Thursday, September 11, 2014

Autumn, Acorns and Oaks

Since returning from my vacation to the USA ten days ago I have noticed a certain autumnal feel to things here in the UK...the days have been sunny and warm but there is a definite freshness to either end of the day and nature is beginning to signal autumns arrival. This really is my favourite time of the year so I'm definitely ready for the change in seasons.

I've also been photographing seasonal acorn and oak leaf beads this week and it got me thinking about these natural forms we seem so attracted to and  I thought it might make for an interesting post. Well it didn't take much googling to work out there is an enormous amount of information on the subject - much more than I could ever do justice to here. So instead I've included some fairly random but interesting snippets and I've added some links at the bottom should you wish to find out more and of course, I've included some lovely examples you might want to use as inspiration for your jewellery designs.

Detailed of carving on choir screen, Lincoln Cathedral
The Oak Tree and acorns have long been venerated in many cultures as symbols of power, strength endurance and nobility. Many rulers wore crowns of oak leaves to signify their connection to the gods and oak crowns were presented to victorious Roman generals on their return from battle. Oak leaf regalia is still used as a symbol of rank and leadership in the military today.

The oak is is also often  linked to legends of deities that typically had control over thunder, lightning, and storms. The Celts, Romans, Greeks and Teutonic tribes all had legends connected to the mighty oak tree. Druids held rituals in oak groves and believed mistletoe found on oaks to be evidence of a god appearing there via a lightning strike. In Norse legend, Thor sat beneath an oak to shelter from a storm and it is a custom in some Nordic countries to place an acorn on a window sill as protection from lightening strikes. In Classical mythology, the oak was a symbol of Zeus and his sacred tree.
In Celtic symbolism the mighty oak embodies wisdom through it's towering strength and it's size was seen as a clear symbol of this and therefore to be honored. The wearing of oak leaves was also a sign of special status among the Celts and is often depicted in the images of the 'Leafman' which we see today.
Laurels Fairy Doors on Etsy
Because the acorn only appears on a fully mature oak, it is often considered a symbol of the patience needed to attain goals over long periods of time and the need for periods of rest or dormancy. Small but hardy It represents perseverance and hard work in alignment with the seasons hence the saying "mighty oaks from little acorns grow"   

During the Norman Conquest, the English carried dried acorns to protect themselves from the brutalities of the day. Considered to be an emblem of luck, prosperity, youthfulness and power, the Acorn is a good luck symbol which also represents spiritual growth. There was a custom in parts of great Britain for young girls to wear an acorn around the neck as a talisman against premature aging.

I happen to live near to the 'New Forest' which became a hunting ground for William the Conqueror of the aforementioned Norman conquest and some of the people who live there are still entitled to certain 'verderers'  (commoners) rights. One of these called "Common of Mast' occurs during the autumn 'pannage' season and at this time New Forest Commoners can put their pigs out to forage freely on acorns and Beech masts. This free feast fattens the pigs up nicely but also provides a valuable service by clearing acorns before the ancient breed of New Forest ponies can get to them...while harmless to the pigs acorns are potentially deadly to the ponies.

These symbols have also been used in more modern concepts as with this commemorative Olympic £5 coin featuring a depiction of an oak leaf and acorn with the London 2012 logo incorporating the Olympic Rings.

’The common English Oak and acorn are powerful symbols for strength and endurance. The quotation “To strive to seek and not to yield”, is by Lord Tennyson and many Olympic and Paralympic athletes share these qualities in their plight for glory.’
Shane Greeves, Designer
Royal Mint

So there you go - a few interesting facts about oaks and acorns and they are of course beautiful in their own right and a great source of inspiration for designers as you can see here (click on the images for links)...

Some of my own interpretations to be listed shortly..
Cabachon by Sculpted Windows on Etsy
Enameled oak leaves by Gardanne Beads on Etsy
J Davies-Reazor on Etsy
Gwydion's Garden on Etsy
MoosUpValley Designs on Etsy
Kristi Bowman Designs on Etsy
JettaBug Jewellery on Etsy
Angelas line on Etsy
Blueberri Beads on Etsy
Suburban Girl on Etsy
Resource links:

The Gossiping Goddess



  1. Loved reading this on oaks and acorns, the oak is one of my favourite trees and I have a necklace I made with oak leaves which I wear in the autumn and winter months, I loved designing it and its so special to me.

  2. I do love autumn as well Lesley. Great article, and of course, lovely eye candy! :)


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