History of Jewellery
Almost since the dawn of the human race, we’ve looked to adorn ourselves through wearing jewellery. Jewellery existed in a variety of forms dating back to even primitive man. As proof of this, archeological digs have revealed small adornments such as necklaces and bracelets from pre-historic Africa that are more than 75 000 years old.
As well as serving a decorative purpose, jewellery was also used as amulets, in that they were believed to contain magical powers. Indeed, precious stones have always been associated with the belief that they can affect the lives of the wearer – both for good and for bad. Strangely, many of these beliefs about gold and precious stones were held all over the world rather than in just one geographical location.
As religion began to take hold in society, the use of jewellery became even more significant in conveying certain beliefs. In terms of religious rites, gold jewellery and precious stones were often used as gifts during worship. Jewellery has been found in almost every ancient civilisation. While it’s not known for certain who made these artifacts, it’s believed that metal workers developed advanced techniques and skills that allowed them to create jewellery pieces. As these metal workers learned to work with malleable metals such as silver and gold, they learned to set precious and semi-precious stones into them.
Over time, the use of these stones in jewellery became an integral part of the jewellery craft. Although stones from times past were considered precious, they’re not in the category of precious stones as we know them today. In the modern world, four stones are considered precious: diamonds, rubies, emeralds and blue sapphires. In past times, such as in Ancient Egypt, these stones were seldom used. Rather, precious stones were considered to be turquoise, carnelian, jasper, lapis lazuli and rock crystal. Colour was extremely important in jewellery, which is why diamonds weren’t used.
From simple amulets and ornaments, jewellery began to evolve to have more practical uses. Certain stones began to be used as symbols that conveyed rank, wealth and social standing. Because they became associated with this, jewellery was now seen as an investment that could be traded for the market value at the time. Being able to sell these possessions for money became essential. For example, King Francis I of France made the crown jewels a legal entity in the early 1500s. For his successors, these crown jewels were used to underwrite foreign loans during religious and other wars.
Today, jewellery’s main role remains decorative and ornamental. At the same time, it’s still an investment as it can be traded for sometimes huge sums of money. Because of this, it’s still used as a symbol of wealth, conveying opulence and abundance to those observing the wearer.