Michelle Obama’s necklace and the power of political jewelry — from suffragettes to a secretary of state

Michelle Obama’s necklace and the power of political jewelry — from suffragettes to a secretary of state

The necklace worn by Michelle Obama while addressing the Democratic National Convention — a fine gold chain spelling out the word VOTE in spaced, sans serif letters — has gone viral.

Using jewellery to communicate a message is neither new or unusual. Archaeologists have described finding body adornments as “the closest thing to finding prehistoric thought.” Most jewellery, whether a ring or a medal or a badge, is visible to others and thus an expression of the wearer and their status.

But Obama’s is the latest in a long line of celebrated examples of jewellery as a political device: from suffragettes’ medals to Madeleine Albright’s pins. Even brooches worn by Queen Elizabeth have been read by some as political statements.

By Elizabeth Shaw, Griffith University

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