Of all protection talismans, jewelry is by far the most popular. There are many reasons for this: you can carry it anywhere; it’s aesthetically beautiful; and it’s often discreet. From necklaces to bracelets to broaches, protective jewelry has been around for thousands of years, although it has changed forms throughout the centuries.
In this blog post, I want to dive into protection jewelry. What makes a piece of jewelry protective? How can you make one? And where did the folklore come from?
When I googled “protection jewelry,” most posts spoke about crystals and symbols. But I think we need to go back even further, to the metals.
Most jewelry is made out of at least one type of metal. In most cases, it’s an alloy (a combination of two or more metals). In ancient times, most protective jewelry was made from the seven metals of antiquity.
The metals of antiquity are gold, silver, copper, tin, lead, iron, and mercury. These were the first metals that ancient humans learned to work with. And the older the resource, the more folklore it has.
Of these metals, some were not as common in jewelry. Mercury, obviously, is a liquid and was often included in alloys. Iron has not been used in jewelry until recently due to its weight and high melting point. (“Cold iron” was used for talismans to protect against ghosts and other spirits, but these talismans were usually not jewelry.)
Speaking of alloys, many of these metals were (and still are) combined to create jewelry. Gold and silver were often mixed with copper and tin due to scarcity. Pure gold and silver were incredibly valuable, just like today.
In terms of protective metals, gold was considered to be the most valuable. Because it never tarnishes or corrodes, it was considered divine. From ancient Greece to India, gold was associated with deities and higher wisdom. Wearing golden jewelry brought you protection from the Gods, but only higher classes and priests owned them.
Silver is also a highly protective metal, but for different reasons. Its reflective surface was thought to ward off evil spirits. In the Gospel of Matthew, Judas turned Jesus over for 30 silver coins. Silver’s reflection was said to be a reminder of his betrayal to God. In the same vein, evil spirits would see their guilt in the reflection and flee.
Copper was a much more affordable metal for protection jewelry, especially in alloys. As late as the 18th century, copper has been used for protective amulets. These amulets would ward off disease, alleviate arthritic pain, guard the home, and much, much more.
According to the International Gem Society, today’s most popular jewelry metals are silver, gold, and platinum (the latter being more valuable than gold). Stainless steel is a common choice, and as an iron alloy, it is also protective.
Although the jewelry’s metal matters, it is not the be-all, end-all. Overall, the metal matters less than the shape it takes.
The vast majority of protective jewelry includes some sort of protection symbol. If you found this blog post, you’ve likely come across at least one protective symbol. Pentagrams, crosses, the evil eye, runes, and bindrunes (a combination of two or more runes) have all been used in protective jewelry.
Fascinatingly, some of these symbols have been integrated into mainstream jewelry. The cornicello is a great example. This chile-pepper-looking shape is a popular symbol in Italian folklore. Meaning “little horn,” the cornicello guards against the evil eye, or “il malocchio.” Many modern jewelers have used the cornicello, especially since minimalist jewelry has come back in style.
When I searched Etsy for protective jewelry, the most popular and common results were crystals. Although crystals have risen in popularity over the past few decades, they have always been around. Most have hundreds of years’ worth of folklore backing them.
Here are a few crystals that are especially common and/or interesting:
There are many, many more protective crystals that I can list, but that would be an entire book’s worth of information. Try researching the folklore of your favorite crystal; you might be surprised.
Not all protective jewels were crystals. Some were regular stones that were carved or enchanted for protection.
The best example, in my opinion, is the hag stone. Usually found in rivers, a hag stone has at least one hole that pokes through the stone. In British folklore, hag stones were powerful protective talismans. They were hung over doors and windows, tied to ships, and worn as a necklace to ward off evil spirits.
Arrowheads are another example. Although obsidian arrowheads are incredibly popular nowadays, they were made in specific countries that had a high amount of obsidian, such as Mexico. Others were created from different types of stone. Because they were put on arrows and spears, arrowheads have defensive and offensive magical qualities.
You’ll find that a lot of protective jewelry is made from natural stone and sometimes wood. These are not “normal” stones and wood because they have been enchanted by a magician.
Witch Bags and Bottles
In the past few years, I’ve seen a lot of protective jewelry made from tiny glass jars. These glass jars are usually filled with magical herbs and oils and sealed with a cork. They are the modern version of an ancient talisman known as a witch bag.
Witch bags were magical bags filled with magical ingredients and designed for a specific purpose. Cunningfolk, pellars, and shamans have all created and sold magical bags for one reason or another. The ingredients depended on the use and person. Some common ingredients included herbs, graveyard dirt, hair or nails, stones, and drawings of symbols, words, and prayers.
The bag was made by the magician and hung on a string. Oftentimes, people carried witch bags in their pocket or wore them around the neck. Although some people view herb jar necklaces as “New Age-y,” I believe that they harken back to the witch bags that magicians sold in the Americas and the British Isles.
This leads me to the inevitable question: What makes a piece of jewelry magical?
Imbuing Jewelry with Power
Historically speaking, magical jewelry was usually made by a magician. Many were consecrated by priests or shamans, meaning that they were devoted to a deity, saint, or spirit. By devoting the jewelry to a higher power, the magician guaranteed protection from that power.
Another method is enchanting, or filling the item with power. When it comes to magicians such as witches, cunningfolk, and brujerías, folklore says that just touching these objects makes them magical. The magician chose that specific stone or herb, meaning that it must have had something magical that other materials did not.
If these magicians had an enchantment method, it was usually not written down. These were secrets of the trade, after all. Nowadays, you’ll find many different methods of enchanting, such as bathing in incense, charging in a magic circle, or locked away for days, weeks, or months.
I want to note that enchanting is different from cleansing. Cleansing is removing (usually negative) energies; enchanting is filling the object with energy. Some magicians will use both methods, but you need an enchantment, not just cleansing.
I’d be happy to write a separate blog post on enchanting, consecrating, and cleansing. I’ve seen these terms and methods being mixed up plenty of times, which can get confusing for beginners.
Anything I Missed?
Did I miss anything about protective jewelry? Do you have a favorite protection symbol or crystal? What has worked (or not worked) for you? Please leave your insights in the comments below! I'd love to learn what others think.