I am a man of reason, culture, and science. I hold to no religion and subscribe to none of the New Age movements currently circulating in the world. But I do have boundless curiosity in the belief systems of other people. Most of my friends adhere to a kind of vague religiosity.
But I have one or two who are into the even vaguer spiritualism that puts nature at the center. That is, they turn to it for inspiration. Now when I think of nature, I think of evolution and the expanding universe. To my spiritualistic friends, nature is something more elusive.
They believe that wearing certain accessories that are inspired by nature has the power to restore their energies and lift up their mood. They believe these things can ease anxious or depressed thoughts and bring meaningfulness, vitality, calm, and balance to their lives.
They are especially interested in nature jewelry. Wearing such pieces not only has a positive impact on their lives, in their view, but they also look good on them. On this last point, I heartily agree. Many of the pieces I have seen my nature friends wearing are quite stunning.
In the end, good jewelry is good jewelry, no matter what other function and meaning it may have. As a writer, I make it my business to learn everything I can about any subject I have taken an interest in. Below I have written a summary of different types of nature jewelry.
Types of Nature Jewelry
Here are some of the most popular types of nature-inspired jewelry. The list is not complete, but it will give you a sense of the kinds of things that nature-loving people wear.
I have often seen one or another of my nature friends wear earrings that look like leaves, or are meant to do so. The thing that amazes me most about this particular form of jewelry is how real it looks. They even come in styles that symbolize the changing of the seasons. Popular leaf jewelry includes:
Seashells are a common nature jewelry theme and inspiration for jewelry designers. They typically are based on various shells but can also be based on various marine wildlife such as shell fish, dolphins, whales and other sea creatures/fish. Here are some examples of our favorites by Morning Moon.
Morning Moon designs and sells a variety of seashell jewelry including limpet, mussel nautilus, sand dollar starfish, sea urchin and scallop shell jewelry.
3. Bee jewelry
Bees are a beloved insect. While our world needs all insects, we love the bee for the honey it provides and how they help our flowers. Despite their sting, we love the bee and so it’s also an inspirational subject for nature jewelry. Here’s one of our favorites:
4. Feather studs
These are sometimes infused with gold. (No one said a nature-lover has to lack style). They will suit anyone with minimalist tastes. My friends often wear such studs with a thin gold chain or simple band ring.
5. Tree Jewelry
This can consist of anything from a birch bark pattern to a spruce silhouette. The main point of this type of jewelry is to appear tree-like in look and color.
Tree jewelry can include the trunk, leaves, branches or all of it. The above is an example of a cedar leaf (a very popular inspiration for jewelry.
Here’s another great example of tree jewelry – the
6. Flowers and floral motifs
We are quite a distance in time from the hippie movement. However, the flower-child motif never really went away. It has been modernized and upgraded. I have seen dresses, tops, skirts, and even trousers designed in extravagant floral patterns. And, interesting enough, they work!
6. Mini-owl earrings
This type of nature jewelry is so different that it startles at first and then amuses. These accessories come in very small and minimalist designs. They can be worn with autumn oranges, reds, and yellows.
7. Starfish jewelry
This is the perfect thing for a nature-lover to wear during the summer. They are especially nice when worn at the pool or the beach.
8. Turtle jewelry
Turtles are some of the oldest animals on the planet. It is no wonder that some people are obsessed by them. One of my friends is mad about turtles. She has a mini-turtle of some kind in every room in her house. She also wears a turtle anklet in summer, which is cute and fun to look at.
There is little doubt that pearls are beautiful. They are one of the most inspiring naturally occurring things to look at. Freshwater pearl necklaces are very popular among nature lovers.
The stars shine bright at night. This naturally occurring phenomenon has inspired humankind since the time that our species came into existence. Star-inspired jewelry is perfect to wear year-round. I have seen it come in a 10k cluster stud. However, there are other options for people on a budget.
The moon has taken on even more meaning than the stars. It is closer to home, so to speak. The moon is symbolic to humans for many reasons. However, when cast in a certain light, it is absolutely stunning. Lunar motifs are in a great deal of nature-inspired jewelry. I have seen them as part of earring sets and as the main pattern on dresses.
The large fiery ball at the center of our solar system is also a favorite motif for nature-inspired jewelry. One of the more interesting pieces of jewelry I have seen is a diamond-cut sun charm. It is a bit vintage, and has an old school witchy look. It is perfect for the summer.
Where to buy great nature jewelry:
Check out our extensive list of the best nature jewelry stores online.
A History of Jewelry
Jewelry has a long and interesting history. In a way, it can be said that for most of the history of humankind people wore nature-inspired jewelry. In that sense, today’s nature-inspired jewelry is nothing new. In fact, it is a kind of continuation of a jewelry-making and wearing tradition that goes back to the cavemen.
Our ancestors wore jewelry made of feathers, bones, shells, and colored pebbles. The latter were gems admired for their beauty and durability as adornments. People often associate jewelry with diamonds. However, diamonds did not become popular until human being learned how to cut them to show their sparkling brilliance.
This did not happen until around 1300. To get a real sense of how this type of accessory developed as a form of fashion, it is necessary to go back even further in time. The earliest findings of jewelry date back to 25,000 years ago. The oldest example we have is a simple necklace made of fish bone, which was found in a cave in Monaco.
It is hard to tell what it was meant to signify. The simplicity and crudity of the object is such that probably anyone could have made it. We may never know what drove the craftsman to make it or who was intended to wear it, but this simple artifact tells us that nature-inspired jewelry in particular has been around since the dawn of human existence.
As humans began to gather into larger and larger communities, jewelry took on more meaning. In the earliest societies, it was worn as amulets to protect against bad luck and illness. Later on, jewelry came to signify human connection, commitment, and even bondage.
Civilization brought slavery. And some of the earliest enslaved people were made to wear bracelets to show who they belonged to. Wedding rings symbolized the commitment two people had for each other—a practice that is still in use today.
And in early Christian Europe, wealthy and high-ranking church officials were allowed to wear gemstones to signify their wealth and power. The making and wearing of jewelry were practiced around the world. Wherever human civilization took root, jewelry could be found.
In early Mediterranean and Near East civilizations, including modern-day Iran, people wore simple stone amulets and seals. Many of the latter had spiritual texts, stars, and floral designs embedded in them. Jewelry was offered to the gods and used to dress statues.
Jewelry certainly played an important role in ancient Egypt. One of the most important pieces consisted of multiple strains of beads of various colors. This is still popular today. Egyptians also wore amulets and talismans. The ankh, a symbol of life, was also a common motif.
As most people know, Egyptian pharaohs were buried with their household treasures, which included all their jewels. This is one of the reasons why we know so much about the types of jewelry that were prevalent back then. These items have been well-preserved over thousands of years.
What they show us is that the Egyptians believed strongly in color. They thought that it reflects aspects of personality, which is why color symbolism was so important. Yellow and gold were associated with the sun and were always used in crowns and ornaments for the pharaoh and his priests.
A green stone was put in the mouths of pharaohs to restore speech in the other world. Greek civilization was greatly informed by the Egyptians. The Greeks were prolific writers. But they did not limit themselves to philosophy, history, and politics.
They also wrote about jewelry and its impact on day-to-day Greek life. Greek jewelry was rich and varied. It reflected the prosperity of Greek society. The first pieces of Greek jewelry were crude copies of Eastern motifs.
They started developing their own style later on. This latter reflected their beliefs in their gods. Greek jewelry included crowns, earrings, bracelets, rings, hairpins, necklaces, and brooches. Greek women sometimes wore necklaces with 75 or more dangling miniature vases.
The Romans came next. As Rome conquered and pillaged, its wealth increased significantly. This was seen in the types of jewelry worn by its citizens. Although Rome is known as the embodiment of rationality, order, and law, it was a society filled with superstition and religion.
Myth and magic dictated the kind of gems people wore. Roman women also wore hairpins that not only helped them keep up appearances, but were also used as weapons in self-defense. Jewelry made of gold coins became popular, and Romans wore bracelets for the wrist and upper arms.
The coming of the Christian era changed the composition of jewelry significantly in the West. Although known primarily for the dominance of the different Christian churches, Christian Europe inherited the melting pot of peoples from the fallen Roman Empire. Various designs were carried into Europe by trade, marriage, and war.
After the first collapse of Rome in the 5th century CE, life became harder for peoples throughout Europe. They could no longer depend on the protection of the Roman legions. Roman law, order, and civic virtue had long since dissipated. Luxuries like jewelry disappeared from the life of the average European.
The church became a kind of citadel of culture (or what was left of it) and refinements such as jewelry. The sacred world contained gem-studded alters, chalices, and books. During the crusades, the so-called soldiers for Christ laid waste to temples and private homes in the Near East and returned with a great booty of gemstones and jewelry.
Most of this went to the Church. The Christian crusades—which occurred after the 1000 CE—are commonly portrayed as invasions of unmitigated violence and evil. They were so, but they also had a knock-on effect. They re-established trade between East and West.
When Rome ended, so did the borderless common market it had established between Europe, Africa, and Asia. The crusades opened a new era of trade and communications between these regions. It exposed Europeans to new products and ideas, including jewelry.
By the fifteenth century, people from all social and class backgrounds were wearing jewelry. As class divisions hardened, the powers that be—the monarchy, churches, and nobility—frowned on the common people wearing jewelry. They considered it a special privilege that ought to be preserved for the upper crust of society.
This conviction was enforced by Sumptuary Laws. These laws were designed to curb opulence and promote thrift be regulating what people—the common people—were allowed to wear. Essentially, they limited the latter to two types of rings: curative rings, which were meant to cure ailments and diseases, and wedding rings.
Such a state of affairs could not, of course, last forever. Especially given the increasing, and seemingly boundless, opulence of the royal courts of Europe. The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries saw some of the most extravagant displays of jewelry by the ruling classes.
The colonization of rich lands in the Americas and the discovery of new trade routes to the Far East increased substantially the weal of the power elite. They had no qualms about flaunting it in the form of gold and diamond necklaces, rings, and bracelets.
This overabundance of opulence came to a head in 1789. The many uprisings and revolutions that followed the storming of the Bastille in the summer of that year were not only about politics. They were also about a greater desire for fairness and equality in the economic and social order.
The spread of republicanism, first with the rebellion in America in 1776, and then in France and Haiti in the following decade, led to new styles and fashions. Even the kings and queens who kept their thrones—and their heads—began to tone down their way of dressing. Gone were the days of extravagant dress and jewelry.
With the coming of the industrial age and the rise of the self-made man, jewelry itself became more accessible. For nearly a century after this point, jewelry was still dictated by the tastes of the ruling class. Though deprived of all political power and nearly all economic power, the old families still set the trends of fashion.
This began to change after the First World War, and the Second World War finished off both the ruling families and their power to dictate style. There was a complete break from traditional jewelry styles and fashion in the fifties. The last half-century has been all about experimentation.
Jewelry has become simpler, sleeker, smaller, and more restrained. The aim now is to have the most impact with the least amount of material.
In this way, nature jewelry goes back to the time before the opulence of European courts and society. It has reached all the way back to human antiquity and picked up the mantle of simple jewelry that reflects, and is sometimes composed of, objects in nature. The people who wear this type of jewelry are more traditional than they think.