Anyone who has ever visited a Greek souvenir shop will recognize it – the piercing blue eye, sometimes perfectly round instead of oval, it decorates key chains, mugs, wall decorations and, most common of all, jewelry. It’s a great memento from your holiday, the colors reminiscent of Cycladic architecture, the sea, and the Greek flag.
But the evil eye symbol is much more than a decorative shape. Wearing it or displaying it in one’s home is done in hopes of warding off the bad luck curse caused by glares of jealous people witnessing your success – an idea which dates back thousands of years. Most historical records attribute its origins it to Greek classical antiquity, and references to it can be found in the writings of Aristotle, Democritus and Plutarch. It echoes through other cultures and religions, via the Romans, Mesopotamians, Turkish, and Jewish societies; the notion that when you do well, others may hex you out of envy with a simple look in your direction, is wildly spread and believed.
In Greece, the evil eye curse is known as mati (literally “eye”), as are the eye charms popularly worn, placed in homes, and pinned to strollers. As jewelry, it’s a category in its own right; most local jewelers make some version of them, often ahead of the new year, when good luck charms are traditionally gifted. You’ll also find it in art, on ceramics and accessories. It’s not always blue either. Many designers today mix and match colors for their eyes, with a new meaning attached to each color choice.
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An international trend
Since the beginning of the pandemic and more so than ever this year, the evil eye symbol has also become a worldwide trend, inspiring fashion houses, being worn by celebrities like Rihanna and Meghan Markle, and showing up in the most unexpected places, from manicures to pool floaties.
“During the hard pandemic, many turned to the purchase of an eye for a talisman. At the same time, for Greek jewelry creators, personal experiences worked productively, and the appetite for new stylistic paths enriched the designs around the eye,” wrote Vogue Greece in July.
Some are critical to the trend, pointing at influencers wearing the symbol with little knowledge of its background or meaning. Elle India wrote: “A prime example of spirituality becoming a trend is the eye motif— gentrified by the West, it has become an aesthetic symbol for the gram catering to a demographic far away from its origins. Leave it to the modern generation to turn this ancient cross-cultural symbol of protection into a fashion statement in a way that makes it seem like nothing more than a decorative element.”
Meanwhile, The Hollywood Reporter noted power pendants such as the evil eye as one of the 8 best jewelry trends to try this summer, saying that “simple pendant necklaces will never go out of style, so why not add a few symbolic pieces to your jewelry mix?”
It’s not hard to agree. Even those passing the evil eye off as mere superstition may benefit from a little lucky charm, just in case. After all, the curse sometimes falls upon us by chance as well; According to tradition, the evil eye can be given unintentionally, by the offering of effusive praise.
But by all means, don’t let the fear of praise stop you from wearing or displaying the gems below with pride. Unlike the before mentioned pool floaties, these items were created by Greek designers, inspired by the long history and cultural meaning of the evil eye. That, arguably, should give wearing them some substance.
Vogue Greece names Ileana Makri as one of the fine jewelry designers known for her evil eye designs, and quotes her: “As a symbol, the eye creates an energy curtain that neutralizes negative energy and thus covers something fundamental: protection from evil. This evil mainly that we cannot easily detect, but recognize that it exists and we take our measures.” Among her most recent designs are five earring designs and five pendant necklaces inspired by Netflix’ Emily in Paris.
The earrings pictured are Sterling silver, 18k gold plated, finished with blue, white and red sparkling zircons, and €325.
Famous Greek jewelry brand Kessaris makes a number of eye designs, from decorative pieces for the home, to baby pins, to fine jewelry with eyes in various colors.
Pictured are 18k gold “Eye of the Tiger” earrings with brilliant cut diamonds, available at the price of €1.250.
The signature motif that adorns the pieces of Lito Karakostanoglou’s collection “Tu Es Partout” (You are everywhere), has been created by hand by a Russian iconographer. Speaking to Vogue Greece, she explained that while she doesn’t believe in wearing the eye for protection, she believes in the energy of it. Her realistic eye designs feature eyes in many different colors and colorful gemstones.
The necklace pictured is her 14k yellow gold “Grand Psychedelic” diamond necklace, which costs €2.150.
Sun of a Beach
Those who don’t love bling can still sport an eye charm. Greek towel and beach wear company Sun of a Beach’s “Electric Eye” collection is a modern, bright and fun print available on a range of products, from swimwear to bags.
Pictured is their handmade weekender bag, available on sale for €175.50.
Jewelry featuring cross-stitching is the signature trade of design brand B612. Their unique work includes statement necklaces, bracelets, earrings and little brooch talismans.
Pictured is their heart-shaped goldwork embroidery bracelet, featuring dangling agates. It costs €85.
Prefer to provide some protection and luck to your home? Elena Votsi’s “Eye’s on You” cushion collection adds fun splashes of color (blue or red) to your sofa of bed.
Pictured is her handmade rectangular “Eyes on You” cushion cover, made from 100% cotton in Greece, available at €85.
Myrto Danai Kollia
Ceramic artist Myrto Danai Kollia, who produces limited selection of Parian porcelain items for the home. often features eyes on her designs.
Pictured is a decorative porcelain plate currently for sale through the Benaki Museum shop, on sale for €63.
Marianna Lemos’ Evil Eye collection features bracelets and bangles, charm necklaces and earrings made from gold plated Sterling silver set with vibrant crystals, as well as some stand-out brightly colored bangles from nano ceramic coated Sterling silver.
Pictured are three of the ceramic coated bangles, available for €170.