Looking through my collection, I noticed that I had (or have had) seven pieces that contained acorns. I wondered about the symbolism associated with the acorn and found a number of different explanations about what the acorn represented. The oldest association went back to antiquity. One researcher noted that the acorn appeared in Greek and Roman motifs and that it was associated with fertility and the possibility of creating new life (M Waclawik, pp255, 258). Gold, acorn-shaped pendants and beads were very popular in Greece from the 8th to 3rd centuries BC, and in civilisations in Asia-Minor and around the Adriatic Sea.
There is a stunning gold acorn fringe necklace from the Greek colony of Nymphaion, Crimea from the 5th century BC in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. A stature of Diana of Ephesus from the second half of the 2nd century AD wears a necklace made of acorns, along with other symbols of fertility. A search of Roman jewellery discoveries reveals a gorgeous gold necklace with an acorn pendant from the 1st century AD. The British Museum has a copy of an Etruscan gold necklace: chain with rows of pendants in the form of acorns, palmettes, lotus flowers and heads of Sileni, as well as other 6th century Etruscan jewellery. Acorns were still be associated with fertility and new life up to this period.
Medieval Viking jewellery such as acorn pendants have also been found but it is hard to locate other medieval jewellery incorporating acorns and the same is the case with Renaissance jewellery, although King Henry VIII of England was said to have some acorn shaped pendants.
Acorns did appear in heraldry, and in this setting, the acorn represents independence.
The Etruscan revival in the mid 1800s, led by Pia Castellani and his sons in Italy, led to the new interpretation of the necklaces and other jewellery excavated from tombs being produced, including those with acorn pendants and decorations. Acorns were also used in Victorian and Edwardian jewellery due to the love of using natural objects as inspiration.
The acorn is often incorporated into jewellery along with the leaves of the oak tree, of which the acorn is a seed. Oak leaves symbolise different attributes to the acorn alone so I will discuss them another time.
Reference: M Waclawik , ‘The symbolic meaning of the acorn – a possible interpretation’, Studies in Ancient Art and Civilization, 2015, 255