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Jewish motifs in jewelry

The meanings behind three common symbols 
hamsa with aventurine

This month on Facet, we're looking at jewelry with a spiritual connection. We're happy to welcome back guest blogger Freddie Levin to help us understand the symbols of the Jewish faith that are so often represented in jewelry. ~kk

Every faith has its own symbols. Christians often wear a cross as a sign of their faith, representing the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and his death by crucifixion. The Lotus flower is a common image in Hindu or Buddhist iconography; it is a symbol of purity and beauty. The yin and yang represent Taoism, showing the importance of balance between energy forces that oppose and yet also complement each other.

Tierracast tiny Star of David
These tiny Stars of David, made by Tierracast, would make darling earrings. 
Fire Mountain Star of David
This pendant, carried at Fire Mountain Gems, combines the Star of David with the chai in a lovely way. 

The most common motifs in Jewish-themed jewelry are Stars of David, the Hebrew word chai, and the stylized hand called a Hamsa.

Let's take a closer look and see what each represents in Judaica.

THE STAR OF DAVID

The universally-recognized symbol of Judaica is a hexagram that consists of two interlaced equilateral triangles, one pointing up and one pointing down. It is an ancient motif found carved on gravestones as early as the third or fourth century.

The Star of David became the modern symbol of Israel when that state became a nation in 1948, and the star was added as the central symbol of the Israeli flag. In Hebrew, it is called Magen David, or Shield of David. According to mystical tradition, it represents the relationship of man to God, with man pointing up to the Heavens and the Heavens pointing down to man. Nowadays, it is more commonly an expression of Jewish identity.

CHAI

The Hebrew word chai (rhymes with why, pronounce the "ch" as in Bach) means Life. It is used in the traditional Jewish toast: "L’Chaim! To Life!" It was also immortalized in song in the Broadway musical and film, Fiddler on the Roof.
chai
The Hebrew character of chai, meaning "life". 

The word is made up of two letters in the Hebrew alphabet: chet and yud. According to the Kabbalah’s mystical tradition of numerology, each letter represents a number. Chet is the eighth letter of the Hebrew alphabet and yud is the tenth. Therefore, the value of 18 is given to the word chai, or life. This has become a common motif for pendants, charms, key chains and so on. To give a gift with a chai conveys wishes for a long life, luck and success.

brass hamsa with stone
This Hamsa, made by Freddie Levin, is etched brass. The one shown above, also by Freddie, is etched sterling silver with an aventurine stone. 

The Hamsa is an ancient Middle Eastern amulet symbolizing the Hand of God. Possibly derived from ancient Carthage, it is a sign of protection against the evil eye. 

It has many names. In Hebrew, it is called Hamsa which derives from the word for five (hamesh), for the five fingers on the hand. In the Islamic faith, it is the Hand of Fatima, daughter of the prophet Mohammed. It is sometimes also called the Hand of Miriam, who was the the sister of Moses. 

Often beautifully embellished, it appears in personal adornments, tapestries, books, and paintings speaking of our ancient desire to feel safe and protected in the world.

These three symbols are very commonly found in jewelry, sometimes in combination. They are beautiful reminders of the connection of the Jewish people to God as well as to all Jews throughout history.
FIND MORE: metal , pendants , earrings

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