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GRAVEYARD SYMBOLISM & GOTHIC JEWELLERY

As I’m sure you’re aware by now, I’m a huge fan of the gothic and this means I love a good graveyard. Now some people may think me morbid but bear with me. 

I love the peacefulness of graveyards. The birds singing, the gentle rustle of the wind on the trees and the relaxing aura that they all seem to have. Maybe it’s only me but I don’t see them as just a location for horror films!

I’m also fascinated by the beautiful gravestone carvings and I’m always on the lookout for memento mori. I love how people remember their loved ones in this way.

This is why I was so excited to visit the Granary Burying Ground in Boston in 2018. There are so many gorgeous 17th century gravestones and loads with my personal favourite the winged skull or “death head”. This symbol is the earliest and most frequently occurring motif in colonial era American headstones. Although these skulls can seem disconcerting to modern grave viewers, the image of a skull was then less about inspiring dread in the viewer, and more about acknowledging a normal, everyday fact of human life. In that way it is like the other memento mori items I make such as my skull rings. Put simply the winged skull can signify that the deceased person’s journey is not over rather they have shed their physical form and are flying away to another realm.

boston burying ground tombstone with death head
A deaths head gravestone at Boston's Granary Burying Ground

This is why I’ve created this ring. The death head winged skull is acid etched into copper and the 10mm band is adjustable so you can wear it on any finger you like.  

It’s not just skulls that are used on gravestones. Angels, vases, crosses, flora and fauna can all feature prominently and they are symbolise something different. If you want to find out about the various different symbols and symbolism on gravestones try Tui Snider’s excellent book. It’s so interesting!

Death's Head Copper Skull Ring
Adjustable Copper Deaths Head Copper Etched Ring

But back to graveyards! Recently I had the pleasure of going to St James’ Cemetery at the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool. You know the one. The huge edifice of the cathedral looms over Liverpool and a necropolis is cut into the ground below. There are gravestones, tombs and winding paths and it’s properly gothic. Myself and Ed visited on a warm, windswept and slightly drizzly evening with Tales of the Necropolis and enjoyed a spooky and informative wander around the cemetery.

By the way, do you know the difference between a cemetery and a graveyard? Though these two words are used interchangeably to refer to a place where people are buried, there is a subtle difference in meaning between the two. ‘Graveyard’ is the older of the two terms, and it is mostly used to refer to a burial ground that adjoins a church. With the increase in population, the old graveyards became full and new burial sites, called ‘cemeteries’, came up a little away from the town/city. The word ‘cemetery’ comes from the Greek ‘koimeterion’ meaning ‘dormitory, resting place’. It was seen as a person’s final resting place; unlike a graveyard, a cemetery does not adjoin a church. 

The two tour guides were so knowledgeable about the necropolis and the surrounding areas and had lots of spooky, fascinating historical facts and stories. From the Anglo Saxon carvings to the gravestones of local orphans to the memorial of the first person to die in a steam train accident they really knew their stuff. I would definitely recommend the tours especially at this time of year.

Do you love a jaunt round a graveyard? Message me and let me know. In the meantime why not take a tour of my website, I’ve loaded up some new items recently in a specially created Autumn section including cute little copper pumpkin necklaces and colourful cuffs.

Until next month, stay spooky folks!

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sugarskullme

Hi, I'm Sam

Hi! I’m Sam Self and I am the creator and passion behind Rock & Rose Jewellery. Inspired by Mexican sugar skulls and Victorian memento mori, my jewellery designs are also motivated by a personal desire to create pieces for people who want a little touch of the gothic with their everyday outfits.

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