alchemy symbols

It's no secret I am a bit of chemistry nerd - I have a periodic table in my toilet, need I say more?

I'm thankful that jewellery making incorporates so many chemistry curiosities to keep me entertained, and I'm forever fascinated by the compositions and properties of the many elements - metallic and mineral - that I get to play with on a daily basis.

You may or may not know that my logo -

 and hallmark seen on the inside of these rings -
 is based on a simplified version of an alchemy symbol which represents the four elements - earth, air, fire, water.  These elements are pivotal to the manufacturing of jewellery.  It's all or nothing.

A little look into history before chemistry was considered a science, leads us to alchemy.

Defined by Wikipedia as "an influential philosophical tradition...that contributed to the development of modern chemistry and medicine...but differs in the inclusions of practices related to mythology, religion and spirituality."

The alchemist sees direct relationships between organic and inorganic matter and spirit.  The earliest references to alchemy are seen in ancient Egypt.  It was further developed by the Greeks and Arabs, then introduced to Christian Europe through the Moors in Spain during the 12th Century.  However, it should be noted that the basis of gold and longevity is an alchemy theory which was widely believed in ancient China and India also.   

Alchemists were persecuted in the Middle Ages (witchcraft and all that mumbo jumbo) so created secret symbols to represent the elements they used (or usually in the case of gold and silver, were trying to create).  Here's a little selection of some of those used for gold (Au) - 

And Silver (Ag) -

symbol images from here

I find these really interesting from a semiotics point of view.  The symbolic connections of silver with the moon and the feminine are quite obvious here, the triangle often represents the female womb or vulva, and there's even one there that looks like breasts!

The gold symbols are somewhat sun-like, they appear to represent heat to me, as opposed to the cool silver symbols.   The sun also has masculine associations.  

At the risk of getting all Da Vinci Code on you, I'll stop here. 



  1. very cool!!! I like the symbols and how they relate to the sun/moon :) Hope your exhibition preparations are coming along a-ok!? ktx

  2. Thanks Katie! I could've gone on for much longer about more and more symbols, but you've got to put a cap on it somewhere right? Printing cyanotypes for the exhibition as we speak - hope your exhibition prep is going swimmingly too!

  3. Why are there different symbols for gold and what are their significance?

    1. Hi Dennis,
      I would presume that because alchemy was practised over many centuries by many different cultures that the difference in symbols is rather like that of languages, and also from alterations over the many years it was practised. The significance of the symbols as far as I'm aware is merely just a semiotic recording of the elements for reference purposes, and are up to interpretation. I would welcome any other theories on these topics though!