The origins of jewels



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People always strive to look different and better than each other and jewels are one of the most popular tools of accomplishing that. They have been popular for generations and this is the reason why the jewelry industry is so successful. The word “jewel” comes from Latin and is a testament to the fact that the first ornaments were worn by our ancestors over 40,000 years ago. Their ornaments were crude bracelets and necklaces made out of bones, teeth and rocks tied with animal ligaments. Recently discovered ornaments made out of sea shells dated from 100, 000 years ago are thought to be the oldest jewels ever seen.

Earlier jewels (mostly brooches) had practical applications, for example they were used to fasten mantles and clothes. Today they are used not only for decorative purposes, but also to display social status. There is a great variety of jewels in contemporary times – jewels set with diamonds, Swarovski crystals, all kinds of precious and semi-precious stones, pearls, etc. A new and fascinating trend in jewelry fashion is the artistic movement, which does not rely so much on the price and value of the materials used, but on the creativity and artistic talents of the jeweler. Art is more highly valued than anything on the material plane.

In ancient Egypt, however, the shine of gold was highly revered and so was its pliability. Egyptians imported tons of gold from Africa and eventually this precious metal became the symbol of Egypt’s strength and power. Wealthy Egyptians adorned themselves with golden jewels not only throughout their life, but also after death. They were buried with all their golden ornaments and as if that was not enough, piles of golden dishes and vessels were placed inside their tombs to serve them in the afterlife.

In ancient Mesopotamia, jewels were fashioned out of metals and inlayed with light colored stones and gems. The shapes that were most preferred were those of grapes, leaves, coins and spirals. They were worn by rich and poor alike.

Image:©Ashwin/Fotolia

Italians were the first to create bracelets, pendants, earrings, rings and frames out of crude gold. Huge medallions were made with the purpose of storing perfumes and essences. Later, the Byzantine Empire continued this Roman tradition, but the pendants and medallions took up religious symbols and expressions instead.

In India it would seem jewelry-making traditions go farther back than anywhere else. Hindis began making earrings, bracelets and pendants around 1500 BC. They fashioned their ornaments out of clay and shells and usually colored them red. Clay was eventually replaced by glass and other materials.

As you can see, jewels have been a big part of the daily life for people throughout many centuries. In one part of the world they have symbolized power, while in another they were believed to protect their owner from evil. Today ornaments are used mostly by women for decoration, but jewels still have different messages in the different cultures.



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