There is a lot of symbolism displayed in jewellery, some representing ancient beliefs and others representing more modern ones. One symbol that I want to discuss in this post is the horseshoe. The horseshoe has been considered a symbol of good luck for a long time, though on the face of it, it is not a particularly pretty object. It is believed that horseshoes were first used as good luck symbols from the 9th century AD although some earlier examples have been discovered in tombs. There are two arguments given for why the horseshoe became considered a good luck symbol.

Antique pearl and diamond horseshoe earrings

The first is related to its shape. Part of its attraction is because it is claimed it has  the shape of a crescent which was linked to worship of the moon in a number of cultures.

The second argument, which is most common, is linked to the fact they were made of iron. Horseshoes were once used to protect a house from elves or fairies, as well as from the devil. In 1852, Edward Flight published a book explaining how the horseshoe came to be a charm against witchcraft and the devil, titled ‘The True Legend of St Dunstan and the Devil’. Bishop Dunstan, who lived in Britain from 903AD to 988AD, was asked by the Devil to re-shoe his cloven hoof. Bishop Dunstan did so but deliberately caused the Devil great pain. Dunstan only agreed to release the Devil if he agreed never to enter a building with a horseshoe over the door unless invited. 

It has been recorded that finding a horseshoe was considered lucky in Bruges in the late 1470s, and that miniature horseshoes were worn as good luck badges by pilgrims in Holland around the same period.

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Antique gold locket with horseshoe motif (in Navette on Ruby Lane)

Different cultures have considered the horseshoe to represent good luck. In the British Isles, when the horseshoe is facing up with the rounded part at the bottom, it is associated with the shape of a cup and believed to gather good luck.

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Antique horseshoe pin, with seed pearls

A horseshoe facing down, with the rounded part at the top, and nailed above a door, is supposed to pour good fortune down on any person entering through the door.

The final aspect of horseshoes to be discussed is the number 7, often considered a lucky number. Traditionally, horseshoes have 7 nails, although apparently 6 or 8 is more common. And 7 appears in a number of important groupings – there are seven days in a week, seven colours of the rainbow, and so on. In the Christian Bible, God made the world in 6 days and rested on the 7th. The number seven is also important in other religions and cultures. Looking at the photos above to see if they showed 7 nail holes, I found that while here are 7 nails in the horseshoe motif on the front of the gold locket, there are more than seven pearls in the earrings, bracelet and the pin.

The earrings, the locket and the pin all depict the horseshoe facing down, that is, pouring good fortune onto. I suppose, the wearer. The bracelet can actually be worn with the horseshoe facing up or down so the wearer can choose.