Learn all about the jewelry worn by the pirates of the 17th and 18th centuries, and how to wear your pirate booty to recreate the genuine pirate aesthetic and complete an authentic pirate costume.
Did pirates wear jewelry?
During the Golden Age of Piracy in the 17th and 18th centuries, pirates wore jewelry to display their affluence, but pirate jewelry was also a practical way to store wealth. By wearing jewelry, pirates could keep their booty safe and on their person. They could also bring it with them when they were on land.
Pirates of the 17th century may have been outlaws, but they were still often religious and feared death without burial. Gold earrings ensured that if their body were washed ashore, the finder could use the gold as payment for a befitting burial. Some pirates even had the name of their home port engraved on their jewelry.
It is also believed that pirates used hooped earrings as a means to carry ear protection. Pirates would press wax onto the hoop, where it was ready to stuff in their ears before battle, protecting them from the booming canons, which could deafen a man at close range. An ingeniously practical solution.
Pirates obtained their jewelry from a variety of sources. One common source was from the ships they plundered during raids. Jewelry was often among the valuable cargo on board ships, and pirates would take whatever they could find. They might also steal jewelry from their victims themselves, as a way of intimidating and demoralizing them.
In addition to stolen jewelry, pirates could also acquire it through trade. They would often trade plundered goods with merchants in ports and towns and could use the proceeds to buy jewelry and other luxury items. Some pirates also had personal connections with jewelers and other craftsmen, who might create custom pieces for them.
While the specifics varied depending on the individual pirate, jewelry was often seen as a symbol of wealth, power, and status, and was prized by pirates and other seafarers alike.
If you’re wondering what kind of jewelry do pirates wear? You’ve come to the right place.
The most common piece of pirate jewelry was a single, gold hoop earring. Do pirates wear earrings on left or right? The left ear was standard but if you wore it on the right ear, it meant you “went against the weather,” and you were especially tough. Although, many pirates, both male and female, wore multiple earrings as a practical way to store their wealth because earrings could be easily removed and traded or sold when needed.
Pirates often wore necklaces made of gold, silver, or other precious metals, as these were seen as a sign of wealth and status. They sometimes also wore necklaces made from bones, teeth, or other materials as a symbol of their bravery and toughness. The most infamous pirate neckless was worn by the character Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean. The Aztec Gold Medallion worn by Captain Jack was inspired by the legend of the "Treasure of Cortés,” which was said to have been cursed so that any mortal who removed a piece of gold from the chest would be punished for eternity.
Pirate jewelry sometimes included rings worn on their fingers, often made of gold or silver. These were sometimes used to seal letters or documents but were also seen as a sign of wealth and status.
In popular culture, pirate rings are often depicted as ornate and flashy, with large gemstones or intricate designs. They are sometimes portrayed as having special powers or properties, such as the ability to protect the wearer or bring good luck.
While there is no evidence to support the idea that pirate rings had any special significance or properties, they remain a popular symbol of pirate culture and are often featured in movies, books, and other media about piracy.
Bracelets and Anklets
Pirates sometimes wore bracelets and anklets made of gold or silver, as well as bracelets made from bone or other materials.
One famous pirate bracelet is the "Pirate Wrist Shackles" or "Blackbeard's wrist shackles". These were a set of iron wrist shackles that were supposedly worn by the notorious pirate Blackbeard, also known as Edward Teach, during his pirate career in the early 18th century. The shackles were said to have been removed from Blackbeard's body after he was killed in a battle with British naval forces in 1718, and were subsequently passed down through several generations of the family of the British naval officer who captured him, Captain Ellis Brand.
While there is some debate about the authenticity of the shackles and their connection to Blackbeard, they remain a popular symbol of pirate history and are often displayed in museums and collections of pirate artifacts. The shackles are notable for their size and weight, as well as their association with one of the most infamous pirates of the Golden Age of Piracy.
Brooches and buckles
Pirates often wore brooches and buckles on their clothing, often made of gold or silver. These were functional as well as decorative, as they could be used to fasten clothing or equipment.
Brooches were a popular form of pirate jewelry during the 17th and 18th centuries, and they were often worn by both men and women as a way to fasten garments or as a decorative accessory. While there is little specific information about whether pirates wore brooches, it is likely that some pirates may have worn them as a way to express their individual style or to demonstrate their wealth and success as pirates.
However, it is important to note that much of what we know about pirate clothing and accessories is based on popular culture and fictional depictions of piracy, rather than historical evidence. Therefore, the exact types of jewelry and accessories worn by pirates may vary widely depending on the time period, region, and individual pirate in question.
Some pirates also had other body piercings, such as nose rings or tongue piercings, which were seen as a symbol of bravery and toughness.
Piercings have been a part of many cultures throughout history, often with symbolic or spiritual significance. Some pirates may have had piercings as a way to express their individuality or to display their affiliation with a particular group or culture. Others may have had piercings for practical reasons, such as to secure earrings or other types of pirate jewelry.
It is also possible that some pirates may have acquired piercings during their time at sea, as a result of injuries sustained during battles or accidents on board ships. However, there is no evidence to suggest that body piercing was a common or widespread practice among pirates, and it is likely that any piercings they did have would have been a personal choice rather than a cultural or social norm.
Overall, pirate jewelry was an important part of their fashion and culture, both for practical reasons and as a way to show off their wealth and status.
Famous Pirate Jewelry
The "Treasure of Cortés" is a legendary treasure said to have been amassed by the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés during his conquest of Mexico in the early 16th century. According to legend, the treasure consisted of vast quantities of gold, silver, precious jewels, and other valuable items that Cortés looted from the Aztecs and other indigenous peoples.
What jewelry does Jack Sparrow wear? The legend of the Treasure of Cortés has been popularized in various works of fiction, including movies, TV shows, and books. One of the most famous depictions is in the 1984 film Romancing the Stone, in which the protagonist is on a quest to find the treasure, and the Aztec Gold Medallion neckless worn by the character, Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean.
Despite the enduring popularity of the legend, there is little concrete evidence to suggest that the Treasure of Cortés actually exists. While it is true that Cortés amassed significant wealth during his conquest of Mexico, much of it was used to finance further expeditions and was ultimately lost or stolen. Furthermore, the idea of a hidden treasure trove buried deep in the jungle is a common trope in pirate and adventure stories, and it is difficult to separate fact from fiction when it comes to these legends.
The Spanish Treasure Fleet: In 1622, the Spanish treasure fleet was on its way back from the Americas, carrying a large amount of gold, silver, and jewels. A fleet of Dutch and English pirates attacked the Spanish ships, taking an estimated $1 billion (in today’s money) worth of treasure. Among the items stolen were a number of emeralds and pearls, which were highly prized by pirates and were often used to make jewelry.
The Nuestra Señora de Atocha: In 1622, the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha was carrying a large amount of treasure, including gold, silver, and jewels, when it sank off the coast of Florida during a hurricane. The treasure remained hidden for over 300 years until it was discovered by treasure hunter Mel Fisher in 1985. Among the items recovered were several pieces of gold and silver jewelry, including a gold chain with a large emerald pendant.
The Hope Diamond: The Hope Diamond is one of the world's most famous jewels, and it has a storied history that includes being stolen by pirates. The diamond was originally discovered in India in the 17th century and was eventually acquired by French jeweler Louis XIV. It was later stolen during the French Revolution and resurfaced in London in the early 19th century, where it was purchased by a wealthy banker. According to legend, the diamond was stolen by a group of pirates who then sold it to a wealthy American family.
X Marks The Spot
Our treasure chest at PirateClothingStore.com is stuffed with a wide selection of high-quality, authentic pirate jewelry for your next Pirate Fest, pirate cosplay, or pirate-themed party. Check out our selection of pirate weaponry and pirate costume to complete the genuine pirate aesthetic. Our line of specialist jewelry includes options for men's pirate costumes, women's pirate costumes, and unisex items.