Hey there, gem gals! It’s time to continue on our journey exploring flowers in jewelry. Today, I wanted to take some time and tell you about the lotus flower. Also known as the water lily, this beautiful flower is both ancient and sacred to many religions around the world, like Buddhism and Hinduism. Unfortunately, I know next to nothing about either of those religions, but once you recognize the lotus motif, you’ll see it everywhere! Buddha is often pictured with the flower and according to legend, his first footsteps on earth created a path of lotus blossoms. In Hindu culture, the gods and goddesses often sit on lotus thrones.
“The lotus flower blooms most beautifully from the deepest and thickest mud.” – Buddhist proverb
The reason the flower is so sacred is because its beauty seems out of place in its habitat. Think about it: such a beautiful flower, living in the midst of swampy, murky river water. Its roots are in the dirty, yucky mud. But every morning, it rises up to bloom from the grimy swamp and its petals are completely untouched by any of that. It seems…. magical. Its not magic, of course. Lotuses have a waxy layer that protects their petals. Still…. pretty cool.
This daily cycle of rising up untouched and gorgeous from mud is one that religions use as a metaphor for rebirth and enlightenment. According to Hindu philosophy, human beings should try to live like a lotus flower, meaning they should strive to have a pure heart, untouched by evil. To Hindus, it’s associated with beauty, fertility, prosperity, spirituality, and eternity.
For Buddhists, it represents the ultimate symbol of purity. It’s also associated with enlightenment, encouraging you to live your life to the fullest. All in all, the lotus motif showed up pretty frequently across the Indian subcontinent. It was in architecture, carvings, textiles, and of course, jewelry.
Ancient Egyptian jewelry
It wasn’t just Buddhists and Hindus who loved the flower, Egyptians were pretty taken with them too. The Book of the Dead, often referenced in scary books and movies, shows that Egyptains thought lotuses had the ability to resurrect the dead. (Side note: I know it’s tempting to think the Book of Dead isn’t actually real. Sorry to burst your bubble.) The Egyptians viewed the flower as a symbol of resurrection and rebirth. It was connected to their worship of the sun god Ra. Today, it’s the national flower of Egypt.
In Ancient Egypt, the jewelry had lots of lapis, gold, and carnelian. This blue, gold, and orange color palette worked well for the blue lotus, which was common in Egypt. You may not realize that ancient Egyptians were incredibly skilled goldsmiths. And they were able to create some phenomenal jewelry! Check out some of the examples below:
Not bad for stuff that’s more than 2,000 years old, right?!
Flowers, flowers everywhere
So now we’re going to take a big leap in time, from ancient Egypt to about 1890, which was the start of the Art Nouveau period. This period (1890 – 1910) was all about being inspired by nature. Where there were lots of flowers, flowing lines, and plenty of butterflies, birds, and dragonflies.
King Tut & Art Deco!
We next see the flower in the Art Deco period, which, let’s not forget, is my favorite period for jewelry! Here, you see lots of bold colors, plenty of diamonds, and geometric shapes. Art Deco was in the 1920’s and 1930’s. This is important because King Tut’s tomb was discovered in 1922. And when that happened, you saw an explosion of interest in anything Egyptian. That’s when you started to see what we call Egyptian Revivalist jewelry. That’s right, the lotus was incredibly popular, along with other Egyptian motifs, like the scarab beetle.
What about now?
Today, jewelry design is not limited to the Egyptian motif and color palette. Now, there is much more of an Eastern focus. I’m seeing lots of Indian jewelry designers, and companies unafraid to focus on the spirituality of the flower. Check out what Amazon has to offer!
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Well, I hope you enjoyed this post! Don’t forget that I created a Pinterest board with all sorts of great images of flowers in jewelry! Check it out here.
As someone with a biology degree, I wouldn’t feel right unless I pointed out that the lotus flower and water lily are actually two different plants from two different families. The key difference is that water lilies float on the water, while lotus flowers rise above. For this blog post, which discusses the motifs in jewelry, that distinction is largely irrelevant. However, I want to make sure I don’t get into trouble with any fact checkers!