The contemporary orientation of the sideways cross in jewelry is just one in a long list of variations of the cross in history, and in jewelry. Throughout its rich past, the cross has been depicted in many shapes, has served many purposes, and has taken on many meanings.
For many, the cross is most commonly associated with the Christian religion, where it is seen as a sign of sacrifice and salvation. This is in reference to the crucifixion death of Jesus Christ on the cross. However, the appearance and use of the cross symbol itself long pre-dates Christianity, holding an ornamental as well as religious significance.
The ruins of ancient civilizations depict crosses carved in stone walls, on artifacts such as pottery and furnishings, on clothing, and as jewelry pieces. And in each of these the shape and style of cross has distinct differences across cultures.
Scholars believe that the earliest religious use of the cross was in a worship of nature. The four points of the cross may correspond to the four compass points, North, South, East, And West. They may also signify the four main physical elements of earth, air, water, and fire. In fact, the astrological symbol of the planet Earth is a cross with four arms of equal length, inside a circle. This symbol is also referred to as the wheel cross or the sun cross.
Cross Shapes in Jewelry Modern Jewelry
A quick search online will show that there are a huge array of styles, types, shapes, and sizes of cross jewelry out there. Here is a list and description of what seems to be the 8 most widely found cross shapes in necklaces and other jewelry pieces for women and men. Of course, each of these general shapes is found in a spectrum of unique variations.
- Christian or Latin Cross – This is the most traditional shape of the cross that we typically see in a necklace pendant. In this type, the vertical piece is longer than the crosspiece. This single crosspiece intersects at about one-third of the way down.
- Sideways Cross – This is a more modern interpretation of the traditional shape above, where it is turned 90 degrees on its side. The result is that it is lying horizontally, as in side cross necklaces.
- Crucifix – This is the classic Christian Cross, but it also has a figure of Jesus on it, depicting His death through crucifixion.
- Budded Cross – Also known as the Cathedral Cross, or the Apostles’ Cross, the base shape is similar to the traditional Christian Cross. But this one has three circular “buds” at each of the four ends. These are interpreted to represent the Holy Trinity, but may also originate from the ancient depiction of earth, sky, and sea.
- Greek Cross – This cross is used in the Christian religions of Eastern Orthodoxy, and it was also common in very early years of Christianity. The four arms are of equal length, and often each of the arms curves wider as it goes out from the intersection. This cross in red, on a white background, is also the emblem of the Red Cross.
- Celtic Cross – This is most commonly found in Ireland and throughout the British Isles. It is shaped like a traditional Christian cross with a circle around the intersection.
- Egyptian Cross – Also known by several other names including the Ansate Cross, the Crux Ansata (which means “handled cross”), and the Ancient Egyptian Ankh, this cross looks like a capital T with a circular shape resting on top. This was an ancient Egyptian symbol of life and fertility, and is frequently seen being held by the goddess Sekhmet. This cross style was then adopted by the Egyptian Christians known as the Copts.
- Canterbury Cross – Used primary in Anglican churches, this round cross has four arms of equal length, that widen at the outer end so that the rims nearly create a circle. There is a square in the center.
This is certainly not intended to be a comprehensive list of all of the cross shapes that are available. The shapes, sizes, and styles of crosses in jewelry vary tremendously, and are limited only by the creativity of the artist jeweler. The ones outlined above do seem to be the most commonly found styles in different types of jewelry for both women and men.