Why Red & Green? The History of Holiday Jewelry Colors - Things Grandma Kept

Why Red & Green? The History of Holiday Jewelry Colors

Christmas has long been associated with red and green, but the colors of December holidays also include blue, gold, silver and white. These colors are reflected in the wonderful holiday jewelry that makes an appearance each December. 

Today’s holiday jewelry includes both modern and ancient symbols of the season. From green trees with red decorations, to white snowmen and golden stars, the symbols and colors of the season are found in the jewelry we wear throughout December. Holiday jewelry is often bright, sparkly and colorful.  Styles range from playful to elegant. Vintage holiday jewelry is particularly popular because there are many unique and even one of a kind pieces available. But why is our Christmas jewelry so consistently green, red, gold, silver and blue?

Holiday Jewelry Colors

Each of the season’s colors have unique and varied origins in history. Read on to find out how your favorite colors and symbols found their way into holiday jewelry.

Green & Red

Evergreen foliage has decorated homes in winter for thousands of years. Holly, ivy, mistletoe and pine boughs were a source of color in an otherwise bleak winter landscape. The smell of evergreen countered the stale scent of shuttered buildings and reminded people that the dark days of winter would soon pass, yielding to a land of colorful plants, alive with spring. Romans exchanged evergreen boughs in winter to bestow luck, and tree worship as a pagan practice was likely a precursor to the modern Christmas tree. Ancient Chinese cultures used green to represent longevity and balance. New life and regeneration were associated with green in Egyptian culture and there are biblical references to green as a symbol of eternal life.

Red & Green Holiday Jewelry - Christmas Wreath Pin

Red & Green Holiday Jewelry – Christmas Wreath Pin

The use of red during Christmas has several origins. The red apples of the Paradise tree symbolize original sin. The red color of holly berries represents the blood of Jesus. Combined, the color red represents both the fall of man and his salvation. The Paradise Play, which tells the story of Adam and Eve’s fall and promise of a coming savior, has been performed at Christmas since the 12th century. Bishop’s robes are red in color, as are the robes of St. Nicholas and our modern Santa.

 

Christmas Trees

The first documented use of a Christmas tree was in 1510, but it wasn’t until the Victorian Era (1839 – 1901) that indoor Christmas trees became common decorations during the holidays. Victorian decor was often opulent and excessive. What is more excessive than bringing an entire tree inside your home and covering it with bright ornaments?

Today’s red and green holiday jewelry includes trees, poinsettias, holly, mistletoe, pine boughs, wreaths, bows, santas, stockings and candles.

Kwanzaa

Red and green are also two of the colors of Kwanzaa, an African American Holiday celebrated from December 26th to January 1st each year. Together with black, representing the people, red represents past struggles and green represents hope and the future. Traditional Kwanzaa jewelry features all three colors.

Blue & Gold

Blue represents divinity in Jewish culture and in the late 19th century, became the standard color of the Magen Dawid, or Star of David. In Christian tradition, blue represents Jesus’s mother Mary and she is typically pictured in blue robes. While not a primary holiday color, you’ll find blue in Star of David jewelry and many pieces styled after packages and ornaments.

The Golden tones of Gold, Frankincense & Myrrh

The Golden tones of Gold, Frankincense & Myrrh

Gold is found in many Christian traditions and symbols. It represents the sun, a symbol of life, and was one of the three gifts bestowed to Jesus by the wise men. In fact, all three gifts, including frankincense and myrrh were golden in color!

The star that directed the wise men from the east is often pictured in golden tones. The flame atop a glowing Hanukkah or Christmas candle is also gold in hue. The richness of the color makes it a beautiful background for red, green and blue jewelry!

White & Silver

In addition to being the color of snow, a winter symbol throughout the Northern hemisphere, white represents peace in many cultures. Christian altars are often covered in white at Christmas, and peaceful white doves are found in Jewish, Christian and pagan traditions.

You’ll find white on snowman and snowflakes, doves and in Santa’s beard on many pieces of holiday jewelry. Silver often replaces gold as the background for other colors, or makes an elegant monochromatic brooch, pendant or bracelet.

Shopping for Holiday Jewelry

Holiday jewelry is available everywhere from grocery stores to department stores. From dollar store light-up necklaces, to fine jewelry in gold and sterling silver, whatever your taste and budget, you’ll find something that fits your style. Many people collect seasonal jewelry, which makes it a great holiday party or Christmas gift.

Vintage holiday jewelry is fun to wear and collect because of its elegance, uniqueness and rarity. In addition to specialty store sites, Etsy offers a large selection of holiday jewelry from sellers around the world. Highly collectible designer pieces include those made by Weiss, Trifari, Monet, Art Co, Danecraft, Judith Jack and many others.  You may find signed holiday jewelry a bit more expensive than today’s mass produced pieces, but it can also be an investment as the value of older holiday pieces goes up over time.

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