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How symbols speak

How symbols speak image

Social reality is not fixed or unchanging. People are continually constructing and reconstructing their identity and reality through interacting with others. An essential component of this creative interaction is the use of symbols. Spoken or printed words are symbols, as are many nonverbal gestures. Symbols in their various forms are the basis of social life because they create a shared meaning in both the expresser and the recipient. 

Over the next 8 weeks, I will choose 8 symbols to elaborate on. The actual symbols are being created into various items of jewellery, which you can view @african_muse. Their creator, Shirley Larkan, is known for her use of symbols within pieces. In her own words:


Jewellery is already an emotionally invested purchase because one is either buying a gift for someone they care about to mark a significant occasion or they are celebrating some milestone or achievement themselves. How much more enjoyable is the giving, receiving or purchasing of that piece if it is deeply meaningful and highly symbolic? Because of the archaic, almost alchemic process of smelting raw gold or silver and transforming it into a beautiful piece of jewellery, especially if it is skilfully handmade, jewellery naturally lends itself to talismanic representation.

A great deal of thought goes into the jewellery I make. Each piece has specific meaning whether it harnesses the power of sacred symbols or has inspirational quotes engraved or combines these with delicious gemstones. Most gems have meaning and history attached to them as well - for example: Silver Topaz symbolises the promotion of truth and forgiveness. Topaz is known as "The Stone of Love and Good Fortune.


Ruby is symbolic of deep passion and a valiant heart. Carnelian was worn by ancient warriors going into battle because they felt it gave them courage and protection (we can all use a little of that) and one of my favourites - Iolite was used by ancient mariners as a navigation tool

because its crystal structure shows a different colour when you look through it from different angles. When I wear carnelian it reminds me to be courageous and that I am protected. When I wear Iolite, it’s a physical reminder to navigate my day consciously and thoughtfully.


Talismanic jewellery works on conscious and subconscious levels and represents a positive transformation of character and inspiration for the wearer. 

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