According to ancient Greek mythology, the half-god, half-human hero (feel free to imagine Kevin Sorbo here) created the iconic “Herakles knot” after he defeated a ferocious lion and tied its hide using its front paws around his neck to celebrate his victory. When either side was pulled, the knot became tighter, which metaphorically symbolized Hercules’ growing strength.
This beautiful piece of jewelry (pictured above) is a perfect example of how the hero’s fearless fashion statement inspired many accessories. Housed in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, this gold armband, circa 3rd to 2nd century B.C., reflects the intricate details and skilled artistry that blossomed during the Greek Hellenistic period. Men and women would wear the Herakles knot (as a bracelet, ring, or armband) to ward off evil.
However, when ancient Romans adopted the myth (renaming him Hercules), the knot began to appear at weddings as part of the bride’s girdle to symbolize her chastity and fertility. Beyond strength and courage, Hercules was also known for fathering many children. This is likely the origin for the popular phrase “tying the knot” as a metaphor for marriage.
Today, the Herakles knot continues to serve as an inspiration for many designers and a symbol of strength, protection, love and stability for its wearers. Among the most well-known jewelry collections influenced by this timeless shape are Tiffany’ s “Love Knot” and Cartier’s “Infinity”. Here are a few more unique twists on the famous knot…
Finn Jewelry Love Knot Rings, from $500
Vintage Christian Dior Rhinestone Love Knot Mesh Chain Necklace (photo on homepage), $85
[Photograph of Herakles knot courtesy of Franny Vignola]