Back in prehistoric times, jewelry was worn by people of all known cultures, usually in the form of talismans or amulets. The oldest archaeological finds of jewelry date back as far as 70,000 years. As in the past, jewelry is still being worn today at ceremonies, to heal diseases or to demonstrate its wearer’s status in society.
In the past, pieces of jewelry often depicted animals or included parts of their bodies so as to confer certain aspects of the animal’s nature such as strength, acute senses or another characteristic feature on the wearer, for example a lion’s strength, a falcon’s exceptional eyesight, the closeness of fish to the subconscious, or the amphibians’ ability to live both on land and in water. (A person wearing an amulet depicting a frog was believed to be able to attain higher levels of consciousness.)
People copied the forms and shapes they saw in their natural environment and learned that wearing them on their bodies had an effect. Whether a circle or a cross, a triangle, quadrangle or pentagon, flowers or seashells – all forms and shapes can be related to symbolic meanings that our conscious mind attributes to them.
So, it’s not surprising that, when selecting a piece of jewelry, we more or less consciously or subconsciously opt for certain shapes and materials that we can relate to. A new piece of jewelry can indeed open up a new path for our personal development by inviting us to playfully and joyfully experience the change it brings about.
The purpose of this lexicon is to offer insight into the meanings of various symbols and to help you gain a more profound understanding of the forms and shapes that surround us as well as their significance. You’ll also find complementary information in our lexicon of the gemstones that we use for our collections.
I hope you’ll enjoy reading what we’ve compiled for you.
The triangle, in combination with the number 3, is one of the simplest symbols, while at the same time one of the most important ones.
With the tip pointing downwards, the triangle is the alchemical symbol for water as one of the four classical elements, as well as a symbol of femininity. With the tip pointing upwards, it represents a flame (burning upwards) and thus symbolizes fire as an element, as well as masculinity. In the mystic legends of Ancient Greece, the triangle was regarded as a symbol of cosmic birth.
In Christian theology, the triangle stands for the Holy Trinity. Representing the unity of Father, Son and the Holy Ghost, it symbolizes divine perfection. Alchemists divide the world into body, soul and spirit. Hinduism revolves around the triad of the deities Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma, and in Buddhism, divine harmony is attained through a trichotomy: the interaction of knowledge, true being and the beneficial effect of devoting oneself to serving one’s community.
The triangle also represents stability: an object with three feet doesn’t wobble. Thus, if we stand one-legged (forming an axis between heaven and earth) and focus our eyes on a third point, we’ll stand firmly and won’t fall over.
Democratic forms of government owe their stability to the interaction of legislative, judicial and executive power. A triangle, which includes a third point, stands for advice and assistance as well as for an outside view of a situation. A conflict between two parties might end up in irreconcilable differences and quite often can only be solved by the intervention of a third party or person who restores constructive communication. The relationship between two persons can be kept alive and healthy if they share a common interest (a third point) that constitutes a solid basis.
This means that a piece of jewelry featuring a triangle increases its wearer’s willingness to accept support and to look at their own situation from an outside perspective, to open their minds and to communicate. The triangle establishes a connection with stability and development.
The square stands for a person’s spatial orientation.
Like the cross, the square represents our desire to orient ourselves in a complex world by introducing directions and coordinates.
The square involves an ordering principle that is obviously inherent in us. Its opposite counterpart is the circle, which represents infinity and thus symbolizes the divine.
Accordingly, a square piece of jewelry can help people establish order in their lives or convey that order is of great importance to them.
On the other hand, the square can help us find and define our own standpoint. It stands for strength and stability.
Like the square, the cube stands for a person’s spatial orientation.
It symbolizes stability and constancy.
The circle stands for perfection and infinity.
This is based on the fact that one can move forward on a circular path without reaching an end. The circle is regarded as the most common and most important symbol. Its shape corresponds to the image of the sun and the moon. Besides the triangle and the square, the circle ranks among the primordial symbols. The symbological opposite of the circle is the square. The circle stands for the divine, and the square for the physical world.
In Zen-Buddhism, the circle represents enlightenment and perfection.
As a translation of the circle symbol into a tangible piece of jewelry, the ring stands for eternity and constancy.
This is based on the fact that one can move forward on a circular path without reaching an end. In many cultures such as in Ancient Greece and Rome, rings were used as a token of honor for meritorious citizens. Rings bearing a family’s coat of arms or signet rings served to manifest honor, loyalty and stability. In the Middle Ages, the ring became a token of engagement or marriage.
Besides manifesting a person’s power and wealth, rings enhanced with gemstones have served an important function for thousands of years, i.e. as amulets to provide protection against diseases and negative influences.
The City Line
Inspired by the oeuvre of Piet Mondrian, a Dutch painter, and featuring distinct lines as well as open spaces and finely textured surfaces, the pieces of the City line represent order, harmonious interaction and urban structures.
After he moved to Paris, Mondrian turned to Cubism, which he developed like no other painter. His works are characterized by vertical and horizontal black lines and areas in the primary colors red, yellow and blue, as well as white and gray areas.
These harmonious compositions are eminently expressive. Corresponding to Mondrian’s use of the primary colors as well as black and white, Bernd Wolf uses silver and gold, his principal materials, to create the pieces of his City line whose well-thought-out designs remind us of urban structures and their characteristic alternation between streets and intersections, built-up and non-built-up areas.
The koru symbolizes growth and vitality as well as peace and harmony, and has a centering effect.
The koru is a spiral whose shape corresponds to that of an unfurling fern leaf. Koru is a word in the language of the Maori in New Zealand.
Bernd Wolf’s design line of the same name was inspired by the graceful beauty of the koru’s shape.
The spiral represents infinity, and symbolizes a life-cycle from beginning to end.
The spiral is one of the oldest symbols in human history, and related to the circle. In many cultures, the spiral symbolizes divine, spiritual energy flowing through the body, as well as the never-ending cycle of life, death and rebirth.
The Rendez Vous Line
Featuring tangent, parallel and intersecting lines, the pieces of the Rendez Vous line symbolize paths of life and encounters.
Mandalas are complex symbols whose designs are based on the circle, and which serve as an aid to concentration and meditation.
Mandalas are reputed to activate our subconscious mind. They are usually composed of repetitive ornaments arranged in a circular order and are often multi-colored. The various colors are meant to appeal to and stimulate different parts of our mind.
Bernd Wolf’s pieces of mandala jewelry feature lotus flowers in the Mandalo line and triangles in the Milonga line.
The Lotus Flower
The lotus flower is a symbol of beauty and a pure mind as well as of the eternal victory of life over death.
Although arising from mud, the lotus flower unfolds its splendor to perfection without any dirt sticking to the tiny scales of its petals.
Its unfurling petals are considered to represent the development of our soul.
The wheel is related to the circle and sun symbols. It connotes the cycle of rebirth and stands for motion and dynamics.
The sun is the symbol of life and enlightenment.
In many cultures, the sun was worshipped as a deity. It is a symbol of the rhythm of life and thus also of progress, growth and development. Alchemists regard the sun as a symbol of gold as a chemical element.
The sun stands for will-power, life and vitality.
Coins represent material wealth and purchasing power.
The rose is a symbol of love, of everlasting beauty, trust and secrecy.
No other plant is as highly symbolic as the rose, which is considered to be the oldest and most traditional plant cultivated by man. There are a number of sources according to which roses were cultivated in Chinese palace gardens as early as 2700 years ago. Later on, they used to adorn the gardens of Egyptian pharaohs and Roman emperors.
In Ancient Greece, the symbolic meaning of the rose was mainly based on the myth revolving around the death of Adonis, Aphrodite’s lover. His blood was believed to have given birth to the first roses. Thus, the rose became a symbol of a love that transcends death, as well as of rebirth.
People of all epochs and eras used roses to express their love. In Islamic mystic and erotic poetry, the rose is considered to attest that the world was created for love. The rose is also a symbol of cosmic power.
“Among all the peoples of the world, due to its exquisite beauty, fragrance and overall appearance, the rose has become a symbol of the exhilarating and uplifting sphere of life.” [Quote translated from: Friedreich]
The flower is a symbol of youth and, due to the petals’ “starlike” arrangement, quite often also considered a symbol of the sun or centrality.
On the one hand, flowers are innocent harbingers of spring, but on the other hand, they also stand for carnal desire. They symbolize vitality and joie de vivre, the end of winter, evanescence, and the victory of life over death.
According to Taoist philosophy, a golden flower is the symbol of supreme mystical enlightenment, and in many religions, an open calyx represents the reception of divine power.
A flower’s color also has symbolic meaning. The color white stands for innocence, purity and death; the color red for vitality, blood and passion; the color blue for the mysterious as well as for heartfelt devotion, and the color yellow for the sun, warmth and gold.
The leaf is a symbol of fertility, growth and renewal. In Asia, it symbolizes happiness and prosperity.
The bamboo stands for perseverance, flexibility and constancy.
Its nodes have often been interpreted as representing the steps on the path to greater insight. Having a “bamboo mentality” means being able to make compromises, to adapt to external circumstances and to emerge from a crisis unbowed. In Japan, the bamboo symbolizes eternal youth and unrestrained power.
In our day and age, the heart is above all a symbol of love and passion. In earlier cultures, it was regarded as the seat of a person’s mind, free will and emotions.
The heart has been romanticized in love poetry since the early Middle Ages. Also, the stylized representation of the human heart with a bosom-shaped upper contour line goes back to that era. On the one hand, the heart has been associated with earthly love, and on the other hand with heavenly and mystical love.
As a vital organ that ensures the functioning of our body, and sometimes, for example in exciting situations, is perceived as a “throbbing heart”, it was believed in many cultures such as in Ancient Egypt to be responsible for numerous functions that are known today to be controlled by our brain.
The heart was the seat of a person’s mind, free will and emotions. In Ancient Egyptian mythology, the creator god Ptah first conceived the world in his heart before he created it through his spoken words. “The gestures of our hands and arms, the walking of our legs, the movements of all the parts of our body are performed according to the commands conceived in our heart.” [Quote translated from: Hans Biedermann, Knaurs Lexikon der Symbole]
The Bible refers to the heart as a person’s inner self, and whereas people look into other people’s eyes, God looks into a person’s heart.
Fish live in the aquatic world, which is regarded as a symbol of the subconscious.
Consequently, fish are considered to be embodiments of what constitutes our personality at a deep level. Apart from that, in many cultures, fish are regarded as symbols of good luck and of affluence, are associated with the goddesses of love, with sexual delights and the fertility of nature.
For Christians, fish have always played an important role. During their persecution in the Roman Empire, early Christians used the fish symbol as a sign of identification. One explanation why the fish was chosen as a Christian symbol is the fact that according to Christian belief, fish were the only animals that were spared the wrath of God and survived the Great Flood. By being baptized, for example with the water in a piscina (originally meaning “fish pond” in Latin), a Christian symbolically became the equivalent of a fish. Also, Jesus was considered the first incarnation of the Age of Pisces. The Ring of the Fisherman worn by the Pope alludes to a part in the Gospels that refers to the apostles as “fishers of men”.
A staff provides support, stability and safety. It stands for wisdom, knowledge and power, and represents the link between heaven and earth.
The pentagon, in combination with the number 5, stands for the material world’s being transcended by an enlightened person.
A frequent and highly symbolic example of a pentagon is the star pentagon or pentagram (five-pointed star). An upward-pointing pentagram can accommodate a Vitruvian Man, the depiction of a male figure standing upright with his legs apart and arms stretched out. Pythagoras and his followers regarded the pentagram as a symbol of physical and mental harmony, and in the Middle Ages and early modern times, the pentagram was often used as an amulet believed to be capable of warding off evil.
The number five is supposed to signify that all the prerequisites for happiness and fulfillment are met. Accordingly, a five-star hotel provides optimum conditions to ensure maximum comfort for its guests.
A human being has five senses, which, according to medieval symbology, are represented by the five petals that many flowers produce. There are five basic colors, and we have five fingers on each of our hands and five toes on each of our feet.
The Chinese know five traditional elements (wood, fire, earth, metal and water), five gifts of fortune (wealth, a long life, peace, virtue and health) and five moral attributes (humanity, a sense of duty, wisdom, reliability and contribution to communal ceremonies).
According to Japanese tradition, there are five gods of good fortune.
In Ancient Greece, the meander ornament stood for attaining immortality through reproduction.
The term meander is derived from the winding path of a river in present-day Turkey, known to the Greeks as Maiandros or Maeander. A special form of this decorative band is the double meander, which unites two meandering lines with opposite directions of travel.
In Ancient Greece, the meander ornament stood for attaining immortality through reproduction, representing the curling up of an old individual and the simultaneous unfurling of a young individual. The meander symbolizes the perpetual renewal of the universe’s energy.
The seashell is regarded as a symbol of fertility.
Like the pearl, the seashell is associated with the female organs of reproduction. It represents the protection provided by a mother-to-be for the child growing in her womb. The Hindu god Vishnu holds a seashell in one of his hands as a symbol of the ocean as well as of the first breath of life. In Pompeian frescoes, the birth of Venus is depicted as the goddess emerging from a seashell. Due to this association with the goddess of love, the seashell became a symbol of procreation and fertility.
The Number Twelve
The number twelve stands for perpetual renewal and the natural cycle of life.
There are the 12 signs of the zodiac, the 12 months of the year, the 12 hours of the day and of the night. The number twelve symbolizes the completion of a cycle, new insight and new awakening.
Hans Biedermann: Knaurs Lexikon der Symbole. Munich, Droemer Knaur, 1989. ISBN 3-426-26400-5
Wolfgang Bauer, Irmtraud Dümhotz, Sergius Golowin: Lexikon der Symbole. Wiesbaden, Fourier, 1991. ISBN 3-921695-54-6
Johannes Baptista Friedreich: Symbolik und Mythologie der Natur. Würzburg, Stahel, 1859