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The History of the Evil Eye necklace, an Ancient Symbol of Protection

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The History of the Evil Eye necklace, an Ancient Symbol of Protection

I’m wearing one of my own as I type this but it’s the old-fashioned kind, one I probably bought in multiples from a stall in the Monastiraki flea market in Athens to bring back home for friends. There was a time that was the only sort of evil eye necklace you could find: blue and white glass symbols strung on a leather chord. Now they come studded with sapphires and diamonds or painted in fine and vibrant enamel tones.

Meghan Markle often wears one, sometimes in the form of a pendant with a blue topaz eye, but she has also been seen wearing a delicate gold evil eye bracelet. How did this ancient symbol of protection leap from proud proof of a Greek vacation to royal jewelry status?

I often, and proudly, trace its rise to designer Ileana Makri, who brought the shape and all its meaning from Athens to Barney’s New York in late 1999. The first time I saw an evil eye that did not look like the ones from the flea market was one afternoon at Barney’s while staring into a vitrine with Makri’s name lightly etched in the corner. They were as full of the talismanic power as any I had ever seen, but they were also full of diamonds.

Whenever anyone asks me why we still wear evil eye necklace, or why we wear them now more than ever, I point them to this Greek-born jeweler. And so, after seeing Meghan Markle wear an evil eye (one that promptly sold out after a photo appeared) I emailed Makri, at home in Athens—in an apartment with one of the best Acropolis views I’ve ever seen—and asked her for her views on this ancient mystical symbol of protection.

A quasi-universal symbol of protection, the evil eye is referred to as μάτι (mati) in Greek. The concept and the significance of the evil eye is especially prominent in the Mediterranean and West Asia.

The evil eye necklace is a “look” or “stare” that is believed to bring bad luck for the person at whom it is directed for reasons of envy or dislike. The perception of the nature of the phenomenon, its causes, and possible protective measures, varies between tribes and cultures. The evil eye necklace is a talisman that is meant to protect you from these evil spirits.

The evil eye is a ‘look’ or ‘stare’ believed to bring bad luck for the person at whom it is directed

Belief in the evil eye—“mati”—dates back to Greek Classical antiquity, to at least the 6th century B.C. when it appeared on drinking vessels. It is referenced by Plato, Hesiod, Plutarch and many more classical authors who attempted both to describe and explain the function of the evil eye.

Plutarch’s scientific explanation stated that the eyes were the chief, if not sole, source of the deadly rays that were supposed to spring up like poisoned darts from the inner recesses of a person possessing the evil eye. It is a curse or legend believed to be cast by this malevolent glare, and usually given to a person when they are unaware.

An evil eye is a talisman or amulet, designed in the shape of an eye, traditionally in the colors blue or green, that indicate spiritual protection. These talismans or evil eye “repellents” come in different shapes and forms as pendants, bracelets, earrings and rings. Or can be hanging in a glass bead form over the main door or entrance of someone’s home to keep the hearth protected.

When did you start wearing one?

My mother would put an evil eye pin on my crib to make sure any negative energy directed at me would be turned back and I would be protected and safe. Around the age of 6, I got my first piece of jewelry which was a small gold ID bracelet with a tiny evil eye charm hanging from it.

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