Talismans, amulets, and lucky charms — often in the form of animal sculpture or jewelry — have been used by cultures throughout the world since ancient times, and are thought to be the earliest objects designed by humankind. The fact that these objects were often made with precious metals and stones, and during a time when most people spent most of their time struggling to survive, is a sign that they held an importance beyond mere decoration — these items were likely held to be sacred and used in rituals to invoke magical powers and protect people from harm.
Maybe it’s the fact that the world is currently a pretty scary place, but talismanic charms have made a comeback at all levels of fashion. Insta-girls are currently obsessed with wearing medallion necklaces of saints (possibly inspired by the
Yeezy collaboration with Jacob the jeweler) or their zodiac signs. On the runway, Dior’s Maria Grazia Chiuri has made celestial themes a hallmark of her collections, while Alessandro Michele at Gucci routinely summons a whole ark’s worth of power animals and flora that simultaneously invoke the house's history, raw nature, and its stately renderings in fine art.
Then, of course, there’s Miuccia
Prada’s Talisman collection, a unisex jewelry line featuring animals from the fearsome (bears, lions) to the whimsical (birds, monkeys), raw crystals, and mismatched shells. Can these objects really ward off evil-doers and summon good fortune? The jury’s still out — but in these uncertain times, we’ll take a little everyday magic wherever we can get it.
Read on for the meaning being 10 of our favorite lucky charms.
Bees — Hard work & Nobility Bees have appeared on Gucci scarves, belts, bags, and jewelry since the ‘70s, and Alessandro Michele, in his atavistic wisdom, has brought them back in a big way. (Bees are also a symbol of nobility in Europe, and are carved into many buildings in Gucci’s home base of Rome, making them the perfect symbol of the house’s past and present). Enterprising, hard-working, and highly cooperative, bees are a model for how to get shit done in a group — which means they're are the perfect power animal to wear to work. Gucci Bee Brooch with Crystals and Pearls, $790, available at Gucci.
Of course, all that hard work is in the service of one woman — the queen bee. Let ‘em know you’re royalty, not one of the drones.
Venessa Arizaga Queen Bee Bracelet, $55, available at Venessa Arizaga.
Chakras — Spirituality & Balance The Sanskrit word chakra means “wheel,” and in Ayurvedic medicine, chakras are a series of spinning energy centers throughout the body which, when balanced and open, lead to a state of perfect physical, mental, and spiritual health. On the other hand, when your chakras are out of wack, you might feel sick or sad. Luckily, Ayurveda developed a precise system of keeping each chakra in balance through meditation, nutrition, and different colors, exercises, or sounds. Brooklyn-based jewelry brand Olivia Kane’s chakra collection uses crystals and semi-precious stones to open and balance each chakra. This ring’s raw amethyst nurtures your Third Eye, which is located between your eyebrows and is said to be the seat of intuition and spiritual knowing. Olivia Kane Third Eye Chakra Double Ring, from $323, available at Olivia Kane.
This pendant sports the inverted triangle-lotus symbol associated with the third eye, plus an agate stone for a double dose of Third Eye activation.
Satya Jewelry Third Eye Chakra Necklace, $89, available at Wolf & Badger.
Elephant — Good Fortune Elephants symbolize power and wisdom in many African cultures, while Hindus revere the elephant god Ganesh as a provider of good fortune and remover of obstacles. In less godlike form, the elephant has become a playful hallmark on the runways, appearing in bag form at Loewe and Moschino. Erica Weiner’s hollow ring contains a real elephant hair, visible through cutouts. It’s a nod to a Victorian-era jewelry trend — but unlike in the bad old days, this hair is cut from living, rescued working elephants who have been re-homed at animal sanctuaries, and proceeds from each sale go to support their care. Erica Weiner Elephant Hair Ring, $55, available at Erica Weiner.
The elephant on this silver chain adds a welcome touch of whimsy, and maybe a little luck, to a simple necklace.
Tiffany & Co. Save The Wild Elephant Charm, $150, available at Tiffany & Co.
Evil Eye — Protection From Harm The evil eye is a common motif in jewelry throughout Middle Eastern and Asian cultures. The blue, all-seeing decorative eyes are thought to protect the wearer against all manner of misfortune caused by envious or malevolent people. Evil eyes: the original hater-blockers. APM Monaco Yellow Silver Mini Lucky Eye Ring, $73, available at APM Monaco.
Or, if you really want to commit (or just have a lot of haters), Lito’s pendant necklace is a can’t-miss message to any evil intentions floating around.
Lito Tu Es Partout 14-karat Rose Gold Enamel Necklace, $1,225, available at Net-A-Porter.
Hands — Connection In Muslim and Jewish cultures, hamsa or hamesh hands are used on jewelry and home decor as a protective amulet against envy, similar to the evil eye motif (they’ve also been spotted on the Gucci runway, and adorning many a hippie’s neck). These designs are a little different, though — unlike the open-palm, decorative hamsa, they feature more lifelike, sculptural hands that function as a symbol of human kindness and connection. Alice Waese Delicate Hand Pendant, $2,436, available at Farfetch.
New York designer Susan Alexandra says her touch lariat necklace symbolizes your “potential to shape the world” — and she’ll even paint the fingernails the color of your choice.
Susan Alexandra Touch Necklace, $85, available at Susan Alexandra.
Lion — Bravery Lions are a recurring theme in world mythology, on the Gucci runway, and in jewelry shops for obvious reasons: the proud, fearsome lion can inspire you to stand up a little taller and maybe even roar back when you need to. Like the biblical Daniel and the lion, stories about facing down the king of beasts are stories about facing down your worst fears with conviction. Alighieri, a London-based jewelry label inspired by Dante’s epic poem the Divine Comedy, offers a more abstract take on the mythology with this double-pendant featuring the lion who confronts Dante in the beginning of the poem — symbolizing fear of death, and the obstacles on Dante’s journey toward enlightenment, and from which the poet Virgil saves him. Alighieri Dante and the Lion Necklace, $284.08, Alighieri.
Retrouvai’s signet ring is engraved inside with the words “fearless and extraordinary” to really drive the point home.
Retrouvai Grandfather Fantasy Signet Ring, $2,300, Barneys New York.
Moon — Mystery & Feminine Power Earth’s big gray satellite is symbolic of mystery, eternal wisdom, and the cycles of birth, life, and death. It also embodies a specifically feminine power — after all, women’s menstrual cycles run on lunar time, and the moon’s gravitational pull is a force powerful enough to control the tides. The moon is deep, people. No wonder it’s been always been a fixture of jewelry, and designers from Chanel to Dior to Pucci and Prada can’t resist it. Delfina Delettrez Big Earclipse Earrings, $5,950, available at The Webster.
Wear these dainty crescent earrings when you want to harness just a little bit of lunar power.
J.Crew Moon Drop Earrings, $24.50, available at J.Crew.
Nautilus — Fearless Evolution Prada’s Talisman collection, a unisex jewelry line introduced for fall 2017, featured an ark’s worth of birds, monkeys, bears, elephants, and countless other animals. But the most striking pieces were the conch shell necklaces. In Prada’s hands, the mismatched shells looked raw, eclectic, and cool. But unless you have thousands to spend on the luxury version, you’re going to be stuck with the standard, small, basic conch necklace that every sorority girl buys in a head shop during her freshman-year rebrand. Ditto the puka shell necklace, which Louis Vuitton flirted with in its spring 2018 men’s collection. Instead, try nautilus jewelry. Like all shells, it’s associated with luck in shamanism. The nautilus is also a creature which adds new chambers to its mother of pearl-lined shell as it outgrows the old one, making it a symbol of growth, expansion, and renewal. Aurelie Bidermann Nautilus Keeper 18-karat Gold Multi-stone Earring, $2,975, available at Net-A-Porter.
If anatomically correct sea creatures aren’t your jam, honor your evolution with Venezuelan designer Monica Sardo’s geometric, Art Deco-ish take on the nautilus.
Monica Sordo Obsidian Nautilus Earfan Baby Earrings, $340, available at Moda Operandi.
Rabbit — Cunning & Luck Never underestimate a rabbit just because it’s cute and fuzzy. The rabbit’s observant nature and nimble reflexes make it good at evading trouble — maybe one reason they’re associated with good luck in the Chinese zodiac and Celtic mythology (and thus the reason many a poor bunny has lost its foot). Rabbits are also closely linked with spring, making them symbols of fertility and abundance — it’s said dreaming of a rabbit is a sure sign good things are coming your way. Ariel Gordon The Menagerie Bunny Necklace, $345, available at Ariel Gordon.
Double-down on your totem animal with Verameat’s delicate-yet-weathered double-bunny ring.
Verameat Bunny Love Ring in Sterling Silver, $68, Verameat.
Zodiac — Connection To The Heavens The most common superstition of all: the zodiac. The modern zodiac wheel and its 12 astrological signs was developed by Ancient Babylonian astronomers about 7,000 years ago, with later additions from Greek, Roman, and Arabic scholars and myths. In Ptolemy’s day, the effect of the constellations on earthly happenings was considered a science. That’s not so much the case in 2017, but that doesn’t stop lots of us from deriving symbolic strength from astrological totems, whether it’s an Aries' headstrong ram or a Leo’s proud, preening lion. Carolina Bucci Pisces Lucky Zodiac Bracelet, $3,044.10, available at Carolina Bucci.
Zodiac themes are big in fashion these days, on the runway — Maria Grazia Chiuri featured them heavily in her first two couture collections at Dior — and you can’t walk two feet in a fast-fashion store without tripping over a zodiac medallion. Which is why we like pieces that are a little more unexpected, like these cut-out hoop earrings featuring your sign.
Urban Outfitters Etched Zodiac Statement Hoop Earring, $18, available at Urban Outfitters.