fred Leighton.

1700s earrings

1750s 18K gold amethyst earrings. Over 3″ long. Available at Fred Leighton.

1940s-50s diamond brooch

1950s diamond brooch with detachable earrings. Fred Leighton.

Custom Leighton Piece

Fred Leighton Oscars

Maggie Gyllenhaal worn 2010 Oscar bracelet. Converted 1950s emerald brooch bracelet, Contact Fred Leighton for more information.

 

vintage Cartier

1920s Cartier bracelet, Fred Leighton via the Madison avenue shop.

antique dollar

Antique necklace in the window of the Madison avenue shop.

Fashionable fine jewelry examples from the salon, that would fit into any editorial shoot: 

Vogue Sept 2010 cover

One of my all time favorite Vogue covers shows the editorial- fashion jewelry cross over that they have. Sept 2010. I saved this one in my archives! 1920s diamonds. Fred Leighton. Scan of the cover.

 

60s-70s 18K Tiffany necklace. Fred Leighton

60s-70s 18K Tiffany necklace. Fred Leighton. This was one of my personal favorites.

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Fred Leighton. Contact for more information about the necklace.

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Art deco star pins with what appears to be the original era trumpet clasp. Would be amazing earrings! Contact Fred Leighton for pricing and info.

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Van Cleef & Arpels 1950s 18K gold and diamond clutch

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Contact Fred Leighton for pricing and info.

 

 

 

Jewelry Report Card: H is for Hand Forged

Want a really really good stack, I think I may have the answer for you! This Sunday takes us back in time, in some ways, to when jewelry and items were made by hand, forged in fire- so to speak. We find the jewelry in question, in LA inside a retail concept space called ELU.  I discovered them via instagram, and am hooked on the look and construction of the pieces. The jewelry is substantial and tactile, featuring gemstones hand placed inside the forged metals.  So todays A++ goes to @elu_official as a line to watch, and a page to follow!  Elu was started by Cristina Nicoletti, when she decided to begin selling artisanal luxury goods from all over the world. This led to a meeting of the minds and friends, which evolved into a new creative space in West Hollywood. They also carry bags, perfume, shoes, scarves, hats, and sunglasses. The new jewelry line ELU, definitely caught my eye and is the fruit of a partnership with Evan Sugerman of Parts of Four, which is based in Bali.

I’m a lover and collector of the authentic jewelry of “tribes”, indigenous peoples, and taxco pieces. However, as enticed as I am by such pieces I also love the modernist movements of the 50s and today. Perhaps this is why I am drawn to this line of jewelry so much.  Hopefully, our readers will also see the allure of the pieces by ELU.

What We Covet: 

Why We Follow: 

Elu Los Angeles
8750 Holloway Dr.
West Hollywood, CA 90069
310-358-0910

https://elubycn.com

*All images via ELU online and @elu_official, rights reserved.

Sunday Jewelry Report: A Class In Jewelry Design

Today’s jewelry report card focuses on a relatively new designer, whose pieces are a class in how to push boundaries in jewelry design. I hope that this is a Sunday read that will wake you up and get your jewelry juices flowing! Veronica Fabian gets an A++ from us for her innovative yet well designed chic approach to this design form. While she doesn’t currently have her pieces listed for sale online, she does have a portfolio style website, where one can contact her. The artist has a BA in jewelry design from the University of Arts in London. Her award list spans 2016-2018 and it is not a short list. She has been shown in museum exhibits and her latest works which I will highlight here in the order of which I love most, will surely inspire.  Her history is one that starts with an artistic family, turns to economics and banking, and inevitably reverses back to the jewelry art form.

One can see she is drawn to themes in jewelry like chains and traditional aspects which she then turns on their head and elevates.  Her pieces could easily translate on the runway or the museum floor. They touch on human themes and women’s rights in constructed and narrative ways as well.  So without further ado my favorite pieces and where to follow her work.

VERONIKA FABIAN:

Why We Follow Her:

Diane Love For Trifari Exclusive Design Archive

A few years ago I sat down with artist Diane Love to go over her career, vintage designs she did for Trifari, and her fine pieces. I was lucky enough to interview her and gain access to all of her original samples which we have included here: Diane Love Archive. Please browse and learn about all the wonderful designs she did for Trifari, as her pieces only had hangtags and were not signed, thus they are often misattributed. Read the interview Here

English Antique Jewellery and Ebay

This morning we are going to indulge a guilty pleasure vie ebay. It is not often one can find the glorious amount of quality antique pieces, the likes of those we will explore today via our A++ instagram account to follow @englishantiquejewellery.  I stumbled across this jewellery shop and have become a bit smitten.  I think they appeal to me because their finds remind me of those precious little unique antique relics I found as a young child, which led me to collect vintage jewelry. They seem to have bottled that magic feeling of discovery.  The owner’s eye is such that they present the shopper with the opportunity to explore the world of true antique jewelry in all mediums. Pieces from the Victorians and the 1920s, lush silvers, and detailed artifacts. Now, since one has to be on top of such auctions to get a chance at the prize, following their weekly sales via ig is a must.  The shop is accessible via eBay only, auctions straight to us from the UK where they reside. The shop has been in business since 2009. To be honest had I discovered them via eBay, the shop’s impact would have been somewhat lost. The array of photography and finds they post on instagram is really impressive and allows them to shine. They post lovely compositions and unique pieces daily. Thus, today’s Jewelry Report Card winner is really for my flea market and antique jewelry lovers, who are always on the hunt for a great score. This secret source will not disappoint. So without further ado:

What We Love: ( a tribute to the best pieces they have listed and we have loved). Shop Current Auctions Here.

Why We Follow:

  • All images belong to Antique English Jewelry via their eBay shop and instagram.

Sunday Jewelry Report: Shopping Bow and Arrow NYC

Enjoy an afternoon in the midst of various Native American jewelers, under the roof of a store that celebrates artisans of various Native North American cultures today. Stack the silver and get ready to explore our A++ pick for one to follow on instagram. Firstly, what attracted me to Bow and Arrow NYC, is the way the shop is sort of a new take on the contemporary Native American jewelry gallery. Started in 2011 by Leslie O’Kelley-Maiden, it brings together a group of southwestern indigenous jewelry designers, whose skills with sterling and various stones are evident in their hand made works.  The shop is founded on the stories of it’s designers in a cooperative and beautiful way.  The turquoise they use comes form North American sources as discussed in her link about the stones, here. Their shop’s work has been seen in Porter magazine and on Kesha.

Enjoy the video of how and why she does what she does:

Bow & Arrow X Convicts from Convicts on Vimeo.

Her respect for Navajo (Dine) culture among others resonates with me. Her short film does a great job illustrating the connections between jewelry, artwork, and culture. Not only does the jewelry validate the things discussed in the video above, they are visually beautiful pieces, supporting a continued heritage, and are current in their relevancy.

WHAT WE WANT:

WHY WE FOLLOW: ( She does a great job giving us tips on styling these pieces!)

*All images belong to Bow and Arrow NYC and Leslie via her instagram and website!

Jewelry Report Card: The Cut London and Meghan Markle Have Us Thinking About Alternative Wedding Rings

Today we take you to London, which only a day ago was in a flurry of activity due to the royal wedding. Whether you admit it or not, married or not, male or female you’ve been fantasizing just a bit about what it would be like to be Meghan or Harry. I’m waving goodbye in my jag with that aquamarine ring, off to a swanky royal after party…wait BUT I digress …Harry’s gift of Princess Diana’s aquamarine ring, which Diana bought after the divorce to wear, instead of her former wedding ring, had me thinking about alternative wedding ring styles!  This is why we chose The Cut London as our A++ recipient for our Sunday jewelry report card. We are handing the grade out to Kate as one to follow on instagram for her unique offerings.  As we go into summer, keeping up with The Cut London is not a bad idea, whether you want to reward yourself with a unique piece, buy someone a promise ring, or pick out that forever style for your big day.

Started by Kate Baxter a jewellery designer, who wanted to help revolutionize the engagement ring world by seeking out unique bespoke pieces, the selection does not disappoint. She offers her all of this online, from unique cuts to colored gemstones at THE CUT LONDON. There is also a tailored selection of antique rings in her repotroire. She books consultations and helps find original one of a kind pieces for clients from her base in London. If one is overwhelmed or actually underwhelmed by the selection of engagement rings out there she specializes in finding something outside the box.  @thecutlondon is full of new pieces, inspiration, gifts or jewelry shopping guides ,and gorgeous designs posted daily, with an email link directly to Kate. She often mentions new finds from up and coming jewelry designers, as well including earrings or whatever else strikes her fancy! Since she is constantly searching for unique pieces many are not online so following here gives you access to some pieces you may only see during a consultation!

What We Love:

Why We Follow: 

*All images from The Cut London, via instagram and their website!

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry are Getting Married: Come Tiara Shopping with Us Before the Big Day!

Cartier Bandeau via Harper’s Bazaar and Alamy. Link in image.

There are more tiara’s floating around the royal coffers than butterflies on a spring day. Every blog and news agency around the world is trying to guess which one Meghan will wear on their big day this Saturday.  From the Spencer tiara to the Lover’s Knot. The Lover’s knot was one of Diana’s favorites, but the Spencer won out on her day, paying tribute to the women in her family who came before her. It was chosen over what the queen had actually gifted her for the day. Although many are speculating it has less allure due to the marriage of Diana to Charles not enduring. However, with Meghan having some crazy distant relation to Diana who knows, should she wear it! The royal family and the queen may actually also take stone signification into consideration when choosing the crown, as well as the history of the piece. Your guess is as good as mine!  However; in Meghan’s case it is possible a totally new one could be fashioned, but Harry did give her a diamond from his mother’s collection…so again I digress.  I’m in just as much suspense as the rest of you not knowing whether to bet on the Strathmore Rose tiara worn by Elizabeth Bowes Lyon (a.k.a the Queen Mother) in the the 20s almost like a flapper band or the Cartier Bandeau.  As our coffers might not be so flush I decided to put together a list of fun vintage costume jewelry tiaras available in various shops below, well I stuck in a few diamonds: Enjoy and start planning your bridal party head gear or Saturday night accessories! Plenty of vintage head gear coming to the shop this month as well as we celebrate.

 


The REAL DEAL:

Favorite Tiara filled Links:

Elle magazine’s historic round up

Diana’s Jewels

Town & Country

Harper’s Bazaar article about Meghan Markle’s Royal Ancestors

 

The Met, Madonna, Jewelry, Fashion, and the Catholic Imagination.

Image from the press preview, Heavenly Bodies.

This evening is the first Monday in May, when the Met Gala is held and the Costume institute opens one of the largest exhibits its ever devised, Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination. After reported multiple negotiations between Anna Wintour and the Vatican, the exhibit was deemed a go and as of today we will all get a glimpse of what could potentially be one of the most interesting exhibits to date. Catholic symbols are so interwoven into many cultures, it is clear this will be an intriguing look at how fashion relates to everything from the Pope to the Virgin Mary. One of the countries that this is very prevalent is Brazil. After living there over 5 years, I was very aware how the Catholic religion of the Portuguese had mixed with African and indigenous cultures. It infused their fashion and jewelry in a very deep manor.

Image from Carlos Miele, Homenagem a Mario Cravo Neto.

Symbols abound in Brazil…While writing my thesis on indigenous identity in Brazil and the United States, I discovered just how powerful religious iconography could be, when I saw parallels between early depictions of indigenous women as America and the notion of Mary and the anti-Mary or savage woman.  While this was one element of a very long thesis, Catholic imagery has long interested me. From texts such as that by Paul Koudounaries, whose photographs of the early jewel adorned Christian martyrs and saints in underground tomb amaze, to Madonna’s virginal performance, I was hooked. Madonna famously used key components of the religion: like virgins, saints, and martyrs in her musical performances. Her early work especially, really demonstrates her mastery of symbolism.

Nossa Senhora de Aparecida/ Our Lady of Aparecida.

For the Catholic religion, symbols become the incarnate or earthly representation of that which is held to be sacred and holy. It become even clearer over the years these notions of “saints” and “sinners” were part of an elaborate symbolic relationship between Catholicism, Christianity, power, and culture. The adornment associated with Catholicism is a complex narrative of clothing, ritual, and jewelry. One that they brought with them to the Americas, Africa, and beyond. One can also see some of these Catholic references in Georgian and early 1800s Italian jewelry, Victorian Momento Mori pieces, early Byzantine jewelry, and other antique examples which we will illustrate below.

1870s Italian, Castellani piece. Inspired by Byzantine jewelry. Housed in the Met, image by Sarara Couture.

Circa 1850s, some gold construction references to Byzantine jewelry, angel etc. By Luigi Saulini. Met Museum. Image Sarara Couture.

The Saints:

Details on my charm necklace, that I created while living in Brazil. It includes antique examples and newer saints in silver. Our Lady of Aparecida is pictured twice.

Catholicism has a lot of saints, and in each location where they brought the religion with them this varied. For instance, the negotiation between Catholicism and Brazil led to the creation of Afro-Catholic religions, various new Brazilian saints, and adornments. One example of jewelry which portrays this relationship are the pendants depicting Our Lady of Aparecida.  The saint has a long history associated with a mysterious statue pulled from the Paraiba river in the 1700s, all the way to the references to the “Black Madonna”. Scapulars or double saint necklace, featuring one saint worn hanging down the back, and another the front often also depict Our Lady of Aparecida. Popular cultural uses of these scapulars are all over the country, especially for surfers who use them as protection. So in honor of the Met exhibit I wanted to look at a few examples of jewelry and accessories.

Scapular example.

Personal Collection.

Byzantine:

What is Catholicism if not Roman? The history of the Roman empire and it’s relationship to Christianity is a saga we cannot hope to summarize here, but we can look at the early roots in terms of jewelry if we look at Byzantium. The empire at the time was divided into two parts. Eastern and Western Rome.  In about 330 A.D. the Roman emperor Constantine I established New Rome or Constantinople and Christianity as its official religion. When Rome fell in 476 all that was left was eastern Rome or the Byzantine empire.  This is a complex history but to summarize this empire survived for centuries after. This is a moment rich in iconography, jewelry, and symbolism until the 8th and part of the 9th century when emperors banned religions imagery. Around 1054 the religious split came where one was called the Roman Catholics and the others the Eastern Orthodox Catholics. The rest is a very long history to get to today’s Rome, Vatican, and it’s relationship to Italy. However; it does lead to my favorite part Byzantine examples of jewelry. Here are some housed in the Met.

6th Century Byzantine. On display at the Met Museum.

Gold Necklace with Ornaments, 6th century
Byzantine, Early Byzantine
Gold; Overall: 36 x 7 x 1 3/8 in. (91.4 x 17.8 x 3.6 cm) Wt: 225g pendant cross: 2 3/4 x 1 7/8 x 3/8 in. (7 x 4.8 x 1 cm) pendant: 1 7/16 x 11/16 x 1/2 in. (3.7 x 1.7 x 1.2 cm) pendant: 1 3/8 x 5/8 x 1/2 in. (3.5 x 1.6 x 1.2 cm) pendant: 1 5/16 x 11/16 x 9/16 in. (3.3 x 1.7 x 1.4 cm) pendant: 1 9/16 x 11/16 x 1/2 in. (4 x 1.8 x 1.2 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917 (17.190.151)
http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/464034

7th Century, Byzantine.

Other Byzantine examples I photographed at the Met.

The Cross:

The history of the cross, as a symbol for Christians, can be traced back at least to the 3rd Century, which continues today and has spread of course into pop cultural references and iconography. That is why jewelry from the rosary to the cross can have so much power for the believer. The rosary is really a tool for prayer, with days assigned to types of prayer and each element or bead meaning different things. The bead above the cross is for the “Our Father” prayer, then you have the 3 Hail Marys, Glory Be and on.  When those messages are converted a vast system of counter cultural references can be created.  Symbols, gender, sexuality, and religion, are all tightly bound in the overall cultural belief system. Jewelry and accessories are one area where that iconography has been unwrapped and rewrapped in pop culture in very interesting ways.

Antique and Brazilian examples, my collection.

Pop Culture and the Fashion Accessory:

Catholicism’s relationship to popular culture is complex to define. Popular culture is a bit difficult itself to pin down! In many ways, it is a set of beliefs and objects endowed with symbols that have been created or reiterated by the newest generation. It becomes dominant at any certain period and proliferates in that setting. Fashion’s use of Catholic symbols was in some cases, a counter cultural response or rebellion that became pop culture history. Other times, it is a romanticism or fetishism of Catholicism that emerges. To celebrate the sure to be enthralling Met exhibit, I’m including below a round up of the best Catholic infused fashion accessories and jewelry for sale at the moment. I don’t know about you, but I cannot wait to see Madonna tonight!

Vintage example of a saint devotional charm bracelet.

 

TEXTS:

Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures and Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs by Paul Koudounaris

In Death Lamented: The Tradition of Anglo American Mourning Jewelry. 2012. Sarah Nehama.

The Meaning of Icons
by Leonid Ouspensky & Vladimir Lossky

The Theology of the Icon
(2 volume set)

Carlos Miele. Cosac & Naify.