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History of the Cross in Jewelry

There is not a more iconic symbol of Christianity than the cross. The cross is the great touchstone of the Christian faith; without it and the subsequent resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, there is no Christian faith. A cross was required for the Savior to bear the curse of our sin in order for that curse to be taken away from us (Galatians 3:13).

It is no wonder then that the cross has become ubiquitous anywhere the Christian faith has proliferated, from crowning the pinnacles of great cathedrals to adorning the sides of great hospitals, orphanages, mission houses, and other venues of grace and mercy. It is also unsurprising that Christians have felt the desire to proclaim their faith in the sacrifice of their Savior by adorning their necks and wrists with the symbol of execution that was transformed by Jesus Christ into a symbol of redemption, forgiveness, reconciliation, and victory. 

Wearing jewelry in the shape of a silver or gold cross goes back to the earliest days of the church, even when Christians faced severe persecution for their faith. During these earliest centuries of the church, clandestine symbols of the faith were needed to help beleaguered Christians differentiate between friend and foe. The fish or Ichthus symbol was often used as a code between them identifying a fellow believer from an unbeliever. The cross could also have been used in a similar fashion, as showing a cross to an unbeliever would have been mystifying (maybe even a little macabre), but for a fellow believer would be a symbol on which their life and faith literally rested.

The Cross in Early Christian Jewelry

This is why crosses worn as jewelry have been uncovered from as early as the 6th century, and likely go back much further. This was particularly so among clergy, who then, as now, use the cross to identify the object to which pointing people is their life’s work. This also began in the earliest days of Christianity, particularly so after Christianity became accepted, and then the official religion of the Roman Empire. But for both clergy and laypeople alike, the cross was a symbol of their devotion to a Savior who had suffered and died upon it for their salvation. 

Unfortunately, in the Dark Ages that would follow the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, superstition and barbarism could often be found replacing the devotion that once was denoted by wearing the cross. Many Medieval Europeans treated the crosses they wore as talismans, hoping it would drive away evil spirits or disease. During the Black Death, sales of cross jewelry exploded, as Europeans hoped in vain that whatever evil forces were causing half of their neighbors to be wiped out would be halted by the presence of a cross (although to be fair to them, given the desperation of the moment, there is every reason to believe that we today would be little more reasonable than they were, especially in light of some of the behavior seen in the past two years).

Likewise, before the plague struck, crusaders “took up the cross”, literally embroidering or wearing a cross on their clothing as they visited death on their enemies, including, unfortunately, thousands of innocents in both Europe and the Middle East. The cross and the jewelry worn by the Inquisitors of Europe likewise became a symbol of terror to those who they tortured and oppressed throughout Europe and the Americas. 

Sadly, similar desecration (and possibly even worse) of this beautiful symbol has often been found in our own day, as cross jewelry is often found as a symbol of the dark Gothic subculture that has developed in the last decades. In fact, some in this dark subculture even wear an inverted cross, a blasphemous symbol of their rejection of Christianity. The pop star Madonna has also often featured crosses in similar blasphemous ways. Truly, whatever is beautiful in Christ, Satan is quick to copy and desecrate. 

Despite all of this, in stark contrast to how it’s been perverted, both the crucifix and the cross remain a potent symbol of the majesty and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is why the apostle Paul could claim without hesitation or embarrassment, “But we preach Christ crucified” (I Corinthians 1:23). In the same way, we too can proclaim with the same boldness, hopefully both in the words we speak as well as the jewelry we wear our hope that because of what our Savior did on the cross, we are assured that our sins are forgiven and that we will be spending eternity in heaven with Him, that we have this hope because he bore “our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness, by whose stripes ye were healed” (I Peter 2:24).

That is a message well worth both sharing and wearing.

Apples of Gold Jewelry is a Christian-owned fine jewelry company that specializes in both silver and gold crosses as well as platinum crosses for men and women, in addition to a variety of rings, wedding bands, engagement rings, gemstones and diamonds.

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Christian Jewelry, Cross Jewelry, Jewelry History