Jewelry Throughout History
There is just something about a well made piece of jewelry that holds the eye. It is hard to put your finger on when trying to explain, but everyone sees it for themselves. Otherwise, we wouldn't use jewelry as the basis of one of our most important rituals: marriage. If you are as interested in jewelry as we are, you may enjoy this quick historical overview of jewelry from past cultures.
The Mediterranean and Iran
What do these two adjacent areas have in common? They both claim approximately the earliest extant pieces of jewelry from human civilization. The time of this jewelry's creation spanned between 3,000 and 400 BC. Unlike the masterful works of jewelry you'll see today, these pieces were limited to simple stone amulets, seals, and other pieces. However, many had intricate star, floral, or other designs that likely held significant religious meaning. Jewelry was often offered up to the gods as a sacrifice. In fact, the Royal Tombs of Sumner, which dates back to 3,000 BC, are one of the largest discoveries of this extant jewelry in existence.
The Egyptians were the ones who began to incorporate colored gemstones into their jewelry. Amethyst, turquoise, carnelian, and green feldspar are extremely common in the jewelry pieces archeologists dig up. Because of their religious culture, much of their jewelry had religious symbolism. A scarab was a popular jewelry design, as well as the ankh, a symbol of life in their culture.
Their culture also had symbols that represented territories. For instance, the vulture was a representation of Nekhbet, who was patron of Upper Egypt. The cobra symbolized Lower Egypt.
Egyptians also had a belief that colors reflected aspects of personality, much like the four humours in England later. The yellow in gold reflected the sun and royalty, and so were only used by the bourgeoisie. Green stones would be placed in pharaohs mouths to give them speech in the next world. Red stones were believed the preserve the soul.
Located off the coast of Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf, Bahrain was a city of wealthy commoners. Archeologists are still trying to unravel the mystery of this nation of seemingly equality, where over 170,000 burial sites have been discovered. One of these sites held the oldest known earring, made of pearl and gold, and dating back 4,000 years.
Heavily borrowing from jewelry making practices from the east, eventually Greek jewelry came into its own style. Many earrings, rings, bracelets, hairpins, necklaces, crowns, and brooches have been found in ancient Greek archeological sites. They even had their own method for making gold beads called granulation, ensuring the prominence of Etruscan gold in Greek jewelry.
By the rise of the Roman Empire, just about every gemstone we now know of today had been discovered by the Romans. They were heavily tied to religious and spiritual ideas. You could find just about any type of jewelry at this point. However, women had a practical use for jewelry; they used their hairpins as weapons! The pins were made long and sharp just for that express purpose.
Eventually Rome split, and the eastern half became known as Byzantium. This country, like America, was a melting pot, with influences from Greece, Egypt, Russia, and even North Africa. Byzantium became the pinnacle jewelry producer of its time. They perfected the process of cloisonne enameling, where glass glaze is set into per soldered patterns, heated and, and melted into a lasting design.
We hope you enjoyed this quick history of the jewelry of ancient cultures. It's amazing what they were able to accomplish in the art of jewelry making with the tools they had available, but it pales in comparison to what we can create today. If you are planning to get married soon, we have a high quality and affordable selection of men's and women's wedding rings and bands available for order online. Feel free to peruse our entire selection, there is sure to be a piece that speaks to you. If you have any questions about our products or delivery, please do not hesitate to give us a call. One of our friendly and knowledgeable representatives will be happy to provide any answers that you may need.