10.1.13

Animal teeth and claws jewelry

retouched photo by J. J. Williams wikipedia

This beautiful lady is Queen Emma of Hawaii. And on this photo she's wearing a tiger's claws necklace. Such kind of adornments has been worn for centuries because teeth and claws of animals have been believed to possess strong amuletic powers. Though it should be noticed that not of any animal, say a mouse or a rabbit, but only of scary wild beasts like tiger, bear, leopard, wolf. Such amulets appear in the adornment of many cultures.
Mounted in gold or silver, a bear's tooth or a tiger's claw is believed to magically increase the physical strength of the wearer. In some countries it is said that a bear-claw amulet will also help a woman during childbirth. In other countries, a wolf's tooth attached to a baby's body will protect the child from fear and from toothache. In China (and from there it spread to casino cities) a tiger's claw or tooth mounted in gold is said to bring luck to gamblers. In China the tiger is referred to as "the gambler's god".

Amethyst anklet with golden claw pendant. Egypt, ca 1887-1813 BC. Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Native Americal chiefs wore grizli bear's claws necklaces to capture this way the strenght of the animal and to show-off their own courage.

Otoe chief, wearing a grizli bear's claws necklace, 1884. Photo from  here

Shark tooth pendant, late 18th century. Photo from here

In India tiger's claws amulets are still very popular. A single claw may be used but the usual design is a pair of matching-sized claws with their ends pointing opposite sides. Such amulet's main function is to scare away any evil spirit that may approach in attempt to attack the wearer.
In the absense of real tiger claws a metal amulet in the shape of the claws can be used but then its power should be activated by proper ceremony.

Tiger's claws stylized necklace, gold. Indonesia, 8-10th century. Metropolitan Museum of Art

Indian actress Nitu Singh wearing tiger's claws jewelry in the "Maha Chor" movie, 1976. Image from here

In Great Britain tiger claws adornments became very popular durint the 19th century. It was worn not for any amuletic purposes but as a form of trophy jewelry (like in the case with those chiefs - to show off). Not only pendants and necklaces but tiger's claws earrings, brooches, bracelets and belt buckles were created during that period. Some claws were left in their natural state, others polished to a pearly gloss. The ornaments were often enriched by engraving, wire-work, filigree and precious stones.

Tiger's claws necklace, 1865, Victoria and Albert Museum

Tiger's claws earrings, 1870. Photo from here

Nowadays teeth-claws jewelry is still worn, designers create modern-looking beautiful things and there is no need to kill any animal for making those ornaments: they just imitate the shape of a teeth or a claw. 

Tiger claw pendant by Forzieri


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