Biker jewelry holds significant meaning, representing self-control, a strong character, freedom, and a deep love for life. It embodies the spirit of living life on the road, adhering to the ever-changing rules of the biker lifestyle. The roots of biker jewelry can be traced back to the 1940s when it became a distinctive symbol of the emerging biker subculture. As biker clubs started to form, they developed their own unique insignia, representing a sense of belonging to a particular “clan.”
Among the various biker symbols like skulls, eagles, and flames, crosses hold a special place, especially among chopper riders. However, it’s not just any cross that captivates bikers; the Iron and Maltese Crosses hold particular significance. The allure of crosses in biker culture is intriguing, and now is the perfect opportunity to explore the reasons behind this passion.
Bikers are drawn to crosses because of the spiritual and symbolic elements they embody. The Iron Cross, with its historical significance and association with bravery and honor, resonates deeply with the biker’s sense of courage and commitment. On the other hand, the Maltese Cross represents loyalty, protection, and camaraderie, qualities that are highly valued within the biker community.
The Iron Cross has become a prominent emblem in the insignia of many biker clubs worldwide, but for those unfamiliar with biker culture, this cross may carry negative connotations due to its association with the Third Reich. It’s essential to understand how this military award found its place as a main biker symbol and what it means to bikers.
The biker movement emerged in the USA after World War II, with returning soldiers facing despondency instead of celebration. They encountered societal problems, racial tensions, and a lack of promising opportunities. Feeling disillusioned with the government and justice, these young veterans formed motorcycle clubs with their own hierarchy, symbols, and military-like structure. The surplus motorcycles sold off by the US army after the war became their vehicles of choice.
During this time, the German Iron Cross, viewed negatively and forbidden by society, became the emblem of these defiant individuals, primarily as an act of contradiction. While society shunned the symbol, bikers embraced it, asserting their independence and resistance to conventional norms. Some believe that American bikers may have even displayed trophy iron crosses to showcase their military prowess and achievements on the battlefield. However, the idea of adopting the Iron Cross as an act of rebellion seems more plausible.
Over time, the Iron Cross became firmly embedded in biker culture, though modern bikers are not as rigid in their views as their predecessors. Today, aside from outlaw gangs, bikers are law-abiding individuals who see the iron cross ring or other jewelry as a common symbol within their community. It no longer carries its original contentious meaning but rather serves as a unique and recognizable emblem that connects them to their biker identity and shared camaraderie. Bikers cherish their sense of individuality and freedom, and the Iron Cross, with all its historical complexities, has found a place in their world as a symbol of unity and defiance against the status quo.
The Iron Cross and the Maltese Cross are often mistaken for one another, but their shapes have distinct origins. Both are derived from the cross known as “Patte,” which means “paw” in French. While the Iron Cross retains the form of the Patte cross, the Maltese Cross features a unique design with deep V-shaped notches on each of its arms.
The Maltese Cross held a crucial role in identifying the Knights of Malta and setting them apart from their adversaries. The Sovereign Military Order of Malta, established in 1070 and also known as the Knights of St. John or The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order, was originally a religious organization with a primary mission of aiding and safeguarding pilgrims on their journey to the Holy Land. Over time, the Knights of Malta transitioned into a military order, actively participating in campaigns, battles, and skirmishes.
In 1530, Emperor Charles V granted the Knights control over Malta, leading to the distinctive shape of the Maltese Cross as we recognize it today—a white cross featuring eight sharp endings. This powerful symbol represented the valor, dedication, and service of the Knights of Malta, reflecting their transformation from a religious entity to a renowned military order. It is assumed that the eight ends of the cross personify the eight vows the knights gave:
- Live the truth
- Live with faith
- Repent of sins
- Prove humility
- Respect justice
- Be merciful
- Be sincere and frank
- Withstand cruelty
Bikers often see themselves as modern-day knights, and interestingly, they share many similarities with their medieval counterparts. Just like knights rode horses, modern bikers ride their “steel horses.” Both knights and bikers adhere to a Code of conduct that they swore to follow, demonstrating their sense of honor and loyalty. Bikers, like knights, cherish and respect their brothers within their tight-knit community.
These modern knights also have a mission, a sense of purpose that unites them, and they embrace meaningful symbolism in their lifestyle. Their love for the open road evokes a sense of road romance, reminiscent of the adventurous spirit of medieval knights.
For bikers who may not resonate with the Iron Cross as a symbol, the Maltese Cross has emerged as an excellent alternative. With its rich history dating back to the Knights of Malta, the Maltese Cross resonates with the spirit of chivalry and courage, aligning well with the values cherished by bikers.
Other Crosses in Biker Jewelry
The biker community is a diverse and eclectic group, comprising individuals with varying beliefs and backgrounds. Within this community, you will find people with different religious affiliations – some may believe in God, others may be atheists, and some might even identify as Satanists. As a result, it is not uncommon to see religious crosses featured in biker rings.
For some motorcyclists, wearing a cross ring holds deep significance as a symbol of their faith and spirituality. On the other hand, for others, it may simply be a stylish body ornament without any religious connotations. The cross, as a symbol, is inherently neutral and often holds symmetrical beauty that is appreciated in art and design.
Historically, crosses have been used as military awards in various countries, given to individuals who faithfully served their state. This association further contributes to the diverse meanings that a cross ring can hold for different bikers.