A Brief History of Jewelry  

Introduction

 

Students of the natural sciences are in agreement when they say that of all the creatures in the animal kingdom, only humans seek to adorn themselves. Even as far in the past as primitive man, jewelry took on this role in a variety of forms.. Small objects were of primary importance, with some examples being found in the early Neolithic strata of the caverns in mas d’avil. It was here that many pierces stags’ teeth were discovered, often still in the shape of a necklace with its holding twine long since disintegrated. (Jewelry objects have now been found in pre-historic Africa that date back about 75,000 years.)

Closely related to the human need for ornamentation was the use of jewelry as amulets endowed with magical powers. For a true understanding of the growth and history of the importance of jewelry and precious stones, one has to be aware of the indelible belief that precious stones could affect the fortunes of the wearer.

Jewelry was made with certain convictions in mind, to meld into, conform to and strengthen beliefs. This was particularly true when religions began to form an important sociological bond.

Early in its inception, jewelry was associated with religious rites. Gold and jewels were used as gifts for the maintenance of worship. In accordance with this began the presumption that benefits could be derived from their wear and soon began the development of a complex network of fictitious powers being attributed to them. Curiously, many of these legends surrounding the benefits of certain stones were generally held all over the world. Gold and certain gems common to many parts of the globe were believed to yield similar virtues.

Jewellers as artists are evident throughout history. The art has been practiced in almost every condition in which civilizations have existed. It is most plausible that the metal worker, with an advance in knowledge, became the jeweller. As the more malleable metals were wrought into rings, bracelets, and armlets, it is conceivable that the need to posses small stones for the charm they retained made the metalworker turn to setting these stones in his or her metal ornaments . Although the methods were primitive, the fastening of stones became an integral part of the craft.

The stones of ancients, although considered "precious" to their owners, are not in the "precious stone" category of modern times.

In jewelry circles today and in the recent past, there are considered only four truly precious stones: the diamond, the ruby, the emerald and the blue sapphire. Among the earliest known treasures of the pharaohs, emeralds, rubies and sapphires were seldom used, while turquoise, jasper, lapis lazuli, carnelian and rock crystal played a substantial role. Since color was all important, diamonds were quite unknown. The use of gemstones and precious metals during this time were not limited, but spread lavishly about wherever ornament was desired.

Soon jewelry advanced from a simple ornamental or amulet stance to a more practical one. Jewels became used as a symbol of rank, wealth and social standing. When taking on this role, they became an investment of marketable value. This economic aspect of easily liquidating these possessions became an essential part of the politics of Europe when Francis I instituted the crown jewels as legal entity. For his successors these jewels were often used during the religious wars to guarantee foreign loans.

The three basic roles that jewelry has played, the ornament, the amulet and the symbol of wealth, have remained constant to the present time. This paper will attempt to trace these developments, particularly in the growth and affect on the western world. Although this is not a definitive work, it will give the reader a broad background on some of the more popular methods of creating, legends and both customs and whims of style that have been combined to give us a history of jewelry.

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A Jewelry History
Table of contents|
 Introduction |Glossary| Ancients and Classical Jewelry| Jewelry of the Middle Ages|
  Jewelry of the Renaissance| Jewelry from the Seventeenth to the Twentieth Century| Rings| Necklaces|
Bracelets and Earrings| Brooches| Bibliography| Ancient Jewelry Photo Gallery

 

 

 

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