Posted on September 09, 2014 by Mary Hood | 0 Comments
It’s not uncommon to see religious jewelry worn as a fashion statement rather than a statement of faith. Bedazzled crosses, for example, make appearances everywhere from the runway to small-town malls.
Likewise, it seems natural for us humans to attach great symbolic significance (spiritual or otherwise) to our pretty adornments, even if the pieces themselves are not expressly “religious.” Many of us have a special ring or necklace that represents a new phase of our lives or reminds us of what we value. The line between sacred piece and beautiful accessory is often blurred—but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Certain creative jewelry designers have embraced this ambiguity and created stunning and unique pieces inspired by traditional religions yet suited to our modern style. Korean born designer Sally Sohn is just one of these artists.
Her prayer beads—in the form of bracelets or necklaces—incorporate charms of ancient spiritual symbols and iconic figures. Every item is handmade, making each piece truly special, religious connotations aside.
Sally Sohn's prayer bead-inspired pieces channel ancient religious symbolism.
The earliest prayer beads are thought to date back to early Hinduism. Beads are passed through the fingers as a mantra or prayer is spoken. Fingering the beads only requires a minimal amount of concentration, allowing the practicer to devote more attention to the prayer or mantra.
Hindu prayer beads can be spotted in artistic representations of the Hindu deity Shiva (below).
The tradition was later adopted by Catholics, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Islamists. The amount of beads on a necklace varies from faith to faith. The Sikh Mala has 108 beads, for example, while the Anglican rosary has 33 beads. Beads may be made of glass, wood, pearl, or quartz, among many other materials. In fact, the Eastern Orthodox Church uses knots along a rope of wool.
Despite these variations, prayer beads from any time or culture serve to facilitate connection between the practicer and his or her faith by reminding her to focus—one bead, one prayer at a time.
Perhaps modern fashion can serve us in a similar way. Sally Sohn’s exquisite bracelets and necklaces can certainly stand alone as fashion statements. But, like any other pretty thing we love wearing, it’s likely that we’d imbue them with special meaning over time—if not immediately.
While we may or may not pray with our jewelry, we can think about the bigger things in life that it may symbolize for us. Next time you put on your favorite bracelet, ask what it makes you think of—your family, your passion, beauty itself? Alternatively, like the users of traditional prayer beads, we can more deliberately assign meaning to what we wear, allowing it to help us focus on what's most important.
Do you have a piece of jewelry that carries special significance?
Photos: London Jewelers, Sally Sohn, Danielle Change via Flickr, Wikipedia.