Hourglass Tattoo: Symbolism, Meaning, and Awesome Design Ideas

One of the most common pieces of advice you’ll ever get if you want to get a tattoo is the one about making sure the tattoo is meaningful and unique to you. People surely put a lot of emphasis on getting something that has a backstory, a meaning, or symbolism unique to that person or in general.

And, we surely agree with that sentiment; if you’re going to get a tattoo that will probably stay on your body forever, you might as well make it as unique and meaningful as possible. But, we do acknowledge that there are people who do not operate in this manner, which is also completely fine.

In today’s article, we’ve decided to tackle a tattoo topic that should be interesting to both types of people; those looking for meaning or those looking for a cool design for a tattoo. We’ll be discussing the hourglass tattoo, which is a vast topic, especially for those looking for additional information as they’re conducting research for their new tattoo. So, without any further ado, let’s get started!

Hourglass Tattoo Meaning And Symbolism: What Does An Hourglass Tattoo Represent?

Hourglass History

As most of you probably know, an hourglass is a device used to measure the passage of time. It is one of the oldest such devices in the history of humankind. Despite its origin being unclear, we know that the first hourglasses were made in Babylon and Egypt as early as the 16th century BCE. From that point, it is believed that the use of the hourglass spread across the then ‘accessible world’, especially across Europe, specifically England.

The design of the hourglass is what truly makes it an intricate piece of history and proof of incredible human intelligence. The device has two glass bulbs connected by the thinnest passage, carefully designed to let sand flow between the bulbs. The speed at which the sand flows from one bulb to the other indicates that a specific time has passed, for example, 5 minutes. It is interesting that, throughout history, the majority of hourglasses didn’t use sand; the material inside the hourglasses was usually burnt, pulverized eggshells as well as powdered marbles.

The hourglass was, and still is, one of the most important pieces created by humans. Nowadays people aren’t really aware of this, but without an hourglass, many of the historically-crucial events and things might have never happened. For example, Magellan needed around 28 hourglasses in his ship to travel across the Pacific Ocean in 1519.

Hourglass Meaning and Symbolism

Despite it no longer being used for timekeeping, the hourglass is still present in our lives for multiple reasons; many own an hourglass as a cool addition to their home decor, while others keep it for its meaning and symbolism, what it represents historically.

Throughout history, or ever since people discovered the hourglass, we’ve always been fascinated by the visual appeal of time passing. The sand, or the powder, passing from one bulb to the other was the perfect metaphor for how human existence is fleeting, and how time simply runs out, eventually for everyone.

Hourglass meaning and symbolism
Saved Tattoo

This has become the predominant idea in literature and art for centuries to come. The hourglass was usually featured with other symbols and motifs indicating fleeting time, time running out, and death; skulls and flowers. Even nowadays, the hourglass motif is present in different brands, art, or culture of specific groups and nationalities (Native American art, for example), etc. Because of its symmetry, the hourglass graphic design is simply a perfect choice, especially in relation to topics like time, time travel, time passing or running out, etc.

Hourglass Tattoo Design Ideas

As we mentioned, the hourglass is completely symmetrical, and as such, serves great for exceptional design ideas. Regardless of whether we’re talking about a brand logo or even a tattoo design, an hourglass can be an excellent idea to work with, incorporate into other imagery or simply have as a standalone motif.

Hourglass design – tattoos
Credit: @tattooist_mate

Since we’re here to talk about some cool tattoo designs, we’ll show you some of our favorite hourglass tattoo designs you should definitely check out. Keep in mind that the following images showcase someone else’s tattoos, which means you cannot copy the designs. The tattoo designs are in the artistic possession of the tattoo artists, but feel free to let these designs inspire you for some similar artistic endeavors for your own tattoo!

Royal Embellished Hourglass Tattoo

If you’re going for a more classy, refined, the royal appearance of your tattoo, this is the direction you should go in; make sure your tattoo contains all the elements of the classic, royal luxuriousness, and you’ll be good to go. Curvy, fine lines, the light reflection on the hourglass curves, as well as the fine detailing of the sand and shadows, all make this tattoo simply perfect.

Royal embellished hourglass tattoo
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Royal embellished hourglass tattoo
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Zodiac Hourglass Tattoo

Sometimes people like to combine several motifs and symbolism into one tattoo; in this case, we have zodiac symbolism and signs placed into two hourglasses, done as a matching tattoo. It is a pretty creative tattoo design idea that many people can associate with and modify into their own tattoo design. It looks pretty look and holds tons of meaning, so, in our humble opinion, this is one of the best tattoo designs people can be inspired by and modify to their liking and personality.

Zodiac hourglass tattoo
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Skull and Hourglass Tattoo

When talking about hourglass imagery, it is impossible to mention the notion of fleeting time, and of course, death being part of it. Historically, artists have always paired hourglass imagery with the image of a human or animal skull, both indicating that, as time passes, death becomes more and more inevitable for every single being in the world.

Now, as dark and pessimistic as this may seem, it is a realistic understanding of life and as such serves a purpose of philosophical thought; it just puts things into a different perspective. We thought this would also be a cool idea for a tattoo, so make sure to think about it.

Skull and hourglass tattoo 3
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Skull and hourglass tattoo 2
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Skull and hourglass tattoo
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Broken Hourglass Tattoo

The one thing that keeps the imagery of the mortality and time fleeting within the hourglass is probably the sand or the powder inside it. Once broken, the hourglass can no longer function as a time-keeping device, which means the whole idea of mortality and time passing is brought into question. Moreover, a broken hourglass can symbolize personal tragedy or the death of a loved one. The broken hourglass imagery is strong, intense, and unique; no wonder people choose it for a tattoo.

Broken hourglass tattoo 2
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Broken hourglass tattoo
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Surreal Hourglass Tattoo

Hourglass is a perfect motif to fit into surreal imagery. Because of the symbolism and meaning behind this device, it is easy to let one’s imagination go wild and create incredibly unique, surreal designs with the hourglass. This gives people the opportunity to have unique pieces of art on their bodies, and know that no one else has it; surrealism is probably one of the most unique art concepts, so why not go for it (especially if you’re scared someone might have the same tattoo as yourself).

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Surreal hourglass tattoo 3
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Surreal hourglass tattoo 2
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Surreal hourglass tattoo
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Simple Hourglass Tattoo

We have to assume that some of our readers might not want an over-the-top, in-your-face tattoo; they’re just looking for a simple hourglass design that isn’t trying too hard to be more than it is. That is probably the closest to the interpretation of an hourglass as we can be; time passing and mortality are just that; nothing more and nothing less. So, if you’re looking for simple linework and cool shading for your hourglass tattoo, make sure to check out some of our favorite designs. Maybe you’ll be inspired to create your own design (or have your tattoo artist do that for you).

Simple hourglass tattoo 4
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Simple hourglass tattoo 3
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Simple hourglass tattoo 2
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Simple hourglass tattoo
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Final Thoughts

That was the story and history of the hourglass device, as well as an insight into its artist appreciation done by tattoo artists and people around the world. Hopefully, we’ve inspired you to go for an hourglass tattoo and create, together with your tattoo artist, a cool and unique hourglass design as well.

Hourglass truly carries some of the most relatable symbolism and meaning, applicable to every human in the world. So, to have such a tattoo means you’re in touch with reality, aware of the time fleeting and mortality, but choosing to live your best life despite it. When you think about it, it is a really strong and empowering message despite it being seemingly bleak at first.

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