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Over the last few centuries, wishbones have come to symbolize good luck, optimism and love. It’s a symbol that many resonate with and is ideal as a gift for just about any occasion.
Luck’s always a good thing, and the wishbone goes beyond that, implying that you have a say in making your luck.
No wonder that the use of the wishbone symbol has become ubiquitous and well-loved.
Let’s take a look at the origins, meaning and symbolism of the wishbone and why it’s an excellent symbol to wear in jewelry.
What is a Wishbone?
Wishbones have been a part of Western culture for so long that most people take it for granted and don’t even notice it anymore.
It’s in the language (you can have a lucky break, bad break or a clean break), in poetry (“A person will sometimes devote all his life to the development of one part of his body – the wishbone.” Robert Frost) songs, art, jewelry and so much more.
But what exactly is it?
Jennifer Aniston wearing a wishbone necklace.
Put simply, the wishbone is a part of a bird’s skeleton. Also called a furcula, the wishbone is a forked bone with the function of strengthening the bird and to help it during flight. Wishbones have also been found in some dinosaurs.
The wishbones that people break for luck come from chickens and turkeys.
Wishbone from chicken. Source
Now why would a bird bone come to be associated with good luck? The superstition can be traced back to the Medieval Period, when certain people claimed that they could divine the weather and a person’s fortune by using a bird’s wishbone. Apparently, the wishbone of the goose was believed to help in divining the weather.
The custom of breaking the wishbone for luck came about later on, somewhere in the early 1600s. at this time, the bone was called a merrythought. It was in 1860 that the word wishbone was first used to reference this curious custom.
How to Break a Wishbone?
So what exactly is the custom? There are a few steps to this, if you want to do it right.
First of all, the bone has to be taken out of the cooked bird, typically chicken or turkey. This is usually done during carving the bird. Then the bone has to be cleaned and put aside to dry. In the past, drying the wishbone for three days added extra luck. Drying results in a brittle and easy-to-break bone.
Now the bone is ready for the wishing ritual. The two people going to wish on the bone need to pull each side of the bone with their little fingers until the bone breaks in two. They make a wish while they do this.
The person with the longer piece has a ‘lucky break’ and whatever they wished for will come true. The person with the short piece has had a ‘bad break’ and their wish won’t come true. The best case scenario is that the bone breaks cleanly in half in which case, both wishes come true.
An unbroken wishbone is a symbol of luck, promise and potential. Because of this, it’s become a popular symbol for gifts.
Take a look at this video that shows just how you can have an edge when breaking the wishbone.
Wishbone Symbol in Jewelry
The wishbone symbol is often used in jewelry and its interesting shape makes for beautiful, functional jewelry designs.
When used in pendants, the wishbone symbol is typically faced downwards as in this is more functional and makes for a beautiful design. It’s believed that if you wear a wishbone pendant, you should say your wish when you put on the necklace.
Face down wishbone pendant. See it here.
One of the best things about the wishbone pendant is that it can be used as a ring holder, if it is just large enough. This makes it an ideal choice for someone with a wedding or engagement ring that they need to take off often or for a ring that doesn’t fit.
Simply putting the ring through the chain and over the pendant will keep it in place in a stylish and meaningful way.
Wishbone pendant as a ring holder. See it here.
This adds an extra element to the meaning of the ring, bringing in an implication of good luck and future potential.
Wishbone pendants as a ring holder are perfect for people who use their hands a lot, are exposed to chemicals or spend a lot of time outdoors. It’ll keep your ring safe while looking stylish.
Wishbone rings have become a popular, meaningful design that has come to represent love as well as luck. Giving a wishbone ring to a loved one is symbolic of bringing the two people together.
Wishbone rings are commonly made of a shaped piece of precious metal but adding diamonds and other elements to the ring adds to its beauty and also its symbolism.
A classic wishbone ring. See it here.
Wishbone rings make for symbolic wedding bands. They’re also very functional as the v-shape of the design easily fits above engagement rings and can typically accommodate a gemstone.
Stylish wishbone wedding band. See it here.
There’s some debate over whether you should wear the wishbone ring facing up or down. But unlike the claddagh ring, the direction of the wishbone ring doesn’t change it’s meaning. You can wear it any way that feels comfortable to you and that accommodates your other jewelry.
Wishbone earrings are a very popular design and come in a range of styles. Threader wishbone earrings are one of the most popular way to wear this symbol. They don’t look like typical wishbones and are instead a stylized version.
Threader wishbone earrings. See them here.
Modern take on the wishbone. See these terra cotta earrings here.
There are a variety of stylized wishbone designs for earrings. The shape of the wishbone allows it to be used in versatile and creative ways, from minimalist to maximalist styles.
When to Give Wishbone Jewelry
Because of its symbolism of luck, potential luck and love, the wishbone is an ideal symbol as a gift for a variety of occasions. It’s acknowledging that the person has a wish that you hope will come true for them.
Here are some:
- Valentine’s Day – Giving wishbone jewelry on Valentine’s day is an expression of love. It can mean things like We’ll make our luck together or You’re my lucky charm. It can also simply mean I love you.
- Graduation – A wishbone jewelry gift on graduation is apt as it symbolizes untapped potential and a positive outlook towards the future. It also implies that you make your own luck.
- Wedding – Perfect as a wedding gift, the wishbone symbol suggests a fresh beginning, a new chapter and a world of opportunities.
- To a Traveller – To someone about to embark on a journey or travel the world, a wishbone gift is a reminder to be positive, open to adventure and see the potential in every situation.
- New Job – If a friend or loved one has had a promotion or a new job, a wishbone jewelry gift implies that while we can’t always predict the outcome, we can try our best to make our own luck.
Where to Buy Wishbone Jewelry
The options are unlimited and there are a wide range of prices and designs compared to physical stores.