The Hand Motif

Hands, singular or clasped, have been a recurring motif throughout Western jewelry history, especially in Georgian and Victorian times but continuing throughout the 20th century and to this day. The hand motif has long symbolized a multitude of things, including affection, loyalty, solidarity, family, strength and love.

The positions of the fingers and hands have often been thought to be indicative of the message, particularly in Italian jewelry and Victorian era jewelry (the Victorians loved the use of symbols).  For example, first and little fingers pointing out would indicate protection from the evil eye.  First finger extended could indicate a warning.  A closed hand could convey a message of affection. Clasped hands are indicative of love and loyalty.

Fede, Gimmel and Claddagh Rings of course employed the hand motif; please see my previous article to learn more.

A selection of hand motif jewelry. Live Auctioneers.

A selection of hand motif jewelry. Live Auctioneers.

Rock Crystal, gold and emerald Hand Motif pendant, Spain, 17th century. Metropolitan Museum.

Rock Crystal, gold and emerald Hand Motif pendant, Spain, 17th century. Metropolitan Museum.

In Victorian times, the hands would often be holding flowers or fruit as in this brooch below.

Victorian Vulcanite Hand Motif Brooch (from 'Morning Glory Antiques')

Victorian Vulcanite Hand Motif Brooch (from ‘Morning Glory Antiques’)

Often the hand would appear as a motif in mourning jewelry, especially in Georgian and Victorian times.  For example, this piece below shows a hand holding a funeral wreath.

14 k Victorian Enamel Mourning Pin / Fiona Kenny Antiques.

14 k Victorian Enamel Mourning Pin / Fiona Kenny Antiques.

Sometimes, the entire arm as well as the hand would form part of the motif.

1820, coral gemset brooch. From '1stdibs'

1820, coral gemset brooch. From ‘1stdibs’

During the Art Deco era, the hand would often display painted red nails and sometimes be wearing its own miniature jewelry in turn.

1930 Celluloid Hand Motif Brooch

1930 Celluloid Hand Motif Brooch

Here is a gorgeous Victorian hand motif necklace currently for sale in the Elder and Bloom Store. Note the clenched fingers, denoting affection and loyalty and it is holding a barbell, which symbolizes great strength.  Please click on the image below to learn more.

14 karat gold Victorian Hand Motif Necklace Watch Chain / Click on image to find out more.

14 karat gold Victorian Hand Motif Necklace Watch Chain / Click on image to find out more.

Sources / Further Reading:

http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/hand-motifs-in-jewelry/

http://www.jewisharttoday.com/jewish-jewelry/the-hamsa-hand-motif-in-kabbalah-jewelry.php

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