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By Reviewed By Andreas Zabczyk Aug 25, 2015 Updated Aug 29, 2017

Rocks for Rockers Part I

Elvis, The King of Rock & Roll Wearing Gemstone Rings
Elvis, The King of Rock & Roll Wearing Gemstone Rings

Rock music emerged in the late 1940s and developed into a range of sub-genres including blues, punk rock, glam rock, heavy metal, grunge and others. Along with rock and roll came fashion styles, including jewelry that was popular with rock and roll artists and fans. Typical modern rock music jewelry styles incorporate the pirate look (worn by Keith Richards), death and danger imagery, such as skulls, guns and knives, and occult symbols including crosses, crucifixes, pentagrams and eye motifs. Stones favored by rockers are dark-colored gems like obsidian, garnet, onyx, black agate, black tourmaline and black sapphire. Metallic gems such as hematite are also considered rock-worthy, as are blood-colored garnets and rubies. However, rock was not always about danger and darkness.

In the early days of rock and roll, the genre had not earned its decadent reputation and women wore tame, feminine styles. Pearl necklaces and earrings were popular jewelry items. Necklaces were often multi-stranded and chokers were worn by many. Also widely worn were brooches, clip-on earrings and matching jewelry suites. Jewelry in the 1950s could be dripping with diamonds, partly due to the DeBeers "Diamonds are Forever" campaign, or costume jewelry made from affordable gemstones. For men, the main jewelry item was a watch, cufflinks or a ring, such as a signet ring. Elvis Presley was a rock and roll icon of the age with a very large jewelry collection. The "King of Rock and Roll" wore several prominent rings during the 1950s, such as one with a horseshoe diamond design and a gold horse's head. He often wore gemstone pinkie rings and diamond cufflinks. While filming "Jailhouse Rock", Elvis wore a St Christopher medallion. He was fond of sapphire jewelry, which he believed signified kindness, politeness, wisdom and noble intentions. Elvis caused a sensation at the time with his pelvic movements, though looking back, rock and roll of this era now seems very chaste.

Mod-Style Flower Earrings and Multicolored Jade Bangles
Mod-Style Flower Earrings and Multicolored Jade Bangles

Meanwhile, the UK had two main groups; mods (modern jazz musicians and fans) and rockers (bikers). The mod look of British rock musicians, such as The Beatles, also known as "beat music" and "Merseybeat" influenced the world, beginning with the "British Invasion" in the USA. For men, jewelry of this time was minimal; the focus was on longer hair, tailored clothes and "Beatle boots". However, women's fashion became more revealing and jewelry styles were bolder and brighter, making use of rhinestones, which are diamond simulants, and colored gemstones. Also, imitation gemstone beads were popular. These could be worn with little expense and had an additional advantage that even large pieces were lightweight. Plastic and glass jewelry allowed for bold color combinations. Large hoop earrings and ball pendant dangle earrings could be seen on fashion icons such as Twiggy.

Later on, rock developed into psychedelic rock and the hippies used floral motifs and symbols such as the CND sign. The homemade look with natural materials such as hemp, feathers, stones and shells was in fashion during this time. The greater freedom of expression led to more men's jewelry. Necklaces were seen on many rock artists, from Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones (who also rocked a skull ring) to Jim Morrison of The Doors. Jimi Hendrix wore large rings, pins, earrings, bracelets, layered beaded necklaces and chains with prominent medallions. During this time, anything and everything was in. Western psychedelic rock embraced other cultures and religions, such as the Hare Krishna movement, thus Asian and other influences could be seen in jewelry, such as the Chinese yin yang sign.

Marc Bolan Wearing an Elaborate Gemstone Necklace
Marc Bolan Wearing an Elaborate Gemstone Necklace

The early 1970s saw the androgynous look worn by rock artists such as Marc Bolan and David Bowie. Glam rock allowed men to experiment with makeup and more feminine clothes. Marc Bolan seemed quite at home in eyeliner, chokers and leopard print, while David Bowie wore a silver hoop earring, bright, futuristic makeup and outlandish costumes. Punk rock went the other way, wearing everyday items as jewelry, such as Iggy Pop and his dog collar, Johnny Rotten's safety pin earring and Sid Vicious's padlock necklace. Ladies who brought a bit of glamour to the punk rock scene included Patti Smith and Deborah Harry of Blondie, who liked to layer necklaces and both often wore quite dainty chain necklaces.

As you can see, rock is not a clear-cut term, but encompasses various sub-genres. Rock style is not limited to skulls and crosses, but is diverse. In fact, the history of rock style is such a long and winding road that it cannot be properly covered in one article. For more about rock, read "Rocks for Rockers Part II".

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