What is the meaning of a spoon necklace, TikTok's new accessory obsession?

Alexandra Ciufudean October 24, 2022
What is the meaning of a spoon necklace, TikTok's new accessory obsession?
Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images

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While the origin and meaning of the spoon necklace trend taking over TikTok may be hazy, one thing is for sure – this jewelry obsession is here to stay.

From sold-out Lana del Rey merch and some not-so-legal connotations, all the way to cult movie Cruel Intentions, the spoon necklace captures the imaginations of rebellious teens.

So, it’s no surprise the trend is back with a vengeance on TikTok, baffling out-of-the-loop users with its potential meaning.

Photo by BG026/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

What does wearing a spoon necklace mean… well it depends who you ask

The possible meaning of a spoon necklace varies depending on which online community you ask, but generally opinions are split into three camps.

In the disability community, wearing a spoon necklace can mean solidarity. Some people living with chronic illness, mental health issues or neurodivergent diagnoses use something called Spoon Theory to manage energy levels on a daily basis.

Essentially, one’s energy level is represented by a set number of spoons at the beginning of the day and each task (getting out of bed, showering, cooking breakfast) takes a number of spoons depending on how difficult or easy the task is to accomplish on a given day.

Christine Miserandino, who in 2003 came up with Spoon Theory to illustrate the challenges of living with lupus, explains that “people with chronic conditions only have a limited supply [of energy]. The supply is also variable and unpredictable. We never know how many spoons we’ll have when we wake up.”

In this context, Spoonies (as the community calls itself) might wear a tiny spoon necklace, meaning they get it.

Others, though not associated with Spoonies, might simply wear the necklace as a quirky fashion statement. Indeed, there are lots of Etsy shops selling handmade jewelry fashioned out of antique, silver-plated spoons paired with semi-precious stones and pearls.

Far from looking like you broke into grandma’s cutlery cupboard, these necklaces can be stunning accessories, and usually signal the wearer as a knack for DIY statement pieces.

And then there are the not-super-legal meanings of the spoon necklace.

The dark meaning associated with a spoon necklace

On the flip side of things, a spoon necklace can mean one enjoys using illegal substances and wants to signal this to fellow users. Or they need the tiny spoon expressly for that purpose.

Also known as a “coke spoon”, a tiny spoon on a necklace, which was used to snort cocaine, first became popular on the 1970s party scene. The protagonist of 1972 blaxploitation neo-noir drama Super Fly famously wore a coke spoon necklace and in 1979, McDonald’s discontinued its tiny coffee stirring spoon as it had become popular with drug users.

During heavy metal band KISS’ heyday in the 1970s, co-founder Paul Stanley liked to wear a spoon necklace to concerts and photoshoots.

Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images

Spoon necklaces also have a long history of being used for snuff tobacco. Pulverized tobacco, also known as snuff, became popular during the 1600s and by the mid-1700s, users added a tiny spoon, sometimes worn as a necklace for ease, to their snuff accessories.

That time Lana del Rey’s merch line included spoon necklaces

Fast-forward to 2017, Summertime Sadness musician Lana del Rey allegedly released a necklace with a spoon as part of her merch line. However, as reported by Refinery29, some fans seem to remember the item being sold at concerts as early as 2015.

The piece features a gold rosary chain with a heart attached to it, which unscrews to reveal a tiny spoon.

@annasgh0st

literally gave it all my money i have nothing in my bank now #lanadelrey

♬ Dealer by Lana del Rey – elliot

Though it quickly sold out or became otherwise unavailable, the necklace has been trending again on TikTok, where Lana del Rey fandom is booming.

Fans of the sad-girl songstress frequently post videos featuring her music, iconic looks and of course merch. The #LanaCult hashtag on TikTok has amassed 624 million views and shows no signs of slowing down.

Indeed, some users believe the spoon necklace – with all its meanings – may be seeing a resurgence in popularity partly thanks to Lana del Rey fans.

However, with an accessory as varied in meaning and origin as this, it could be anyone’s guess – and the work of at least three (sometimes overlapping) online communities.

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Alexandra Ciufudean is the Head of Entertainment at The Focus where she manages a growing team of outstanding writers. On a day-to-day basis, she hunts for the latest in online trends and keeps her finger on the pulse of US culture, politics, and celebs. Alexandra helped launch The Focus in 2020 and developed the site into an expert online news source. A language nerd through and through, she boasts 5 years of experience as an editor, writer, and content specialist across web, video, and social platforms, and a master's degree in Comparative Literature.