While styles go in and out of fashion a firm staple of any good jewellery collection is always an animal-inspired design. Whether it be a snake, fox, leopard, frog, jaguar or any of the other multitude of wild animals that fire the imagination of jewellery designers.
Animals remind us of nature and wearing a piece of jewellery inspired by a wild animal evokes a sense of appreciation for the natural world.
Let’s be honest, wild animals also look fabulous in jewellery design and add a hint of drama and intrigue to the wearer.
There is no better conversation-starter than a startling piece of animal-inspired jewellery and it can also be used to tell the wearer’s own personal story or embody the characteristics they would like to project from wild animals in the natural world.
For example, wearing a lion ring or pendant could symbolise courage or leadership or grant the wearer some of these qualities. A wolf design could be worn to inspire the wearer to sharpen their instincts or for manifesting protection.
Animals are also spiritual totems and certain cultures wear them as a symbol of protection and even a connection to the essence of a particular animal.
Animal jewellery through the ages
Animal-themed adornments and jewellery have never really dated and have remained popular through the ages. From cavemen wearing animal pelts to the enamel and gemstone bird creations of the Victorians, the appeal of the animal has not waned.
One of the most impactful examples of this were the ancient Egyptians who most famously incorporated animal motifs into their jewellery designs. Scarab beetles, snakes and falcons all held symbolic meaning in Egyptian culture and feature heavily in Egyptian motifs and design.
The scarab beetle was revered as a symbol of resurrection while the Egyptian god Horus was represented as a human with the head of a falcon, making the bird the representation of a God.
Various other periods in history were also notable for their celebration of animals whether through jewellery or art.
During the Victorian era animal motifs became increasingly popular in jewellery design and the fascination of the Victorians with nature resulted in many jewellery pieces featuring creatures such as birds, butterflies, snakes and even some exotic animals like elephants and tigers.
This appreciation for animals and the natural world continued unabated into the 20th century.
The Art Nouveau movement that emerged at the turn of the century was heavily influenced by organic and natural forms as well as wild animals.
Many of the signature themes of the Art Nouveau movement are as powerful today as they were at the height of this compelling and energetic period in the history of art and design.
Animals by Design
Renowned jewellery houses like Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels have also incorporated animal motifs in some of their more lavish creations, adding to the popularity and mass demand for more affordable jewellery pieces on the same theme.
Some of the more iconic animal designs of the past include the Cartier Panther, or Panthère de Cartier for the aficionados.
From its first production in 1914 the Panther line continues to be adored by tastemakers and nostalgics alike and has become an iconic symbol of the brand.
The Bulgari Serpenti collection is also inspired by nature and celebrates renewal and reinvention with a collection that has evolved over time from bold statement pieces to a more understated celebration of the alluring appeal of the serpent.
While not in the wild-animal category, the Tiffany & Co. Bird on a Rock is a celebration of sorts of the natural world. Beloved of celebrities and collectors alike, the Tiffany & Co. bird perches on a gemstone rock in a playful celebration of the eternal appeal of gemstones.
Luckily for us animal jewellery remains just as popular today as it has been in the past. Many of our customers choose our animal-inspired pieces for their unique design and also for their aesthetic appeal.
Perhaps animal-inspired jewellery designs have remained popular because they combine elements of nature, symbolism, aesthetics and personal storytelling, making these designs a popular choice for both visual appeal and as symbols of deeper meaning for the wearer.
Animals are also celebrated as spirit totems and are often worn in jewellery to symbolise the connection of the wearer with the special spiritual significance of the animal.
A totem animal, also known as a spirit animal or power animal, is an animal believed to have a special spiritual or symbolic connection with an individual or a group of people. In various cultures and spiritual beliefs, a totem animal is thought to serve as a guide, protector, or source of inspiration and wisdom.
For example the Native American bear totem is worn to remind the wearer of their ancestors and the importance of fighting for what is right. It is also a powerful symbol of community and interestingly, along with the jaguar it is one of our most popular wild animal jewellery designs.
Do you know what your totem animal is? Some people, and particularly children, are naturally drawn to certain animals and it’s as if they have an innate attraction to the energy of a particular animal.
Native American tribes believe we all have a totem animal, it’s just whether we choose to acknowledge it.
Are you drawn to a certain animal without being able to explain why? Does a certain type of animal appear in your life but you don’t know why? Perhaps you already have a spiritual animal without even knowing it!
Totem animal symbolism
Some people choose to wear a wild animal piece of jewellery because it represents something about their personality or is in tune with their personal strength or even weakness.
The jaguar is one of our most popular designs and no wonder, jaguars are not afraid to walk their own path and are a powerful symbol of majesty and protection.
If you are drawn to this totem it is a reminder to trust your gut and not to be afraid to do things that other people may not necessarily choose, which is an apt description of not only our company ethos but also of many of our lovely customers.
The symbolic meaning of an animal also inspires the reason that a person may choose to wear it.
For example an eagle is the symbol of vision and spiritual awareness and is a popular gift to mark important life events.
Which brings us to the spirituality of animal totems that are often considered spirit guides or offer protection and assistance on a spiritual level. An owl could be gifted as a reminder of the importance of wisdom and study, or a horse totem gifted as a timely reminder to remain resilient in the face of life’s challenges.
Lets explore some more potent animal symbols and the reasons for their enduring appeal.
The Totem Symbol of Growth and Change
Frogs undergo a remarkable transformation from tadpole to adult and are the perfect symbol for growth, change and rebirth.
They can represent the ability to adapt to new situations and the importance of embracing change and transformation in our lives.
Due to their proximity to water frogs are also seen as creatures that clean and purify, representing the need for emotional or spiritual cleansing and renewal and the letting go of negative energy.
For this reason in certain cultures frogs are considered a symbol of luck and a positive omen.
The Potent Symbol of Transformation
Much like the frog the snake is also considered a powerful symbol of rebirth and transformation, in no small part due to its ability to shed its skin.
In many fairytales snakes are associated with cleverness and cunning and this translates to snakes being considered symbols of wisdom and knowledge.
The snake has been a prominent symbol in jewellery throughout history and across many cultures and has often been worn as a talisman for promoting physical and spiritual healing.
The sleek and sinuous lines of the snake’s body is often associated with sensuality, seduction and feminine power. Snake motifs in jewellery often represent feminine energy, allure and the celebration of female sexuality.
The Animal Symbol of Vision and Clarity
The first thing that comes to mind when we think of a giraffe is their grace and elegance. They move with a certain poise and fluidity, there is nothing jarring or rigid about this large yet graceful animal.
With their exceptional vantage point giraffes symbolise the ability to see the bigger picture and the search for clarity and vision in life. Despite their large size giraffes are generally considered gentle and docile creatures, known for their calm demeanour and non-aggressive nature. For this reason they are considered symbols of gentleness and kindness, qualities we could all do well to emulate.
On a spiritual level giraffes are associated with intuitive abilities and are seen as creatures with heightened senses. Giraffe symbolism can be connected to developing one’s intuition and trusting one’s inner guidance.
The Symbolism of the Leopard
The leopard is a majestic and powerful animal and has been revered and represented in various forms of art and jewellery throughout history. The leopard’s sleek and elegant appearance also translates well into jewellery design and can strike a note of elegance and refined style.
The leopard motif is a graceful and elegant symbol as well as a totem animal for personal strength and resilience. Wearing leopard-inspired jewellery can be seen as an expression of a fearless nature, or bravery in the face of adversity.
The leopard's reputation as a mysterious and alluring creature has also made it a symbol of sensuality. Leopard-inspired jewellery can evoke a sense of intrigue, seduction, and confidence in one's own allure.
The leopard's ability to adapt to various environments and its remarkable hunting skills have also made it a symbol of adaptability and resourcefulness.
Leopard-themed jewellery can represent the wearer's ability to navigate through life's challenges and make the best of any situation.
In some cultures, the leopard is believed to possess protective qualities. Wearing leopard-inspired jewellery can be seen as a symbol of protection against negative energies or a connection to guardian spirits.
The Plumed Serpent
We couldn’t complete a blog about animal symbolism in jewellery without a mention of the plumed serpent of Mexican mythology.
The myth of the Mexican plumed serpent, embodied by Quetzalcoatl, is a rich and complex part of Mesoamerican culture, representing a blend of religious beliefs, creation stories, and historical narratives.
It has been a source of inspiration in art, architecture, and literature throughout the centuries, and continues to hold cultural significance in Mexico and other parts of the Americas.
According to mythology, Quetzalcoatl was a powerful and benevolent god associated with wisdom, knowledge, fertility, and creation.
He was believed to have created humanity and taught various arts and sciences to mankind.
Quetzalcoatl was also associated with the wind and was often depicted with colourful plumes, representing the feathers of the quetzal bird, which was considered sacred.
The myth of Quetzalcoatl includes stories of his interactions and journeys among the people. He was seen as a bringer of civilization and was credited with the introduction of agriculture, calendars, and other important cultural advancements.
Interestingly, Quetzalcoatl was often depicted as a peaceful and gentle deity, promoting virtues such as honesty and fairness. The myth of Quetzalcoatl also incorporates elements of sacrifice and rebirth.
According to some versions of the legend, Quetzalcoatl promised to return after he departed, leading to the belief in his eventual return as a saviour figure. This belief played a significant role in the encounters between the indigenous peoples of Mexico and the Spanish conquistadors, as some believed the arrival of the Spanish was the return of Quetzalcoatl. How different Mexican history would have been without the intervention of this deity!
Whatever the reason you choose to wear a piece of jewellery inspired by a wild animal it makes a statement about your style choice and speaks volumes about who you are as a person.
Better still, give the gift of a wild animal totem to someone special to convey these traits and encapsulate the essence of what they mean to you in animal form.