Trend File: The ’90s Ankh Is Back

Ancient Egpyt—still influencing fashion!

The ankh symbol—a simple cross with a looped top—appears in the hand of almost every deity and pharoah depicted from ancient Egypt. But the elegant ankh, which symbolizes life and afterlife, dates back even earlier—to Mesopotamia and Persia.

Fast-forward to 2017, and the ancient hieroglyph, which enjoyed style heydays in both the 1960s (courtesy of the hippies) and the early 1990s (when it became a hallmark of “grunge” style), has made its way back into the fashion sphere.

Beyoncé helped kick off the trend last year when she wore a hammered gold ankh pendant while (expertly) railing against a cheating husband in the film-length video to her new album, Lemonade. Katy Perry and Erykah Badu have also donned ankh jewelry—Perry recently had the symbol painted on her nails.


Beyoncé wearing an ankh in Lemonade (photo courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment)

But among ankh-wearing celebs, Rihanna’s fallen hardest for the beautiful, spare symbol.

The Barbadian pop star recently wore a bright gold necklace composed of several connected, chunky, hammered gold ankhs on the red carpet, and she’s adopted a huge diamond-studded white gold ankh pendant as an everyday, walking-through-the-airport, hanging-with-Mom-on-the-sofa staple.


Rihanna in her “everyday” ankh (photo courtesy of Instagram/@badgalriri)

Actress Rashida Jones, another ankh superfan, launched a jewelry collaboration with online jeweler Iconery in November that features the symbol, among other ancient talismans, including the hamsa. The line includes hefty gold ankh rings and an ankh pendant studded in black diamonds.

“Things have gotten so dainty in terms of fine jewelry,” Jones told WWD. “I wanted a return to ’70s, ’80s bold, iconic symbols.”


Rashida Jones x Iconery pieces (photo courtesy of Iconery)


Rashida Jones modeling a black diamond ankh necklace from her Rashida Jones x Iconery line (photo courtesy of Iconery)

Jewelry that feels personal—namely, initial and monogram jewelry—has been huge in recent years. And one could argue that symbols like the ankh—that honor life, death, and other heady matters—are an evolution of the same desire to wear jewelry that’s deeply meaningful.

And was there ever any doubt that a symbol that stands for afterlife would get a second (and third and fourth and fifth) hurrah? No chance.


Erykah Badu in an ankh ring on the cover of Vibe last year (photo courtesy of Vibe)

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JCK Senior Editor

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