Here’s Why Horn Amulets Are Worn To Protect Sperm, Among Other Things

When it comes to gems the hidden ones are often stories, not stones. Welcome to Demystified, where we look beyond the jewelry box, past our closets, and into the depths of our most cherished possessions to reveal their cross-cultural significance.
There are a number of distinguishing features that characterize the southern Italian, namely: sun-touched complexions, scalps blessed with an abundance of wavy locks, and chests decorated with various iterations of a chili pepper-like pendant. While necklaces certainly aren't biological attributes, this curvy, horn-shaped one in particular is so commonly worn among such folk — and those who came before them — that it practically evolved into an extra appendage for members of the Italian population it now represents. 
You'll find this amulet incorporated in the work of Cristina Cipolli, an Italian jewelry designer who draws inspiration from tribal traditions and ancient civilizations. An architect by trade, Cipolli's fascination with the horn is largely rooted in its striking geometry, but the plurality of its meaning across the globe is an equally compelling reason to use the shape. "A cornicello, or corno portafortuna, is an Italian talisman worn to protect against the evil eye and bad luck in general, and historically to promote fertility and virility," she says of the pendant, which is traditionally crafted from red coral, gold or silver. Because Italians have long believed male genitalia to be a target of the wandering evil eye and its nefarious intentions, the cornicello functions like a jewelry jockstrap that doesn't require below-the-belt placement to be effective. It's something you'll find affixed to necks and rearview mirrors alike as a public declaration of reproductive force, good fortune and national pride, particularly in the country's Campania region.
In Italian culture, among others, the horn naturally personifies strength considering its innate purpose as a weapon for animals. Yet its durability can also be interpreted as salvation and immortality. "They can even be fabulous and magic when thought of with the mystical unicorn," Cipolli says. But the significance of this object extends far beyond the realm of fantasy and Southern Italy's rugged, citrusy terrain. In areas of East Africa, for example, decorative pieces fashioned out of this material can indicate wealth and tribe affiliation. The more horn used and worn in jewelry suggests the ownership of livestock, rendering items made from it aspirational and the symbol itself a representation of status.
"Our earliest ancestors ascribed meaning and magic to feathers, bones, stones and even tree bark. They wore or carried these amulets for protection or to enhance their strength, courage or sexual attraction," Cipolli explains. "Over time, these were replaced with symbolic objects." So even if you're not in the market for sperm-shielding accessories, horn-shaped pieces and charms come with a certain tenacity that can still be feminine in the fiercest of ways. Ahead, shop a selection of necklaces, bracelets, and earrings that embody this power. 

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