Skull Jewelry –Why and Who Wears It

We can often see skull rings on men’s fingers. For some people, skulls are frightening, another take this quirky accessory with curiosity, while others admire it if they understand what it really means. Are there reasons behind precious metal rings adorned with skulls or they are just a controversial accessory?

What Does Skull Jewelry Symbolize

Right off the bat, skull rings, bracelets, and necklaces are more than bold body ornaments. For many people around the globe, especially those who have a soft spot for motorcycles, they are a symbol of fearlessness in the face of death and danger.

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At least, this is the importance attached to skull attributes by bikers, the subculture that popularized this symbol in the 20th century and made it accessible to everyone. For men on motorcycles, the skull is a protector and patron. High speed is a way of self-affirmation for any bike rider. But it also carries the hazard. When a person wears the death mark (that is, the skull), it doesn’t let the grim reaper take him or her with it. Thus, a skull becomes protection from death.

Another established significance of skulls is immortality. In this meaning, skulls have been known long before the birth of the biker movement. Ancient civilizations believed that skulls and bones are the links that connect the world of the living with the world of the immortal ones. It is because skulls, unlike the flesh, do not decompose, and therefore they are eternal.

For this reason, the skulls of people and animals became props in many tribal ceremonies and rituals. Even today, skull and bone attributes are used in some occult and esoteric rituals.

At the same time, we cannot deny that a skull is a symbol of death. It is the image of a skull that is placed on hazardous substances, high-voltage equipment, and other stuff that can be dangerous. The same symbol caught the pirates’ eye who put it on the Jolly Roger flag to instill fear in opponents.

We must admit that a skull turned out to be quite effective in intimidating the enemies since many military units began to decorate their uniforms and banners with this symbol.

The most famous (or infamous, depends on how you look at it) military skull is Totenkopf (death ’head), which was first adopted in the Prussian army and then spread among the distinctive insignia of the Nazi army units. Perhaps, this is why in the minds of most people skulls are associated with something bad, sinister, and revolting.

Because skulls and bones have such a bad reputation, wearing jewelry with their image can, in fact, alienate some people. Indeed, no one wants to mess with a person who oozes danger. On the other hand, skulls have the power to attract. They can become a kind of magnet that pushes the wrong people away and draws in the right ones. I

n the end, with a little help of skull-adorned jewelry, you can easily recognize people keen on biking, rock fans, and mysterious Goths even if they are in civilian outfits.

Who Wears Skull Jewelry

As we have already noted, the first massive skull wearing craze happened in the 19th century when this symbol appeared on the insignia of the Prussian army. Until the mid-20th century, skulls remained exclusively the military decoration.

In the 1950s, the founders of the biker movement, who were also former soldiers, started wearing this symbol to show their aversion to the socio-political system formed in post-war America.

Bikers’ love for skulls became even stronger when they discovered the Mexican rings, one of the main motives of which are skulls. In contrast to the gloomy meanings that the military attached to skulls, Mexicans revere and celebrate the death and everything related to it. When these two opposing meanings came together, the bikers understood that the skull can become their protectors and guardians.

The “cult of death” represented by skulls cast in silver is popular among Goths, the mysterious subculture exploiting the gloomy image and interest in esotericism. For some members of this community, jewelry is a reminder of the dark side of life full of suffering and darkness.

For others, it is a risqué attribute of style as well as a way to demonstrate their belonging to the gothic world. For both of them, however, skull bracelets, necklaces, and rings are a way to always carry a powerful esoteric symbol that simultaneously embodies the meaning of life and death.

Jewelry featuring dark symbolism is extremely popular among rock musicians and creative individuals.

A person wearing a deadhead boldly declares that his life values are specific and he is ready to stand his ground despite the condemnation of others. Many world-famous musicians are among the most prominent fans of skull accessories. For instance, Keith Richards’ silver skull ring gained a cult status and spawned a variety of imitations and copies.

Even other celebrities do not hesitate to wear those. Richards’ dear friend Johnny Depp flaunts a massive silver skull ring from a famous jewelry brand. The name of this ring is Keith, in honor of you know who. Virtually every rock star adds skull accessories to his wardrobe. Those include Mick Jagger, Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Idol, Steven Tyler, and many other rock genre veterans.

Quirky and eccentric skull accessories are loved by many non-formal subcultures. People belonging to those wishing to express themselves in every possible way including outrageous jewelry. However, starting from the end of the 20th century, skull ornaments begin to emerge from the underground and increasingly appear on the fashion runways and magazine covers.

Today, a skull on a passerby’s hand is not evidence of his belonging to informal subcultures. It is rather a fashionable statement. For the fashionistas, a skull can signify a precious memory, valuable experiences, vitality, inner power, philosophical reflections, or all these meanings at once.

One thing is clear: massive, eye-catching, and eccentric skull jewelry can meet the demands of many men despite their worldviews and life philosophy.

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Rita Chandon

Rita – After graduating from NYU with a master degree in history,  She was also a columnist for many local newspapers. Rita mostly covers business and community, but at times love to write about world topics as well