Shapes are a non-verbal, sight-based language to a human brain highly predisposed to symbolic interpretation and communication. They are visual building blocks in the construction of meaning -- often many layers of meaning -- in jewelry and all visual arts generally.
Even the most basic shapes contain symbolic meanings within themselves. In fact the basic shapes are usually the ones with the longest histories and with the most layers of meanings behind them. As in all symbolism, the meanings attributed to shapes are generally subjective and cultural, but are sometimes deeply archetypal and universal.
Shapes in Jewelry
It probably goes without saying that a circular shape provides the necessary framework for most jewelry designs. It’s also the most significant shape in jewelry in terms of its symbolism.
The pragmatist will point out that since most jewelry fits around circular limbs, the significance of the circle in jewelry simply has to do with form following function. But of course this misses much of the purpose, not only of the circular shape, but of jewelry itself -- for the symbolism associated with the circle in jewelry hugely supersedes its basic, functional use.
As jewelry makers, we use shapes as decorative elements and to express themes and other meanings that our customers resonate with, sometimes with conscious intent guiding our choices, and other times out of a mostly unconscious sense of attraction. Understanding and considering the various meanings attached to shape can add depth to our designs, and can also draw upon the powers of intention, desire, reverence, etc.