Christianity, one of the most widespread religions in the entire world, is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. In the Americas alone, approximately 804 million people belong to the Christian faith, according to the Pew Research Center. Beyond the Americas, Christianity flourishes in:
- Europe: 565 million Christians
- Sub-Saharan Africa: 516 million Christians
- The Middle East and North Africa: 12 million Christians
- Asia-Pacific: 285 million Christians
Christianity is a broad term covering a general belief system and encompassing a wide variety of denominations. In the United States, people are spread across the following denominations:
- Protestantism: 46.5 percent
- Catholicism: 20.8 percent
- Orthodox Christianity: 0.5 percent
- Mormonism: 1.6 percent
- Jehovah’s Witness: 0.8 percent
- Other: 0.4 percent
While religious practices, houses of worship and leadership structure vary between denominations, common imagery links all Christian faiths. The cross is one of the most recognizable and celebrated symbols of Christianity. It represents the crucifixion of Jesus and believers’ faith in their religion.
Religious iconography, including the cross, is more popular or more meaningful depending on the denomination, but many Christians choose to wear the cross as a sign of their faith and a reminder of the sacrifices Jesus made for his people. Religious and other symbolic jewelry, like Christian cross jewelry, is a beautiful way for people to celebrate their faith.
The traditional cross is a simple image with two bars crossed, but there are myriad different variations. When deciding what cross jewelry to choose, you have to consider the different crosses and their meanings. Some crosses are simply more intricate for beauty’s sake, while others have designs that indicate associations with different cultures or denominations. We have put together a guide to variations of the Christian cross often found in jewelry stores. Use this guide to help you pick the perfect piece of cross jewelry as a gift or for yourself.
The anchor cross has the recognizable two short arms horizontally crossing a slightly longer vertical bar. Instead of being a simple, unadorned bar, the vertical piece of the cross incorporates elements of a ship’s anchor. The bottom of the bar sweeps upward in the shape of an anchor’s bottom. The top of the bar ends in a circle, like the top of an anchor. This type of cross signifies the strength Jesus gives his followers. Christianity, for many of its followers, is the anchor that holds their life and loved ones together.
The combination of the traditional cross shape with that of an anchor also makes jewelry with this design less obviously religious. If the wearer prefers a more subtle shape, this could be a perfect fit.
The Ankh harkens back to the early days of Christianity. This symbol has a recognizable cross shape, but it is a bit fuller. The cross bar is still present, but the top of the vertical bar forms a loop instead of a straight line. The bars also tend to be thicker. The crossbars and bottom of the vertical bar are thicker at the bottom and gradually grow thinner as they move toward the center of the cross.
The symbol is of Egyptian origin. In this sense, the ankh is a hieroglyph that means “life.” During the fourth century, a group of Christians known as Coptic Christians adopted the ankh as a symbol of their faith. In the Christian sense, the ankh relates to the belief in eternal life promised by Jesus. Today, it can still symbolize belief in the Christian faith. It all depends on how the viewer wears and interprets the symbol. The ankh could be a good fit for someone with Christian faith, but less traditional practices.
In 310 AD, Armenians became one of the first groups of people to designate Christianity as a national religion. The Armenian cross dates back to these early days of Christianity, and this cross has a more intricate design than the traditional Christian cross. The classic cross shape is present, but it is adorned with floral embellishments. The floral touches grace the two pointed tips at the end of each crossbar. The horizontal bar is typically shorter than the vertical bar.
The cross is sometimes called the Siroun cross, which translates to “lovely cross.” The beautiful design might appeal to some wearers. This cross is also a great fit for anyone with Armenian heritage.
The budded cross has a wide array of variations. You can recognize the budded cross by the round buds at the end of each crossbar, top and bottom. Some budded crosses have crossbars of different lengths, while some have crossbars of equal length. Each different design has a slightly different meaning.
For example, one budded cross has three round buds at the end of each crossbar. These three buds represent the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In some variations, the buds can suggest growing and blossoming faith. If the wearer has a particular affinity for the Holy Trinity or likes jewelry with a more elaborate design, the budded cross is a good option.
The Byzantine cross traces its roots back to the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantine emperor Constantine is remembered for his support of Christianity. During his reign, Constantine built many basilicas for worship and set aside Sunday for religious reflection.
The Byzantine cross is a more elaborate variation of the traditional cross. The vertical beam of the cross is longer than the crossbeam, and Byzantine crosses also often feature precious gemstones. This type of cross might feature inscribed Christian symbols as well.
The Canterbury Cross is another design that goes back years into Christian history, but it has a significantly different look than the classic cross. Each cross beam is of equal length, but instead of being straight from beginning to end, each beam ends in a swooping curve. The curves are big enough that the cross is circular in appearance.
The original Canterbury Cross, made of bronze metal, was created in 850 AD, but not rediscovered until 1867. The cross is on display at the Canterbury Heritage Museum in Canterbury, England. Each arm has a detailed triangular design. The three-sided shape is symbolic of the Holy Trinity. History buffs will love the story behind this cross, while people who prefer softer curves to sharp angles will favor the design.
The Celtic cross is tied to the Gaelic culture. The crossbeams stem from a central circle, and the horizontal crossbeam is shorter than the vertical crossbeam. The central circle could represent a halo. Others argue that it symbolizes the Roman sun god Invictus. The idea of Roman gods often became intertwined with Christian beliefs as Christianity began to spread throughout Ireland.
Christians with connections to Irish and Gaelic culture will connect with Celtic cross jewelry. Celtic crosses have varying levels of ornamentation — and you can choose a simple Celtic cross or select one with delicate engravings.
The Claddagh symbol is made of three parts: two hands, a crown and a central heart. The two hands represent friendship, and the crown represents loyalty. The heart represents, of course, love. The symbol has Irish roots, and today, an Irish engagement or wedding ring might feature the Claddagh symbol.
A Claddagh cross combines this symbol with the traditional cross. The hands form the horizontal crossbeam, while the heart and crown rest on the vertical crossbeam. The Claddagh cross signifies love centered on Christian faith and ideals, and it would be a wonderful fit for someone with Irish heritage and Christian faith.
The cross fleury incorporates the fleur-de-lis shape into its design. “Fleur-de-lis,” a French term, translates to “flower of the lily.” As its name suggests, the fleur-de-lis is the image of a lily or sometimes a lotus flower. While the symbol has often been associated with French royalty, it also has religious associations. The Roman Catholic Church associates the lily with the Virgin Mary, while the flowery symbol’s three petals can be interpreted as the Holy Trinity.
All arms of the cross fleury are of equal length. Each arm ends in the three petals of the fleur-de-lis. The combination of the cross and the fleur-de-lis suggests the Holy Trinity association.
This cross depicts the actual crucifixion of Christ. Of all of the Catholic crosses and their meanings, the crucifix probably carries the most weight. The crucifix has meaning for all Christians, but it is particularly important in Catholicism. Imagery plays a big role in Catholicism, while statues and artwork of Jesus, Mary and the saints are not as predominant in other denominations. Catholics view the crucifix as a stronger reminder of Jesus Christ’s sacrifices and his resurrection, as opposed to a simple, unadorned cross.
A crucifix necklace can be a beautiful piece of art and jewelry. This iteration of the cross is ideal for devout Catholics.
The Greek cross deviates in meaning from the traditional cross, which at the most basic level symbolizes the crucifixion. The Greek cross, also known as the cross of earth, has four arms of equal length. These beams represent the four different directions and the spread of the holy gospel.
When you think of the traditional cross, you are probably picturing the Latin cross. The Latin cross is a simple t-shaped cross. The horizontal beam, known as the patibulum, is shorter than the vertical beam, known as the stipe. Many churches in the Western hemisphere have a floor plan based on the Latin cross.
People who tend to appreciate simple, classic jewelry will love the beauty of the Latin cross. The clean, simple design is appealing, while the symbol of Christian faith shines as strong as any other type of cross.
The Moline cross has four arms of equal length. Each arm terminates in a two-pronged fork, giving the cross eight different points. Each of those eight points can be interpreted as a reminder of the Eight Beatitudes, given by Jesus Christ during the Sermon on the Mount.
The word “Moline” is derived from the Latin term for “mill” because of its shape. Anyone who feels a connection with the Eight Beatitudes will truly appreciate a piece of jewelry featuring a Moline cross.
The sideways cross is a common style for necklaces. The cross itself is often a simple Latin cross. The meaning behind this type of cross is a little more open to interpretation. Wearers may consider it a simple symbol of their Christian faith, and the sideways position is simply an aesthetic choice. Others may interpret the sideways cross as a sign of the obligation of Jesus Christ's followers to take up the cross and follow the teachings of the Christian faith. Another interpretation suggests the cross is sideways because Jesus has laid it down after ensuring the salvation of humanity.
The beauty of religious symbolism, particularly the symbols you choose to wear yourself, is its meaning to you personally. Choose this cross if you feel connected to one of the possible interpretations or simply because you feel it is a beautiful way to display your faith.
Saint Andrew Cross
Many Christians identify with one of the many saints. Saint Andrew is one of the 12 apostles and the patron saint of fishermen and singers. This type of cross is associated with Saint Andrew because of its shape.
The cross has four arms of equal length. It is tilted to the side, creating an x-shape instead of a traditional, upright cross. It is believed that Saint Andrew was crucified on a cross of this shape. Anyone who favors Saint Andrew will appreciate the significance of this cross.
The sun cross will look familiar if you have seen the Celtic cross, but the two are slightly different in appearance and meaning. The arms of the Celtic cross extend beyond its central sun, but the sun of this cross contains all four arms within its circular shape.
The sun cross predates Christianity. Over the course of the sun cross's history, it has accumulated religious meanings from multiple different groups and cultures, including Christianity. Today, it is often associated with the general concept of God.
The vine cross features an intricate design of plant life intertwining with the traditional cross. While certainly beautiful, the design of this cross has a deeper meaning.
The vine imagery is a reference to a Bible verse: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5).
Matrimony is a sacrament in the Catholic Church and an important commitment for all Christians. The wedding cross features two interlocking rings resting on a traditional cross. The rings can be in different locations on the cross — you might find them in the center or lower down on the vertical beam.
The cross represents not only the love that comes with marriage but also the love and commitment associated with the Christian faith. The wedding cross can be a meaningful piece of jewelry for newlyweds or couples who have been together for years.
If you are looking for a piece of jewelry that celebrates your Christian faith, you have many choices. You can pick the cross type that resonates most with you and then select the type of metal and jewelry that fits with your aesthetic. Let one of our trusted jewelers help you pick just the right piece of jewelry at one of our many Mountz Jewelers locations today or view our online selection of cross jewelry.