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The History of LGBTQ+ Symbols in Antique Jewelry

Welcome to Eric Originals & Antiques, your premier destination for exquisite antique jewelry. Today, we explore a fascinating and meaningful topic: the history of LGBTQ+ symbols in antique jewelry. From subtle signals of identity to bold proclamations of pride, these symbols have played an essential role in the LGBTQ+ community's journey through history. Our exploration will cover significant eras, key symbols, and the impact of these symbols on the community.


Jewelry has long been a medium through which people express their identities, beliefs, and affiliations. For the LGBTQ+ community, jewelry has served as both a form of self-expression and a means of covert communication in times when openness about one's sexuality or gender identity was not possible. In this blog, we will explore the rich history of LGBTQ+ symbols in antique jewelry, tracing their origins and significance through the decades.

Early 20th Century: The Birth of Subtle Symbolism

The Edwardian Era (1901-1910)

During the Edwardian era, societal norms were rigid, and LGBTQ+ individuals had to be discreet about their identities. Jewelry played a crucial role in this covert communication. One notable symbol from this period is the pinky ring worn on the right hand, which subtly signaled one's homosexuality. This small but significant gesture allowed individuals to identify one another without drawing unwanted attention.

The Harlem Renaissance (1920s)

The 1920s, particularly during the Harlem Renaissance, saw a flourishing of LGBTQ+ culture in the African American community. Jewelry from this period often included subtle nods to same-sex love and identity. For instance, brooches and pendants featuring violets—a symbol inspired by the poetry of Sappho—became popular among lesbian women. These pieces allowed individuals to express their identity within a community that celebrated artistic and personal freedom.

The Pink Triangle: A Symbol of Transformation

World War II and the Nazi Persecution

One of the most harrowing yet ultimately empowering symbols in LGBTQ+ history is the pink triangle. During World War II, the Nazi regime used pink triangles to identify and persecute homosexual men in concentration camps. This symbol of oppression and suffering became a stark reminder of the brutality faced by the LGBTQ+ community.

Post-War Reclamation

In the post-war years, the LGBTQ+ community reclaimed the pink triangle as a symbol of resistance and remembrance. Jewelry pieces featuring the pink triangle began to appear, often handmade by activists. These pieces served as both a tribute to those who suffered and a declaration of defiance against ongoing oppression. The pink triangle's transformation from a mark of shame to a symbol of pride is a testament to the resilience of the LGBTQ+ community.

The Rainbow Flag: A New Era of Visibility

The 1970s: The Birth of the Rainbow Flag

The 1970s were a time of significant social change, including the rise of the LGBTQ+ rights movement. In 1978, artist and activist Gilbert Baker designed the rainbow flag, which quickly became a universal symbol of LGBTQ+ pride. Each color of the flag represents different aspects of life and identity: red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, blue for harmony, and violet for spirit.

Rainbow-Themed Jewelry

Jewelry incorporating the colors of the rainbow flag emerged as a powerful way to express pride and solidarity. These pieces ranged from simple beaded bracelets to intricate enamel work on rings and pendants. Wearing rainbow-themed jewelry became a visible statement of one's LGBTQ+ identity and support for the community. This era marked a shift from subtle symbols to bold, colorful expressions of pride.

The 1980s: Activism and Awareness

The AIDS Crisis and the Red Ribbon

The 1980s were a challenging time for the LGBTQ+ community due to the AIDS epidemic. In response, the Visual AIDS Artists Caucus introduced the red ribbon in 1991 as a symbol of awareness and support for those affected by HIV/AIDS. Jewelry featuring the red ribbon became a poignant reminder of the crisis and a call to action for greater awareness and support.

Fundraising and Advocacy

Jewelry played a crucial role in fundraising efforts during the AIDS crisis. Red ribbon pins, bracelets, and necklaces were sold to raise money for research, support services, and awareness campaigns. These items not only raised crucial funds but also kept the conversation about AIDS front and center in public consciousness. Jewelry thus became a tool for activism and advocacy, helping to drive change and support within the community.

The 1990s: Embracing Diversity

Bisexual and Transgender Pride Symbols

The 1990s saw a growing recognition of the diversity within the LGBTQ+ community. This period witnessed the creation of specific symbols for bisexual and transgender identities. The bisexual pride flag, designed by Michael Page in 1998, features pink, purple, and blue stripes. The transgender pride flag, created by Monica Helms in 1999, includes blue, pink, and white stripes.

Jewelry Celebrating Diverse Identities

Jewelry incorporating the colors and symbols of these new pride flags began to emerge, allowing individuals to express their specific identities. Rings, necklaces, and bracelets featuring these colors became popular, celebrating the growing inclusivity of the LGBTQ+ community. Custom and handmade jewelry also flourished during this time, as people sought unique ways to express their identities.

The 2000s: Mainstream Acceptance and Commercialization

The Rise of Commercial Pride Jewelry

As societal acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals grew in the 2000s, so did the commercialization of pride jewelry. Major jewelry brands began producing pieces specifically designed for the LGBTQ+ market. High-end designers created luxury items featuring pride symbols, often using precious metals and gemstones. This era marked a shift from grassroots, handmade items to more polished, commercial offerings.

Online Marketplaces and Accessibility

The rise of online marketplaces like Etsy revolutionized the availability of pride jewelry. Independent artisans could reach a global audience, offering a diverse array of designs. This democratization of jewelry design meant that anyone could find pieces that suited their style and identity, contributing to a broader visibility and celebration of LGBTQ+ identities.

The 2010s: Innovation and Intersectionality

Technological Advances in Jewelry Design

The 2010s saw significant advancements in jewelry design technology, including the use of 3D printing. This allowed for more intricate and customizable designs, giving artisans the tools to create unique pieces that were previously difficult to produce. These technological innovations expanded the possibilities for pride jewelry, making it more personalized and diverse.

Celebrating Intersectionality

There was also a growing recognition of intersectionality within the LGBTQ+ community during this decade. Pride jewelry began to reflect the complex interplay of various identities, including race, gender, and sexuality. Pieces that incorporated symbols from different movements and identities became popular, emphasizing the inclusivity and diversity of the community.

The 2020s: Sustainability and Ethical Practices

Eco-Friendly Jewelry

In recent years, there has been a significant shift towards sustainability and ethical practices in the jewelry industry. Consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental and social impacts of their purchases. This trend has influenced the creation of pride jewelry, with many artisans and designers using recycled metals, lab-grown gemstones, and fair-trade practices.

Continuing the Tradition of Pride Jewelry

As we move through the 2020s, pride jewelry continues to evolve. The emphasis on sustainability aligns with the broader values of the LGBTQ+ community, emphasizing care for the planet and a commitment to social justice. New designs incorporate a wide range of symbols and colors, representing the full spectrum of LGBTQ+ identities.

Antique and Vintage LGBTQ+ Jewelry at Eric Originals & Antiques

Curating Historical Pieces

At Eric Originals & Antiques, we are passionate about preserving and celebrating the history of pride jewelry. Our collection includes a variety of antique and vintage pieces that tell the story of the LGBTQ+ movement. From early 20th-century coded symbols to bold pieces from the 1970s and beyond, our curated selection offers a glimpse into the past.

Honoring Personal Stories

Each piece of antique pride jewelry carries with it a personal story. Many items were handmade by individuals within the LGBTQ+ community and passed down through generations. Owning a piece of this history is not just about aesthetics; it’s about honoring the legacy of those who fought for equality and recognition.

Finding Your Unique Piece

Whether you are looking for a subtle vintage ring or a vibrant rainbow necklace, we have something for everyone. Our collection is constantly evolving, and we are committed to helping you find a piece that resonates with your identity and values. Celebrate your pride with us and wear a piece of history with honor and joy.


The history of LGBTQ+ symbols in antique jewelry is a testament to the resilience and creativity of the community. From the subtle signals of the early 20th century to the bold statements of today, pride jewelry has always been a powerful form of expression. At Eric Originals & Antiques, we are honored to be a part of this journey. Our carefully curated selection of antique and vintage pride jewelry offers a connection to the past and a celebration of the present. We invite you to explore our collection and find a piece that speaks to your unique story. Wear your pride with honor and be a part of the ongoing narrative of love, resilience, and equality.

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