Modern evil eye bangle
Belief in the “evil eye” is an astounding example of how one idea can be transmitted across the world, holding relevance for ancient and modern peoples alike. Simply put, the evil eye is believed to be a curse caused by a malevolent glare that causes misfortune for the recipient of the look. Many sources point to classical antiquity as the origin place of the evil eye belief. In fact, the evil eye is covered by a wide variety of classic writers, including Plato, Hesiod, Pliny the Elder, and Plutarch.
Although the evil eye was feared with varying intensity in classical Rome and Greece, the idea was powerful enough to spread across West Asia and was likely propagated by Alexander the Great’s conquest. From there, the idea traveled to the Americas with the onset of European colonialism and later, by West Asian immigrants. Eventually, lore about the evil eye could be found in Armenia, Albania, Turkey, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Morocco, Greece, the Levant, Afghanistan, Syria, southern Spain, and Mexico.
The evil eye wasn’t a mere fringe belief, either. It was taken seriously by major religions, and mention of it can be found in the Old Testament and the Quran. As such, measures to protect oneself from the widely feared evil eye were in order. Evil eye talismans, designed to protect the bearer from the evil eye’s curse, took a variety of shapes, three of which are still easily recognized today. The following three evil eye talismans often appear as jewelry and wall or door hangings. Whether you believe they offer real protection from curses—or simply make beautiful souvenirs—one thing is for sure: these evil eye talismans have a rich and special history!
In the Aegean region, light-colored eyes were fairly rare. Green eyes, and especially blue eyes, were believed to possess powers of the evil eye. Accordingly, blue-eyed, eye-shaped talismans were created to protect bearers from the curse of the evil eye. Believed to have originated in Turkey, these Nazar charms are a stunning shade of royal blue.
This palm-shaped amulet may also be familiar to you. With origins in the Middle East and North Africa, the Hamsa makes an appearance in Jewish, Muslim, and Indian traditions (and is sometimes referred to as the “Hand of Fatima” after the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad).
Modern Hamsa necklace
Finally, the Boncuk bead is a variation of the Nazar, with roots in the Mediterranean. These blue glass beads are believed to date back as early as the development of glassmaking itself, illustrating that the evil eye belief links not only varying cultures but also different forms of artistic creation!
Modern evil eye necklace
These beautiful Jewish wedding rings featuring a “house” motif are steeped in centuries-old tradition, and although that tradition is poignantly shadowed by mass tragedy, these unique pieces ultimately symbolize love, union, and community.
The “houses” adorning these rings are actually miniature palaces or castles (and sometimes even temples symbolizing Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem) that represent a couple’s home. Often, the rings are inscribed with Hebrew, and on some, the house may open via a clasp to reveal the phrase “Mazal Tov,” which means “good luck” in Hebrew.
Sometime in the 10th century, these wedding rings were first documented as a part of the traditional wedding ceremony. Their existence may date back earlier, however. In the traditional Jewish wedding ceremony, the groom symbolically acquires the bride, and the ring serves as a representation of money. The exchange wasn’t necessarily akin to the groom buying property, however. Rather, the bride’s acceptance of the ring symbolized her acceptance of the groom. The significance of the ritual explains why the rings were so ornate.
The ring’s ownership was likely determined by the relative wealth of the family. In some communities, a single ring may have been used during the wedding ceremony of every bride and groom and returned afterward. (A simple wedding band may have served as the everyday symbol of the couple’s union.) Wealthier families may have actually owned one of these rings, passing it down through the generations, thereby keeping the ring in the family.
The first traditional Jewish wedding rings to be discovered date back to the 14th century. Beginning in the 1340s, the Black Death swept through Europe, killing up to 200 million people. Sadly, local communities sometimes blamed their Jewish residents for poisoning the wells and cursing Christians. Thousands of Jewish people were massacred while many others fled to avoid persecution. Those who fled often buried their valuables, hoping to return to them at a later date. Many families did not return to their former homes, however, and some of the most ornate wedding rings were discovered among the valuables unearthed centuries later.
Fortunately, the sad events surrounding the Black Death didn’t permanently halt the production of these beautiful pieces. During a period between the 16th and 19th centuries, more advanced craftsmanship ushered in incredibly ornately designed rings, many of which included filigree and enamel. Gemstones were absent, however—likely due to religious reasons.
After a period during which these style of rings were mostly absent from wedding rituals, an interest in their history (and owning contemporary versions!) has emerged. Jeweler Chloe Lee Carson has created a line of Jewish wedding rings suited to a contemporary aesthetic. But just like the wedding rings of yore, these are intended to serve as a “universal symbol of love, harmony, and holiness.” Check them out here!
Chloe Lee Carson 18 kt Gold Hoyz Sanctuary Ring