Exploring Talisman Jewelry

March 10, 2017 , In: Inspiration, Jewelry, Metalsmithing

While contemplating the theme challenge for March here at Art Elements, I was torn between talismans and amulet bags. Talismans and amulets are quite similar in that they both provide protection from harm but talismans are considered good luck charms that possess a certain magical property. I ended up choosing amulet bags or medicine bags for the theme- you can read about it here and join us in the challenge.

Since I went with amulet bags for the challenge I decided to explore talismans for today’s post and play around with different ideas. Typically, a talisman can be a single good luck charm to be worn around the neck, but I like the idea of wearing a collection of magical pieces on one necklace. This idea was possibly planted in my head by my mother-in-law years ago. She always wore a rather hefty gold chain with numerous ‘good luck’ charms she had picked up from all her travels. For some odd reason she lovingly called it her ‘trash’ necklace. She never liked to explain anything-she preferred an air of mystery to her tall tales so she never said exactly why she referred to it as trash. Possibly the old addage that ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’? Anyway, she started a ‘trash’ necklace for me and she also started one for my daughter once she was old enough to start wearing jewelry. Our ‘trash’ necklaces contained a crystal from India, an evil eye from Turkey, a jade circle from Thailand and she gave me an OM symbol and my daughter got an owl. I continued to pick up charms and add to each of our necklaces hoping to one day have a sizeable amount of ‘trash’ like my mother-in-law’s. Both my necklace & my daughter’s were yellow gold. I stopped wearing yellow gold around 2001-2002 preferring silver instead, so I had forgotten about our trash necklaces until I started doing research for these talisman and amulet bag posts.

I have admired Susan Lenart Kazmer’s talisman necklaces since I saw her pencil necklace titled ‘Energy Talisman” years ago.  Her work seems to have a very organic, tribal feel to it. That style really appeals to me and is so very different from my early ‘trash’ necklace which was a bit more refined hanging from a 14kt gold chain. January’s Component of the Month was leather cabs and at that time I was already researching amulets and talismans for March. Lindsay’s leather cabs reminded me so much of aboriginal art that I wanted to create a talisman necklace using her leather cab. When I made that piece I knew I had to explore this theme more. The talisman necklace I created is quite large and could possibly be worn once in a while but I decided it was best suited for wall jewelry so I created a mixed media canvas to hang it on in my studio for good luck charm and inspiration.

Leather Cab Talisman Necklace As Wall Jewelry

Since creating the leather cab aborginal piece I have been sorting and gathering different components and charms, mixing and matching various trinkets to come up with some magical talisman necklaces. I wanted to present various ways in which to hang or use charms or pendants when making a necklace. At the same time I was gathering bits & bobbles for my talisman necklaces I was also gathering ideas and components for embellishing my amulet bags. (I am having way too much fun with this!) 

The first thing I grabbed was a copper circle that I had distressed and treated with liver of sulphur. I drilled a hole in it and hung one of Jen’s glass headpins from it (which reminds me of the earth or possibly your third eye). It sat for a few days while I conjured up a theme or the direction that I wanted to go. Then, it all came together quite quickly. I grabbed another headpin from Niki Thornberg and added a bead cap, I added a piece of copper I had stamped the OM symbol onto and the word shanti which is sanskrit for peace. I also added a copper Kuan Yin ( goddess of mercy) charm as well as a raku hand wrapped in copper. For some odd reason I decided it needed something else…. soooo I grabbed a piece of brass that I cut into a rough square with rounded edges and stamped the word SEEK in the center and proceeded to hammer into a slightly concave piece. It is brass so it didn’t play as nicely as copper and I ended up with a wavy irregular piece which I decided was even better than perfectly even. I also hung it from a piece of 6mm leather cord capped with copper end caps.

Talisman Collection With Mixed Metals & Charms

I let it sit awhile before deciding which beads to use to complete the necklace portion. Then I ended up going with some glassy looking agate beads,a few Czech glass beads, and some copper beads.  This piece represents so many things to me: Seek your inner peace from within- through yoga, chanting, meditation, spirituality; by whatever causes you to look within. Hopefully this little grouping of trinkets/trash will provide the wearer the good fortune to seek & find their inner peace.

‘Seek Within’ Talisman Necklace

The next collection of talismans just had to be beach related! I have been in love with the ocean and anything I find along its shores for as long as I can remember.  I grabbed several silver charms with a beachy theme and some small beach stones and a couple of shells along with some assorted glass beads (recycled & Czech).  After I had all the components ready, I wired them around a piece of driftwood and created a bail with silver wire and glass beads.

Charms From The Ocean

I hung this from a heavy gauge wire that I hammered flat and into a semi-circle. I drilled holes at each end which I had hammered into a paddle shape and used more silver wire and glass beads to finish the necklace at the back. I decided to call this one Bonne Chance A´La Mer (Good Luck at the Sea).

‘Bonne Chance A´La Mer’ Talisman Necklace

I tend to have a lot of little pendants and charms with an Eastern theme: Buddhas, Kuan Yins, Oms, Ganesha, etc.  So I just had to do another grouping of talismans similar to the first copper collection. I chose a hammered silver oval to hang my charms from on this one. I used waxed black linen to loop over the silver oval and tied the charms on leaving the ends on the linen cord long so I could thread some seed beads onto them. There is a Buddha charm, an OM charm, a ‘tree of life’ charm, a little elephant and a hand.  The Buddha is hanging beneath a carved bone bead and a river rock hangs beneath Buddha to ‘ground’ everything. 

Grounding Talismans

I also needed to let this one sit around a few days before figuring out how I wanted to finish it.  I ended up choosing some paintbrush jasper beads & silver beads to hang the collection of talismans from then added leather to finish the rest of the necklace.I hope this necklace contains the energy and good luck to keep the wearer grounded & well balanced.

‘Grounding’ Talisman Necklace

You can read more about my leather cab aboriginal inspired talisman necklace here. It contains many delightful things that inspire me, make me smile & hopefully bring me good luck. It certainly inspired me to really think about the elements that I choose when creating a necklace. Previously, I chose things without really thinking too much about it. I just knew I liked it whether it was the color that drew me in or the shape. Now I am looking at things differently- How does it make me feel?  Am I drawn to this because it has some deeper meaning for me?

After doing this research and creating these pieces I am hoping I will continue to have a deeper appreciation for WHY I am choosing certain elements.  I am hoping my work will evolve and will have more meaning to both myself and the recipient.

Hopefully I have inspired you to not only try to create your own talisman necklace with good luck charms but also think about what it is that causes you to choose certain charms and elements. Each piece may have much more meaning and value than just it’s outward appearance.  If you’d like to see more inspiration for talisman jewelry I have a Pinterest board where I have lumped talisman jewelry in with amulet bags. You can see it here. Maybe while you’re there you will also be inspired to join in the amulet bag challenge this month!



Cathy Spivey Mendola

Cathy Spivey Mendola has been creative her entire life. After a short career in the medical profession she became a stay-at-home mom which allowed her to dabble in various arts and crafts. Many years and mediums later she has finally found her passion-bead embroidered jewelry. When she needs a break from jewelry she creates bead embellished art quilts and wall hangings.
  1. Reply

    Totally inspiring! Love these ideas and designs…thanks for sharing!

  2. Reply

    So cool. Really enjoyed this.

    • Maria
    • March 11, 2017

    Lovely article! Is the ‘seek within’ for sale?

    • Maria
    • March 11, 2017

    Is seek within for sale?

    • sandi
    • March 12, 2017

    Fantastic pieces!! ,,, and inspiration … and the story. Would love to see your ‘trash’ necklace.

    • Reply

      Thank you Sandi! I thought about digging around to see if I could find my ‘trash’ necklace. I will have to hunt for it and maybe have another post about this;-)

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