Biker pendants are valuable assets for any jewelry lover. Not because they cost a pretty penny, but because of the things they represent. These wearable symbols represent such things as friendship, brotherhood, toughness, masculinity, life, death, and everything in between. The biker subculture has adopted a unique system of symbols, and each of them has a certain meaning. Below we have listed the three most common images found in biker jewelry in general and pendants in particular.
If you consider skulls a controversial symbol, how about the Iron Cross, the Nazi army’s infamous award? But don’t jump to a conclusion; bikers are not followers of the ultra-right ideology, quite the contrary. And the Iron Cross itself is not exactly the invention of the Third Reich.
According to historians, the Teutonic Cross served as the prototype of the Iron Cross. King Frederick William III of Prussia, proud of his historical ties to the Teutonic Order and inspired by its main symbol, proposed making the Cross a military award. The Iron Cross received its official status in 1813. In the ensuing war of 1871, Prussia defeated French troops, merged with Germany, and became part of the German Empire. In turn, the Empire adopted many of the highest Prussian military honours, including the Iron Cross.
When Hitler took the reins of power into his own hands, he modified the Iron Cross by striking a swastika in the center and changing the color of the sash from black and white to black, white and red.
Since the Iron Cross is a military award, getting one as a trophy was a kind of proof of courage and military skill for the soldiers of the Allied powers. Returning from the battlefield, former soldiers proudly display their Iron Cross trophies. The defenders of the “American dream” were the heroes in the eyes of the younger generation. These kids wanted to be like them, ride motorcycles like them, and wear iron crosses like them. Soon, the iron cross became the symbol of those who ride two-wheelers. However, motorcyclists did not want to wear a swastika with their cross. They removed the obnoxious symbol and covered the scratches on the iron cross with something better. That something was the skull.
But why the skull exactly?
The skull has a much longer history than the iron cross. People have worshiped skulls since the Paleolithic era. Our ancestors endowed skulls with protective functions, believing that they can protect against adversity and misfortune. When they went hunting, the men put on amulets made of the claws, skulls and bones of the animals they killed. Over time, the meaning of the skull evolved from protection to an indicator of masculinity, as the bravest and most dexterous wore more skulls than their less successful peers. Along with this, skulls became a means of intimidating the enemy.
Considering the skull’s role as a deterrent and a manifestation of masculinity, it’s no surprise that it quickly finds its way onto military insignia. Here it is worth mentioning the Prussian army again. There was a legendary squadron of Black Hussars who displayed silver skulls and crossbones on their headdresses. Just like the iron cross, this skull was then inherited by the German army. However, the skull was not the symbol of a certain army; rather, it represented militarism as a phenomenon. Therefore, the Allied army also did not avoid images of skulls.
The American pilots of the Hells Angels squadron are particularly revealing in this regard. Their favorite symbol was a winged skull engulfed in flames, which they applied to their planes and helmets. Returning from the war, members of the Hells Angels founded the very first motorcycle club. They kept the name and the skull as a symbol. Soon skullomania spread throughout the motorcycling community. Besides the Hells Angels, a strong contribution to the recognition of the symbol was made by Mexican rings. They were the very first body ornaments, apart from war trophies, that motorcyclists adopted as body ornaments. As their name suggests, they were made in Mexico and Mexico reveres skulls as a sacred symbol.
To make the skulls even more special, bikers have invented a curious legend saying that the skull is able to protect against death. When death comes after a person, it leaves a skull mark on his body. Thereby, sterling silver skull pendants or rings tell death that its work is already done and that it is going.
This symbol has also gained traction in the biker subculture thanks to Mexican rings. An eagle is a national symbol of Mexico known since the heyday of the Aztecs representing the sun and the god Huitzilopochtli. When making rings and other jewelry, Mexicans proudly display their beloved symbol.
Bikers did not share the sentiments of Aztec culture but they appreciated the beauty of the mighty bird. Also, it was easy to assign a new meaning to the image of an eagle. Freedom, speed, movement and brutality – all those things that bikers and eagles have in common. Also, since the very first bikers were pilots in their military life, they have great respect for creatures that can fly. Eagles have become an integral part of the colors (emblems) of many motorcycle clubs. Even clubs that prefer different symbols frequently complete them with wings to express the same meaning that eagles represent.