Jewelry semiotics

Hello, Orchidians!

I’m starting my college graduation project, and it is about the
language of the adornment, focusing on the jewel. Imagine that: Some
people wear black clothes because they want to feel slimmer, chic,
whatever. How could that apply to jewelry? Is there a kind of jewel
that can make you feel stronger, or fancier, or modern, or evem

Please, tell me your experiences on that. Have you had requests for
some specific kind of jewel because it would cause some kind of
impression on the person wearing it? Have you seen some jewels that
actually changed your impression on the wearer?

And if anyone has read something related on a book or website,
please tell me!

Priscilla in Sao Paulo, where the sun is beginning to outshine the

well one type of jewel is the precious stone that comes from the
earth, another is a creation, so awe inspiring, beautiful, cosmic
and earthful, that to wear it, or behold it, is like being close to
a loved one, or orgasmically massaging the ground or other living
things with your hands, body, or mind. These jewels constantly flow
from us, or try to, if we can see it, only impeded by forgetting
the real riches, for whatever reason, and there are many.dp

Hello priscilla I am glad that someone is making a serious work on
your subject I could have a long conversation on it, but since this
is email I�ll try to keep it short, simple and contemporary since
examples of the meaning of jewelry and the power and status it gives
to the wearer have been numerous throughout time, starting with the
chaman�s magical ornaments all the way to the crown�s jewels that
besides opulence have been a symbol of hierarchical status for
hundreds of years.

Most of the jewelry I�m requested to make is either for really large
or small people since the standard does not fit. Jewelry as any
other accessory compliments not only what the person wears but helps
to enhance the person�s body.

For example I�ve had short clients that think that any dangling
earring will make them look shorter but on the contrary slim
dangling earrings will make them look taller if the earrings have
the right length, these slim long dangling earrings most of the time
are too long and would have probably touched their shoulders which
makes them look short necked. That�s why custom made jewelry in this
case provides the chance to measure that short person�s body to make
a pair of earrings which will probably make the person look taller.

Other problem area is the hands mostly big hands that besides the
ring size which they never seem to find the proportion ofthe entire
ring is wrong, sometimes one can stretch the ring but it will still
look small just by the proportion it has with the width of the
finger. men�s rings seem to have this problem. Big strong hands can
carry really enormous rings without looking out of proportion.

The material used is most of the time regarded as the thermometer
for how luxurious the jewel is, For example the use of gold,
platinum and precious stones. However in contemporary jewelry it is
greatly accepted the use of other less expensive materials if the
design is ingenious or innovative enough. That would lead us to
designer jewelry, designer logos and designer icons which sometimes
are by themselves a symbol of status for thewearer.

I hope this helps, if this is what you wanted and need to discuss
any of the subjects I�d be glad to help you can write to me to my
address I would be very grateful if I could
read your finished work.

Julieta Odio Bernardi
Costa Rica

Dear Priscilla,

I can’t answer your specific questions (which I suspect need to be
situated culturally and, at least, In terms of gender–see Orchid
archives for the latter) but, if you haven’t read a lot of back
issues of Metalsmith or Ornament, I suggest you do so. Especially the
former, which sometimes seems overrun by semiotically inclined
discourse. And there is, of course, an entire (and contradictory)
magical language of stones and metals…for which the most accessible
resource is probably the books of the late Scott Cunningham.

Good Luck,
Lisa Orlando
Aphrodite’s Ornaments

Hi, Lisa!

but, if you haven't read a lot of back issues of Metalsmith or
Ornament, I..." 

What are those, paper magazines? Sorry i did not mention that, but i
am in Brazil, and never heard of them, but i was instantly interested
in subscribing! Could you tell me a website or an adress related to

And i do agree with you that this study might not cover all kinds of
cultures, but i intend to base it on the theory that there are some
things that are universal, and try to find this universal “rule” for
beauty (some might say it�s the golden number, or the pi) and that
there are some universal rules for the language of adornment… too
crazy of mine?


Hi, Priscilla,

If you scroll through the listings at the beginning of Orchid, you
will find the link for SNAG, which publishes Metalsmith. On their
site, they have some sample contents pages, which might give you a
sense of what they’re into.

Ornament is also a US magazine–a gorgeous one–but has very little
“web presence” (except for various sites that sell back issues–enter
“Ornament Magazine” in your search engine). However, I would try
emailing one of the editors, Dr. Robert Lui, at
he’s a scholar, seems very accessible, would probably find your
project interesting, and might be able to steer you to resources.
He’s one of my favorite people (among the ones I don’t actually

As for a “deep structure” for a language of adornment–well, I have
my doubts (except, perhaps, regarding “maximum sparkle”). I suspect
that finding a universal rule for beauty is a rather large project
for a senior thesis! However, if you want to have fun thinking about
this from the perspective of the “golden number,” read “The Da Vinci
Code”–a novel currently selling like hotcakes in the US. Or enter
“jewelry (or, better yet, ‘jewellery’) semiotics” in Google–there’s
some pretty strange stuff out there in cyberland.

Best wishes,

Hi Priscilla,

What are those, paper magazines? Sorry i did not mention that, but
i am in Brazil, and never heard of them, but i was instantly
interested in subscribing! Could you tell me a website or an adress
related to it? 

I just noticed that no one responded so I’ll jump in here. Yes,
they are paper magazines and well worth subscribing to.

Ornament does not have a website (how odd!). Foreign subscriptions
are $39.52 per year for four issues (it’s a quarterly magazine).
According to their subscription card, you need to send your name and
full address with your check or Visa/MasterCard number (and
expiration date) to Ornament, P.O. Box 452, Mount Morris, IL
61054-7412. Or you can call 1-800-888-8950 (may not work from
Brazil) or 1-760-599-0222.

Metalsmith is published by the Society of North American Goldsmiths
(SNAG) and you’ll find subscription info at


Amulets & Superstitions" by E. A. Wallis Budge is a great book for
getting a basic understanding of why people originally, and perhaps
still, select jewels and gems for adornment. Its an old book, 1930,
but I believe is still available in paperback. It is mostly based on
museum artifacts, and cultural descriptions. I am currently rereading
it for a refresher, and new design inspiration. Ed-

Amulets and Superstitions
by E. A. Wallis Budge
Price:   $11.17 
Paperback: 584 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.18 x 8.48 x 5.40 
Publisher: Dover Pubns; (June 1978)

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