The skull is among the elite in the realm of ancient symbols. Instantly-recognizable. Domineering. Powerful. With such potent characteristics, it’s understandable that mankind has been powerless to resist incorporating it into just about every form of fashion; for every kind of person. It has become commonplace for people to wear jewelry made from skeletal bones and metallic skull bracelets, skull necklaces and other such accessories, reflecting how the symbol has been embraced as a vital part of fashion. Together, you and I will delve into the profound symbolism and personal connotations that have made the majestic skull much, much more than just a bold accessory, so that we can uncover just why people are so obsessed with skull jewelry.
- Skull Jewelry as Symbol of Toughness and Bravery
Centuries ago, during the Elizabethan Period in Europe, skull jewelry, specifically rings that featured a “Death’s Head Skull” (a skull that is missing the jaw portion), were a sign that the wearer had been accepted into the societal underworld.
Inspired by this symbolism, present-day motorcycle gangs, gun clubs, and other groups that are notorious for being “rebellious outcasts”, often wear skull jewelry to signify their membership, as well as to emphasize their separation from conventional society. The original meaning, however, has been expanded, and many members in these groups also wear skull jewelry as a testament to their courage in the face of adversity.
This evolution of the skull’s depiction as a symbol of toughness and bravery has been translated to the broader modern society. Today, men wear skull rings and get skull tattoos to increase confidence, show masculinity, and display inner strength.
- Skull Bracelets for Celebration of Life
In ancient times, some civilizations such as the Egyptians and the Aztecs viewed the skull as a symbol of the cycle of death and rebirth. Unlike in today’s Western world where death is loaded with negative connotations and feared, in these cultures, death was seen as the passage into the afterlife and even the underworld; part of the cycles of nature. Therefore, the concept was treated with reverence.
In addition, when preparing for ceremonies, many members of these groups would use actual bones to pierce through regions of the skin. These bones were then strung together to create attractive jewelry. When this was practiced, the size of the bone also has significance – the larger the bone, the more skillful and respected the tribesman.
In modern times, variations of these Egyptian and Aztec traditions and celebratory practices have been adopted in some festivals and celebrations. One example of this is “Dia de los Muertos” or “Day of the Dead”, the modern two-day holiday that is celebrated in most regions of Mexico and Latin America. The symbolism of the skull enjoys a tangible connection to these celebrations, with shaped and painted marzipan candies called “sugar skulls” playing a large role.
Additionally, some people celebrate their loved ones’ past lives by wearing skull jewelry, which can be a testament to their belief in life after death. Accessories with skulls can also represent a celebration of a person’s own life or a representation of their rebirth or transformation.
- Skull Bracelets in Fashion and Appeal
Many people who wear skull jewelry are simply drawn to the fashion appeal of the accessories. Some men and women have even gone so far as to purchase gold and silver designer skull rings with precious gemstones or diamonds to flaunt their expensive taste. And since there are many underlying meanings related to the skull, the fashion industry has embraced the trend wholeheartedly.
Both men and women can identify with the skull symbol due to its wide range of meanings and the fact that, unlike most jewelry, skull jewelry does not detract from a man’s masculinity, but rather enhances it due to it’s bold design. Most companies recognize this and have taken advantage of the symbol’s versatility by supplying jewelry that feature the bold insignia for a costly price.
Not only that, but skull jewelry isn’t limited to a specific class either. Everyone, from celebrities and fashion icons to ordinary people, can be seen pairing skull jewelry with their favorite garments and accessories.
This transcendence of gender, class and culture is one of the many ways in which the symbol of the skull is incredibly versatile. But it doesn’t end there…
The versatility of the structure and appearance is probably the most important factor that adds to the appeal of skull jewelry for many users. While some jewelry designers enjoy using the skull as its own design, others creatively integrate the structure into pieces of complex art. Visages of the skull have been seamlessly integrated with the following components:
- Crossbones: Symbolizes eternity, danger, or poison.
- Crosses: Represents mankind’s beginning.
- Butterflies: Signifies the changing nature of life.
- Snakes: Portrays a depiction of immortality and/or knowledge of the next world.
- Wings: Signifies the freedom that is associated with the release of the dead from their physical form into a freer spiritual entity.
- Bows (resting atop the cranium): Represents the recent feminine embrace of the skull and its connotations
Looking at these symbolic interpretations of the skull, it is clear that it is more than an iconic emblem. Its historical meanings have given us a rich fount of connotations that has undoubtedly contributed to its flexible range of uses today; making it one of the most popular fashion symbols of the contemporary world.