Style - Jewelry
By: - at June 21, 2013

Jewelry Through the Ages

Looking Back at its Origin
Pretty JewelryJewels have evolved as much as humans did. Playing its part in many ancient cultures, jewelry were made from stones, bones, shells, animal skin or feathers to decorate the bodies of humans who lived about 100 000 years ago. As people and civilizations spread, inventions and advancement of technology were accompanied by the discovery of materials that can be shaped into precious adornments. Metals and gems came into great importance as they served as status symbols in many cultures. Artisans also came up with exquisite jewelry designs both men and women loved. Despite the development in gemology and metallurgy, jewelry’s purpose seems to be constant- a way to express one’s love for precious things, rank, religion, wealth, and even love for someone. With the role it plays in the level of the elites and royalties, it became a subject of continual refinement.

The Notable Stages of Development
Before jewelry was considered a timeless beauty, it has developed through important stages. It was presented and perfected across the ancient civilizations of Egypt, China and India. Jewelry and the standards for its beauty were established in Mesopotamia and Egypt. Ancient metal artists in these areas have introduced practices in gem collection, metallurgical standards and glass manufacturing and carving. The tradition on jewelry and their designs that started on these parts of the world became accepted standards that reached and influenced the popular European jewelry craftsmanship. Despite the limited resources for perfecting the decorative pieces, unique styles from Egypt and Mesopotamia continue to lure people even after thousands of years.

Having their civilizations developed early on, China also became an important driving force in the development of gemology and designs in Asia. Its unique pieces inspired by nature, animals and the mystical dragon gain popularity and spread across the continent. With their trade and contact with neighboring territories, jewelry and the prestige they bring has formed in cultures surrounding the Chinese dynasties.

Indians on the other hand successfully established jewelry as part of their social classes and religious life. Because they have been early on their discovery and utilization of precious minerals like gold, they are way ahead in the craft compared to any other countries in the area. Their art of jewelry-making made the country one of the most sought-after places in the earlier times. Trade and, eventually, colonization have influenced the widespread popularity of the craft even across powerful Europe.

Evolution of Jewelry
As a symbol of social status, wealth, and beauty, jewelry has been popular across races, cultures and religions. This well-known form of self-expression seems to continue the tradition set forth by famous artisans of the earlier centuries. From the bead bracelets to shell necklaces, people from many civilizations used them as charms. It can even be noted that many still fancy these designs in the present day. Earrings that dangle and rings used as symbols of a promise even continue to serve the same purpose today as they did about 4000 BC. With the revolutions in social and economic conditions, jewelry evolved over time. What used to be a form of money or currency in the past has now evolved into accessory or expensive adornment. In many traditional cultures, using precious pieces of jewelry for barter or purchase is still practiced. Expensive jewelry is used as basis for a country’s wealth and many personally consider gems and gold as expensive personal assets. Jewelry pieces like brooches, pins and buckles that were originally used as symbols of one’s status are now being utilized more for its decorative purpose. Almost all throughout the centuries, jewelry remained to play its part as an expression or symbol of one’s rank in many of the worlds’ religions.

Jewelry’s Role in Cultures and Civilizations

Egyptian JewelryWhat has started in one of the world’s earliest civilization was considered the onset of modern jewelry. With many artisans and craftsmen devoted to designing and producing decorative metal and gems for their rulers, jewelry making became a profession paving way to new techniques and skills that made the artistic pieces must-have materials for people of rank. While its main purpose was to decorate the body of women, it is mostly used as amulets and talismans by men, especially the warriors and members of the house of Pharaohs. Back then, colors and metallic qualities are of top priorities. Gold became widespread and a favorite metal to work on as it is malleable and abundant. Even the most coveted diamonds of today were not mainly utilized and loved as it lacks color other semi-precious stones possess. It is an Egyptian belief that colors attract certain types of powers transmitted to the wearer. One of the most popular designs which is perfectly Egyptian is the scarab brooch or pendant. Considered to be the earthy symbol of heavenly cycle by which the sun god Ra rolls across the sky to transform bodies and souls, it is often used as amulet.

Greece and Roman
Greece head crownThe Hellenic jewelry was known to be a product of trade with neighboring civilizations and thus vary in style, form and materials. Most pieces made and worn during this period were for used to symbolize cultural identity or affiliations. Mostly patterned after godly inspirations, jewelry from Greece and Rome are intricate. Jewelry designs from these empires have started the fame of adornments that are delicately crafted from pieces of gold or other metals of importance. Quite different from other earlier civilizations, Hellenic jewelry were never assigned special mystic powers. Precious stones were also the main material utilized for jewelry production. The most popular type of jewelry from this civilization is the cameo, a portrait of a god, goddess, or famous individual or leader carved in a stone. During the rise of the Roman Empire, only cameos of Alexander the Great are made available and craftsmen were ordered to make highly detailed designs for these. Cameos continue to enjoy the popularity as it has been modified over certain periods of time.

Christian Cross JewelryAs crusades became successful in spreading Christianity, cultural styles became quite similar to each other. Most jewelry pieces produced at this period were a form of symbolism for the Christian faith. In fact, during the earliest period of the religion, jewelry was produced by monasteries. In order to find funds to support the causes and expenses of the church, monks were trained for craftsmanship and were able to produce great quantities of exquisite designs. Associations that oversee and ensure the quality of jewelry came into being and inspections on workshops started. The dawn of economic development and the increase in populace able to afford such a luxury paved way in the increase of fake or low quality jewelry that threatened the booming industry started by the monasteries. With Christianity unable to find its way to Celtic cultures, unique designs exclusive in the population suddenly gained fame and developed quickly. Because there are no written records of the Celtic, there was very little information as to the symbolism of their intricate crafts. Precious stones and metals were the honored materials loved by the wealthy.

It is during this period when jewelry found its new purpose. Known as the Jewel Age, it is during this time when metal ornaments were used as symbols of affluence, culture, and religious affiliations. What used to be amulets or symbols of belongingness to clans were now used solely as an adornment believed to improve beauty and personality. Increasingly, many wealthy individuals have accrued jewelry to preserve status and property. It was also used as currency, being easily accepted in trade and universally valued in many cultures. With the shift of role, jewelry, in order enhance beauty, must be made from precious gems with attractive colors, luster and shine. The belief that they attract and keep mystic powers was also almost eliminated. After centuries of being neglected, diamond has finally gained its part on this luxurious business. Cutting methods, tools and shapers were also developed to cater to the increasing needs and preferences. The discovery of new lands also resulted in the exploitation of many gems that are previously considered scarce. Popular pieces that have survived even today were mostly commissioned by the Royals from France and England.

Typical modern day Renaissance jewelry:
Renaissance jewelry

Early Modern Period
The rapid increase in economic status and the renewed social practices and strata made jewelry available to both the rich and the lower classes. Diamond and its popularity continued to soar and machines to produces great cuts were invented one after the other. The introduction to mass production of jewelry has destroyed the century-old traditions of handmade crafts. The massive spread in the popularity of this adornments paved way into the introduction of new materials previously neglected or frowned upon. Colorful metal and gem designs including animals and flowers were introduced. This new technique inspired the 20th century glass manufacturing practices. The spread of industries and the influx of many inventions have changed the trends in gemology and jewelry making. Popular designs from this period that are loved even today include Art Deco, Retro and Art Nouveau.

Antique Art Deco Necklace:
Antique Art Deco Necklace

Expensive jewelry today is seen as a form of artistic creations made delicately from materials that are difficult to acquire. Alternately, the discovery of materials and ways to make affordable adornments made jewelry even more affordable. Everyone seems to be enjoying the popularity and availability of these jewels as they are no longer considered exclusive to people of affluence and rank. In fact, with the technological advancement and the utilization of synthetic and readily available materials, even the most expensive piece of jewelry can be duplicated in a matter of minutes. Jewelry making today focuses more on the display of creativity, design and meaning rather than being symbols of social class or wealth. The society’s distaste for social classes and cultural exclusivity enable craftsmen to produce adornments with variety of styles.

Model with awesome bracelets

Final Sparkling Thoughts
Adornments and decorations have been used for many different purposes and have undergone changes all throughout the years. Evolving as quickly as human civilizations do, jewelry is generally acceptable in almost any culture and periods of time. Materials used to make these expensive adornments also shifted from colorful and expensive to varied and affordable. Additionally, what was exclusively used to exhibit social class is now being enjoyed by all as a form of self-expression and decorations. With all the transformations jewelry has been through, it seems to serve some things constantly- expression of belongingness, love, religious affiliations and beauty. As an ever changing industry, there is no doubt that designs of great importance are still to be revived and refined as years go by.





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