In my previous post on the symbols for faith, hope and charity, I referred to the cross and its use as the symbol for faith. The cross was not generally associated with the Christian faith until at least the 4th century AD but from then on, it was an important symbol for Christianity. Church officers wear large pectoral crosses, often beautifully decorated, while many church members wear a cross to represent their faith. However, for centuries, people have also worn crosses purely as decorative jewellery.

Victorian ivory cross

The cross can take a number of forms. There is, for example, the crucifix which has the figure of Jesus depicted on it. The crucifix is generally not used in decorative jewellery though. What is used primarily is the Latin Cross (✝) where the cross bar is a third of the way down the upright bar (see the vulcanite cross at the top of the post) and the Greek Cross where the cross bar is half way down the upright bar and with both bars being the same length (✚).The Byzantium cross is similar to the Latin cross but the ends of each bar widen while the Celtic Cross has a circle around the cross bar (πŸ•ˆ). There are many, many more crosses. Some crosses were used as symbols before Christianity and were associated with religion as well as being decorative. It is certainly an evocative shape.

Austro-Hungarian cross with beryl, pearls and paste stones

One cross used a lot in antique jewellery is the Maltese Cross, as in the photo below. This is a cross which is similar to the Greek Cross except that each tip of the bars is flared (✠). An example of such a cross in moss agate is below. The cross was associated with the Knights Templar, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and Order of St John.

Georgian agate maltese cross

There are some beautiful antique crosses to be found, many gem set or with enamel work. Some were carved out of ivory, as in one of the photos above, out of tortoiseshell, with gold pique work, or out of banded agate.