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April 08, 2021
Circle Symbolism in Jewelry: Shaping Connection & Hope
The sun rises and sets. Autumn leaves fade, and new life grows each spring. These are things we can count on.
In an unpredictable world, the circle is our constant. It’s the sun that gives us warmth, the moon that offers light in darkness, the beauty of a prickly pear flower in full bloom. Just as the wheel set the world in motion — literally — the circle has also been there as a grounding force in our lives. It’s a tangible symbol of our connection to nature and to each other.
I’ve always been drawn to this deceptively simple shape. Wearing any of the pieces in my Luna Collection, comprised of handmade circle jewelry, I feel calm, whole and connected — aware of my past and open to what wonders my future may bring. And I’m not alone; the circle is an integral part of the historical jewelry making tradition. Imagine the first time someone formed a piece of bodily adornment in the shape of a circle - how amazing it must have been to find a shape as perfect as the sun in the sky! Then and now, this sacred geometry comforts us with the rhythm of life and reminds us that we are part of something bigger than ourselves.
Circle Jewelry: A Little History
Necklaces, rings, bracelets, clasps, the individual links that form a chain — these are the building blocks of jewelry as we know it. It’s hard to separate this essential shape from the ancient art of decorating our bodies. As humans first began to cut gems and solder metal, the circle became the perfect expression of form and function.
Nature, of course, was our first teacher. The sun and moon above, the two most prominent spheres in our lives, gave human existence a cyclical rhythm that was hardly lost on our ancestors. In pre-colonial New Mexico, the Zuni created the dazzling and intricate sun face as homage to their Sun Father deity. This circular shape, often inlaid with semi-precious stones like turquoise, mother-of-pearl and coral, represented a deep faith in nature and an understanding that our fortunes were inextricably intertwined. The burst of green after seasonal rains. The miracle of agriculture. The Zuni were skilled farmers, and they understood that the lives of countless individuals depended on the singular truth of the circle.
It’s humbling to realize how adept our ancestors were at noticing the world around them. The ancient Babylonians and Sumerians were surprisingly good at observing the skies — and they calculated the length of the solar year with amazing precision. The sun, in particular, with its brilliant golden sparkle and command over the seasons, became a potent symbol of royalty, and the perfection to which we all can strive.
The famous tomb of Sumerian Queen Puabi at Ur, contains some of the oldest metal jewelry archaeologists have ever found. It’s a treasure trove of elaborate headdresses, earrings and necklaces with cascades of interconnected golden circles. From the hoop earrings and to the rings dangling from the headdress, to the circular shape inherent in the headdress, it's layers upon layers of circles. (Today, Queen Elizabeth II’s traditionally round crown, inlaid with jewels, and her gold Sovereign’s Orb made a strong case that royal sentiments haven’t changed that much).
But if you had to choose a symbol that speaks to everyone, rich or poor, royal or common, the circle would be it. In the Far East, this smooth, unassuming shape offered a pathway to personal fulfillment — not by invoking some sense of unattainable perfection, but by teaching people how to find peace and strength in a world that doled out challenges on a daily basis.
Just as the Hindu idea of karma created a cyclical framework of natural consequence without judgement, the Chinese yin-yang embraced the circle as a way to make sense of the dueling forces we contend with every day. Good and evil, feminine and masculine, light and dark, strength and weakness — the yin yang explained these contradictions as part of a larger whole. By embracing the totality of life, we didn’t have to fight or make excuses. Better yet, we could learn from the circle, and this wisdom would always move us forward.
It’s really impossible to overstate how important the circle is to us, and how much we adore the feel of this pure shape on our skin. The first engagement rings in Ancient Rome were simple iron bands, round and unbroken to symbolize eternal commitment. Today, we may have changed some of the details, but the spirit is the same. Abundance, acceptance, love, and continuity — the circle offers up everything a person could possibly need to survive, and thrive.
Circle Jewelry Today
Everything old is new again. I firmly believe that. Even after thousands of years, we still rely on the circle to create necklaces, rings, bracelets, and pendants, and we’re still in the thrall of its understated power. You may have noticed that many Lila Clare Jewelry pieces are inspired by the circle. I adore its pure, uncomplicated strength, and I’m humbled by its ancient roots. In particular, I’m drawn to a few circle-inspired symbols that have particular meaning for me: the moon and the family.
Luna Collection: I created my Luna Collection to celebrate the mystical power of the moon and the celestial bodies that shape the rhythms of our days. The moon, in particular, guides us in ways that are both far-reaching and deeply intimate. It commands the rise and fall of the tides that brings life to our beaches — just as it guides the monthly cycle of our bodies. The moon is far enough away to demand amazement and yet close enough to show us its cratered face. It’s like a piece of heaven you can (almost) touch.
The simple handmade silver and gold hoops in my Luna collection are my way of harnessing that fleeting celestial moment and bringing it down to earth. These pieces range from minimalist open circle shapes, like my Cynthia Five Linked Circle Necklace that offers a hint of the moon in its phases, to the interconnected weaving of circles in the Cynthia Circle Nest Necklace.
Mother & Family: The cradle of a mother’s arms, the swell of a growing belly, the warmth of a family gathered around the table — these powerful images of connection and encircling love are what inspired many of the handmade linked circle necklaces in the Luna Collection. I make silver and gold necklaces with interconnected circle pendants for moms to celebrate this momentous rite of passage.
These threads of connections are why I create circles pieces for you. Dr. Brené Brown wrote, "I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” It is my joy that I am able to create something to symbolize that connection and those relationships.
The history of this sacred geometrical shape in jewelry is an age-old one. I believe that my use of the circle in the jewelry I make for you connects us both back to those ancient people. I hope this simple, powerful symbol can be source of strength and hope in your life too. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any thoughts to share. I’d love to hear what the circle means to you!
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