Pendant Types for Any Occasion

Updated May 26, 2021
Woman with pendant

A gold or silver chain can be lovely on its own, but beautiful pendants can add a special something to the look. Not only can they spice up a gold chain, but they can create a focal point for an outfit.

Definition and History of Pendants

A pendant is a piece of jewelery that hangs from something else, usually a necklace but sometimes a bracelet or even earrings. They have been around for thousands of years, and ancient artwork shows early Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all proudly sporting necklaces with dramatic pendants. Even the cavemen used a form of pendant when they tied pretty shells or stones on cords and fastened them around their necks.

In the Middle Ages, people often wore reliquaries, which were designed to hold sacred relics, on cords around their necks or other types of devotional jewelry. They lost popularity around the 17th century and weren't frequently worn again until the 19th century, when they came back in style.

Pendants are available in all sorts of materials. The most popular for jewelry are precious metals, such as gold, sterling silver, platinum, and non-precious metals, often plated with gold or silver. The non-precious metals are brass, copper, iron, nickel, titanium, and lead-free pewter.


Amulets come in all shapes and sizes. Amulets are sold in gold or silver metals but can be found as plated silver or gold. The precious metal amulets can be adorned with diamonds, gemstones, or less expensive zirconia and simulated lab-created gemstones.

There are many types of amulets, but they are all thought to be protectors and defenders against different types of harms or threats. Most faiths have amulets that are believed to house spiritual powers that protection you from danger, evil or other circumstances that are harmful. For example, a Saint Christopher pendant is believed to protect travelers. Saint Christopher is often given as a Confirmation gift or worn for protection by those suffering from epilepsy. This saint amulet is also worn for protection against floods and storms. It is a favored amulet worn by soldiers.


A cameo pendant is an exquisite profile in a raised relief carving. The traditional bust of a beautiful woman is the most familiar. Cameos are carved out of carnelian shell, mother-of-pearl, sardonyx shell (rare) or agate. Some contemporary ones are made of resin. The attention to detail makes these prized treasures. Modern cameos often break away from the traditional silhouettes and reflect contemporary scenes.

You can find cameos of flowers, angels, children, and various scenes. If you want a pendant that is stylish and has a classic appeal, this is the pendant for you. It will complement any dress or business suit. It can be worn for a formal outing, especially when attending a wedding.

Pendant types infographic


A double or single point quartz crystal or gemstone is a favorite type of pendant. There are many choices of styles and types of crystals. You may prefer an uncut wire-wrapped gemstone. Crystals are used for energy healings and worn as amulets and Talismans. You can wear them simply as a fashion statement for a nice infusion of clarity and sparkle for your wardrobe.


A fashion pendant is strictly worn for the aesthetic beauty it offers. These pendants aren't usually made of precious metals or valuable gemstones, but are what's known as costume jewelry. The affordability of fashion pendants makes them easy to change and coordinate with your outfits. These pendants are very versatile and can be used with different types of necklaces to achieve different looks. For example, you might choose to wear one with a gold chain or switch up your look with a leather cord. You can vary the length and the size of necklaces to compliment different outfits.


Functional pendants can be valuable mini-tools for an emergency, but are mostly great conversation pieces worn as novelty items. Some of these designs include a magnifying glass, miniature folding pocket knife, pair of scissors, monocle, compass, whistle, vial, yarn cutter, or pill box. Even a prayer box serves as a functional pendant that opens so you can place your prayer inside and latch it closed. Small books with a couple of gold or silver pages with an engraved prayer or poem make good gifts.

Many of the functional jewelry designs are enameled, made of precious metals, or decorated with gemstones or diamonds. You can find all types of functional pendants made and decorated of all types of materials. You can choose one of these functional pieces of jewelry as a gift for someone who is a seamstress (scissors), sailor (compass), knitter (yarn cutter), and so on.


The infinity symbol represents eternity or never-ending. This pendant is often given as a love token representative of the lover's profession of a love that never dies. This symbol of loving someone forever often includes a diamond or precious gem, to give the pendant greater aesthetic appeal as a piece of jewelry.


Lockets are some of the most popular examples of pendant jewelry. Heart-shaped lockets are particularly common, often featuring a single diamond embedded in the center. Messages of love are often engraved inside or on the back. Some heart lockets feature the owner's initials or first name. Lockets are available in round, oval, square, and rectangle shapes.

People like to put a picture of a loved one in the locket, or sometimes a picture of themselves as children. As a gift from a lover, a photo of the lover and their beloved are set inside the locket frame with one photo on each side. Some people place a lock of hair from a loved one as a keepsake. This design has long been considered an excellent romantic gift, especially for Valentine's Day, birthdays, weddings, or anniversaries. It is a favorite choice for a christening or newborn gift. A heart-shaped locket is ideal for a Mother's Day gift.

woman showing photographs in locket


A medallion is typically the size of a coin, but can be larger. This jewelry can be give as a type of award, medal, or other form of recognition. Some medallions are religious tokens or blessings. There are other medallions that are purely fashion pieces of jewelry with a unique design. You might decide to wear a medallion that features a cloisonne peacock placed in the center of the medallion to dress up a casual outfit or highlight a colorful summer dress.


A talisman is a close cousin to an amulet. Unlike a religious amulet, a talisman is considered a token that has been imbued with magical elements. These magical charms can be made of any type of material, manmade or organic. For a pendant, the talisman is usually some form of metal that features a specific emblem, symbol, or design that could also include lettering and/or numbers.

Unlike an amulet, a talisman is purposely made to serve as a magical charm. The magic is created to transfer to the wearer to bestow whatever magical powers the Talisman carries. The Talisman can be of any type of configuration, representation of a culture, mythologies, or ancient designs. You might find these as a rune, Celtic warrior shield, symbols of magic from the Seal of King Solomon, sigils, and more.

General Symbols for Pendant

There are general symbols that don't belong to a specific type of pendant, like a locket or amulet. These pendants are often representations of who the person is or how they identify themselves as belonging to a specific sect, culture, religion, or simply a symbol of something they like.

Symbol of Faith

Some people identify themselves by faith and wear a pendant symbol of their faith. These jewelry pieces are considered a way to honor or claim a specific religion or belief. Some of these symbols are crosses, the star of David, the Virgin Mary, and various icons of different faiths. These religious symbols can be simple or adorned with embellishments like golden flowers, gems, or enamel.

Some people wear religious symbols not as a sign of faith but in the context of a fashion statement. These can be seen in an oversized cross, Star of David, or the Ancient Egyptian symbol of life, the ankh.

man wearing cross

Cultural Symbols

Pendants can be used to honor one's cultural heritage as well. A pretty Claddagh, the traditional Irish symbol for friendship, love and loyalty, would be a wonderful gift for a person of Irish descent. Colorful enamel pieces in the shape of a country's flag, America or Puerto Rico, for example, are popular pendant choices.

Pendant of Self-Expression

Pendants can be used to express one's interests and personality. An artist might appreciate a splashy geometric one, while a pianist might choose to sport one shaped like a musical half-note. A mother might wear a charm in the shape of a child, and a doting Black Lab owner could proudly display a dog at the end of her chain. There are volleyballs, horses, scissors and thread, books, birds, cats - something for everyone.

Choose a Pendant for Specific Occasion

You may have a pendant that you only wear for special occasions or a specific event, such as a holiday or anniversary. With so many pendant choices, you can always find one to accessorize and enhance your outfit.

Pendant Types for Any Occasion