This is my first entry in a series of posts that will explore various styles and designs of the cross in many cultures, but primarily in Christian symbolism. Many of these crosses have distinct shapes and applications. They are perfect for jewelry and other decorative arts, especially when a specific religious theme (or affiliation) needs to be emphasized.
Maltese cross is a variation of the Cross Pattée or Cross Formée, but its points emphasized by additional angles between them. Originally the symbol of Amalfi, a small republic in 11th century Italy, this emblem was adopted by Medieval crusaders, particularly the Knights Hospitaller. Maltese cross is also believed to have been acceptable as a Knights Templar symbol. The eight points of the Maltese cross are sometimes interpreted as representative of eight crucial (no pun intended) values:
- Glory and honor
- Contempt of death
- Helpfulness towards the poor and the sick
- Respect for the church
This interpretation is interesting, but it is very unlikely that it has much to do with the early period of this emblem’s use. Nevertheless, the Maltese cross is often adopted as a symbol by organizations that have their pride in military valor and serving others. The Maltese cross pendant shown above has a classic shape, associated with the term. Very often, however, the term is used to describe the so called Cross of Saint Florian (see the engraved pendant below). The two shapes are distinctly different, however the Cross of Saint Florian, who is believed to serve both as a firefighter and a soldier, does share some important connotations with the Maltese cross.
It is my assumption that these symbols are especially appropriate for jewelry worn by the wives and mothers of brave men in uniform. As such they can be excellent choices for engraved wedding rings, engagement rings, charms, pendants and other momentous presents.
Leaving aside considerations of correct usage, appropriateness, symbolism etc., the Maltese cross is also one of the most stunning and pronounced geometric patterns used in jewelry and decorative art. A wonderfully designed example of the use of this symbol can be found in this 8 karat gold ring with a white topaz dome by Jude Frances.