As humans, we have always been fascinated with the creatures we share our world with. Animals have continuously inspired the work of creatives, particularly jewellers and artisans. Birds have proved to be an enduringly popular subject of these works- especially owls. From brooches to buckles, there is not an item of jewellery that has not at some point in time made use of the iconic owl motif. But what is the meaning of owl jewellery?
Owls are a commonly used symbol in the jewellery world. However, depending on time, place, and context, opinions surrounding them have differed. Reports suggest that at different periods of history owls have been either intensely feared, or lovingly revered. Their worldwide notoriety however means that the symbolism surrounding them is endless.
Perhaps the most well-known trait associated with the owl is wisdom. This idea has been present for millennium, and in fact dates back to ancient Greece. Athenians celebrated the owl as a symbol of wisdom because they considered it to be an emblem of Athena, the goddess of foresight and knowledge. To this day we associate the owl with intellect and learning- jewellery bearing this sigil is a common gift for graduates. The Greeks were also responsible for marking the owl as a symbol of wealth, as they used this motif on their coins.
Contrastingly, in other cultures the hooting of the owl was considered to be an ill omen. In ancient Egypt, the owl was utilised as a symbol of death. If an official were to receive a glyph of an owl from the pharaoh, he was marked for death. Owls didn’t have a stellar reputation in medieval Europe either. There, they were considered to be evidence of witchcraft, in part due to their mysterious nocturnal nature.
Owl Jewellery Meaning
Despite this rather mixed bag of symbolism surrounding owls, there are still many craftspeople that choose these as a subject for their work. We presume that they prefer to look on the bright side when it comes to these superstitions! As such, it is unsurprising that the owl motif has been (and remains) enduringly popular when it comes to jewellery. Owl jewellery can act as a personal talisman- a reminder to embody the positive attributes the creature is associated with. Wearing owl jewellery also mirrors the actions of Plains Indians, who ritually wore owl feathers to ward off evil spirits. Additionally, owl jewellery is just charming! Their large eyes and feathered appearance is perfect for crafting into jewellery; René Lalique created some splendid owl themed pieces.
Since owls have long been associated with the mysterious and magical, it is unsurprising that throughout time they have featured in many folkloric tales. A particularly famous fiction is the great Welsh epic ‘Kulhwch and Olwen’. Sadly, in this story the supposedly wise bird was unable to meet expectations. He was unable to provide the hero with the necessary information to locate his lover. The owl is also a recurring symbol in Celtic literature. In the tale of Blodeuwedd (a flower-bride) the aforementioned character is transformed into an owl as punishment for betraying her husband.
AC Silver’s Owls
Here at AC Silver we have some rather stunning examples of owl jewellery. One of our favourite things about these pieces is their character- just look how sweet they look perched atop their branches! Both of our owls are vintage, and this retro-style is reflected perfectly in the maker’s use of gemstones. The use of emeralds for one owl’s eyes can be interpreted as a nod to nature, and works wonderfully with the other gemstones on the piece. Both of these pieces are fine examples of owl jewellery, and would look stylish styled with an all-black outfit to really let them shine.
Do you give a hoot about owl jewellery meaning? Let us know below!