The Skeptic's Guide to Talisman Jewelry

I’ve been sensing a pattern recently that’s popped up in email pitches and at market appointments. While I wouldn’t equate it to just another passing fad in fashion (calling something a “trend” feels a bit reductive if it’s rooted in folklore and mythology that have been around for thousands of years), now seems like the right time to talk about shopping for talisman jewelry. What’s more is that it’s time we question it too.

Personally, I’d like to believe that wearing a specific symbol can alter my mood for the better—maybe it brings luck, love, or courage—but I’m conflicted. I’m a journalist, a natural skeptic, but I’m also the kind of person who has more than one astrology app on her phone and will sage my home because I feel it improves the energy. So naturally, I wanted at least some concrete way to understand why and how people believe symbols can affect those who wear them.

With this in mind, I turned to three women currently at the helm of brands that make modern-day talisman jewelry, including Jacquie Aiche of her own namesake label that’s been worn by nearly every It model you can think of (Hadids included), Beth Bugdaycay of Foundrae, and Yurga Juozapa of June Nineteen. I asked them to explain why their designs are so much more than just beautiful (that’s a given) and tell us what even skeptics should keep in mind before they make a purchase. Below find your general need-to-know info.

Photo: @jacquieaiche

More Than Words

For starters, I asked Bugdaycay what the value is in using images of lions or scarabs on jewelry to evoke feelings of strength or protection (respectively, as you’ll find in her line’s designs) as opposed to other forms of communicating the same message. “Symbols have the ability to communicate something that makes some people uncomfortable to find words for,” she says. “It’s a vehicle for bringing to light deeper feelings. They convey concepts that can’t always be fully defined or comprehended by the intellect.”

Another example she gives is the idea of wholeness—a theme seen in her line, as represented by a snake design. “Everyone likes the feeling of being whole, but do you know how to verbalize it?” Furthermore, Bugdaycay says it’s most powerful to combine a meaningful symbol with something as precious and with as much permanence as a piece of jewelry.

Stay Informed

Here’s the thing about symbols: Every culture has them, and each determines its significance. So when it comes to purchasing talisman jewelry, the more informed you are, the better. For example, Aiche says she’s recently been into the Figa symbol, a sign of protection and female empowerment with Roman origins, while June Nineteen leans heavily toward the use of Baltic imagery. “I look for inspiration in real life, read historical books, and go to every museum expecting to find something that is worth to become a modern talisman,” says Juozapa.

For the designer, this has lead to collections built around themes such as a comb pattern (also for protection) and a serpent motif (believed to be for luck and fortune). Meanwhile, for Foundrae, the symbols you’ll see are more cross-cultural. “I try to find symbols with the least amount of cultural bias and the ones with meanings that are the most universal.”

Interpretation Is Everything

“I think it’s all in the eyes of the believer,” says Juozapa when asked whether or not a piece of jewelry can truly be powerful enough to change the way we feel when we wear it. Essentially, it comes down to personal experience, she explains. “One of my customers heard about the serpent collection and freaked out because at their seaside house, they truly had seen serpents coming to the house,” she gave as an example of how people can have different interpretations, “so that became their good luck sign.”

Where There's a Will…

“You have to believe it to feel it,” says Aiche of any perceived powers associate with talisman jewelry. And this sentiment is reiterated by the other designers as well.

“It’s not because there is any magic whatsoever in the jewelry,” Bugdaycay said of her Foundrae pieces. “I don’t want to imply that the jewelry can give you anything because what I firmly believe is what you want is already inside you. By being conscious of it and by making deliberate choices, it can materialize. It’s all about volition.”

Like Every Other Belief: You Choose.

At the end of the day, talisman jewelry may not change your life, but believing it could is not very different from other traditions we follow. That’s the argument Juozapa makes.

“I think our societies are constructs of cultural things that generate meanings from generation to generation and people believe in them. Sometimes it’s science-based and sometimes it’s religious,” she explains, adding. “I think that jewelry always was meaningful in a sense. It can symbolize a marriage, becoming a certain age, it can commemorate someone, it can crown you—it can do many things. I have an impression that a piece of jewelry is always meaningful. You always find a reason and explanation for having and wearing it. We need things with the meaning, as it makes our everyday lives richer.”

Shop Talisman Jewelry 

The moral of the story: Shop talisman jewelry at your own discretion. If you feel like it’s a bit of an eye roll, you may not feel any differently once you wear a piece. But if you’re open to the idea that they can bring a bit of magic, chances are greater that they will.