Everywhere in the world, women are wearing an ample variety of jewelry. Whether it is about necklaces, bracelets or earrings, jewelry is extremely popular. Jewelry consists of decorative items worn for personal adornments, such as brooches, rings, necklaces, earrings, pendants, bracelets, and cufflinks. Jewelry may be attached to the body or the clothes.
So why do so many women choose to wear jewelry on a daily basis and why do these accessories have such an enormous impact on the way they look and feel? The fact is that jewelry has always been an important part of human cultures, serving several purposes that are deeply significant to each of us.
The great importance of jewelry in human’s lives may be explained by the fact that women or men love jewelry for ages, so it is something they have inherited. It is like without jewelry there is something major missing.
Jewelry is an important ornament for all special occasions a person goes through in life – like a wedding, anniversary, birthday party, the birth of the first child. So, if women didn’t wear jewelry on such special occasions, it would be at least odd. Jewelry gives women a gorgeous, feminine look and brings out more confidence, style, and beauty.
Jewelry, however, is not only served for decoration, as it also represents the best investment one can make in his/her life; it serves as the best safety in times of emergency as well. Traditionally, jewelry represents a symbol of prestige, wealth and power. Jewelry has the ability to highlight women’s personality and bring out the best features when wearing the right jewelry for the right occasion. So, jewelry has great importance in women’s life because it can make a woman feel special, stylish and beautiful.
- From Middle English “juelrye”
- From Old French “juelerye”
- American, sometimes Canadian “jewelry”
- British spelling, Canadian spelling “jewellery”: Collectively, personal ornamentation such as rings, necklaces, brooches and bracelets, made of precious metals and sometimes set with gemstones.
From a western perspective, the term is restricted to durable ornaments. For many centuries metal, often combined with gemstones, has been the normal material for jewellery, but other materials such as shells and other plant materials may be used. It is one of the oldest types of archaeological artifacts. The basic forms of jewellery vary between cultures but are often extremely long-lived.
In European cultures, the most common forms of jewellery have persisted since ancient times, while other forms such as adornments for the nose or ankle, important in other cultures, are much less common. Jewellery may be made from a wide range of materials. Gemstones and similar materials such as amber and coral, precious metals, beads, and shells have been widely used, and enamel has often been important.
In most cultures, jewellery can be understood as a status symbol, for its material properties, its patterns, or for meaningful symbols. Jewellery has been made to adorn nearly every body part, from hairpins to toe rings, and even genital jewellery. The patterns of wearing jewellery between the sexes, and by children and older people can vary greatly between cultures, but adult women have been the most consistent wearers of jewellery; in modern European culture, the amount worn by adult males is relatively low compared with other cultures and other periods in European culture.
The word jewellery itself is derived from the word “jewel”, which was anglicized from the Old French “jouel”, and beyond that, to the Latin word “jocale”, meaning plaything. In British English, Indian English, New Zealand English, Hiberno-English, Australian English, and South African English it is spelled jewellery, while the spelling is jewelry in American English. Both are used in Canadian English, though jewelry prevails by a two to one margin. In French and a few other European languages the equivalent term, “joaillerie”, may also cover decorated metalwork in precious metal such as objets d’art and church items, not just objects worn on the person.
The earliest known Jewellery was actually created not by humans but by Neanderthal living in Europe. Specifically, perforated beads made from small sea shells have been found dating to 115,000 years ago in the Cueva de Los Aviones, a cave along the southeast coast of Spain. Later in Kenya, beads made from perforated ostrich eggshells have been dated to more than 40,000 years ago. In Russia, a stone bracelet and marble ring are attributed to a similar age.
Later, the European early modern humans had crude necklaces and bracelets of bone, teeth, berries, and stone hung on pieces of string or animal sinew, or pieces of carved bone used to secure clothing together. A decorated engraved pendant dating to around 11,000 BC, and thought to be the oldest Mesolithic art in Britain, was found in North Yorkshire.
The first signs of established jewellery making in Ancient Egypt were around 3,000–5,000 years ago. The Egyptians preferred the luxury, rarity, and workability of gold over other metals. In Predynastic Egypt jewellery soon began to symbolize political and religious power in the community. In conjunction with gold jewellery, Egyptians used colored glass, along with semi-precious gems. The color of the jewellery had significance. Egyptian designs were most common in Phoenician jewellery.
By approximately 5,000 years ago, jewellery-making had become a significant craft in the cities of Mesopotamia. The most significant archaeological evidence comes from the Royal Cemetery of Ur; tombs such as that of Puabi contained a multitude of artifacts in gold, silver, and semi-precious stones, such as lapis lazuli crowns embellished with gold figurines, close-fitting collar necklaces, and jewel-headed pins. In Assyria, men and women both wore extensive amounts of jewellery.
Jewellery in Mesopotamia tended to be manufactured from thin metal leaf and was set with large numbers of brightly colored stones. The shapes included leaves, spirals, cones, and bunches of grapes. Jewellers created works both for human use and for adorning statues and idols. They employed a wide variety of sophisticated metalworking techniques. Extensive and meticulously maintained records pertaining to the trade and manufacture of jewellery have been unearthed throughout Mesopotamian archaeological sites.
The Greeks started using gold and gems in jewellery in 1600 BC, although beads shaped as shells and animals were produced widely in earlier times. The forms and shapes of jewellery in ancient Greece such as the armoring, brooch and pins have varied widely since the Bronze Age as well. A good example of the high quality that gold working techniques could achieve in Greece is the ‘Gold Olive Wreath’ which is modeled on the type of wreath given as a prize for winners in athletic competitions like the Olympic Games.
By 300 BC, the Greeks had mastered making colored jewellery and using amethysts, pearls, and emeralds. Also, the first signs of cameos appeared, with the Greeks creating them from Indian Sardonyx, a striped brown pink and cream agate stone. Greek jewellery was often simpler than in other cultures, with simple designs and workmanship. However, as time progressed, the designs grew in complexity and different materials were soon used.
Jewellery in Greece was hardly worn and was mostly used for public appearances or on special occasions. It was frequently given as a gift and was predominantly worn by women to show their wealth, social status, and beauty. The jewellery was often supposed to give the wearer protection from the “Evil Eye” or endowed the owner with supernatural powers, while others had a religious symbolism. Older pieces of jewellery that have been found were dedicated to the Gods.
The Greeks took much of their designs from outer origins, such as Asia, when Alexander the Great conquered part of it. In earlier designs, other European influences can also be detected. When Roman rule came to Greece, no change in jewellery designs was detected. However, by 27 BC, Greek designs were heavily influenced by Roman culture. That is not to say that indigenous design did not thrive.
Gorgons, pomegranates, acorns, lotus flowers and palms were a clear indicator of Greek influence in Etruscan jewelry. The modeling of heads, which was a typical practice from the Greek severe period, was a technique that spread throughout the Etruscan territory. Much of the jewelry found was not worn by Etruscans but was made to accompany them in the afterworld. Most techniques of Etruscan goldsmiths were not invented by them as they are dated to the third millennium BC.
The most common artifact of early Rome was the brooch, which was used to secure clothing together. The Romans used a diverse range of materials for their jewellery from their extensive resources across the continent. The early Italians worked in crude gold and created clasps, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. They also produced larger pendants that could be filled with perfume.
Like the Greeks, often the purpose of Roman jewellery was to ward off the “Evil Eye” given by other people. Although women wore a vast array of jewellery, men often only wore a finger-ring. Although they were expected to wear at least one ring, some Roman men wore a ring on every finger, while others wore none. Roman men and women wore rings with an engraved gem on it that was used with wax to seal documents. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the jewellery designs were absorbed by neighboring countries and tribes.
Post-Roman Europe continued to develop jewellery making skills. The Celts and Merovingians, in particular, are noted for their jewellery, which in terms of quality matched or exceeded that of the Byzantine Empire.
The Torc was common throughout Europe as a symbol of status and power. By the 8th century, jeweled weaponry was common for men, while other jewellery to become the domain of women. Grave goods found in a 6th–7th-century burial near Chalon-sur-Saône are illustrative. Note the Visigoth work shown here, and the numerous decorative objects found at the Anglo-Saxon Ship burial at Sutton Hoo Suffolk, England are a particularly well-known example. On the continent, cloisonné and garnet were perhaps the quintessential method and gemstone of the period.
The Eastern successor of the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, continued many of the methods of the Romans, though religious themes came to predominate. Unlike the Romans, the Franks, and the Celts, however, Byzantium used light-weight gold leaf rather than solid gold, and more emphasis was placed on stones and gems. As in the West, Byzantine jewellery was worn by wealthier females, with male jewellery apparently restricted to signet rings. Like other contemporary cultures, jewellery was commonly buried with its owner.
Those times had significant impacts on the development of jewellery in Europe. By the 17th century, increasing exploration and trade led to an increased availability of a wide variety of gemstones as well as exposure to the art of other cultures.
When Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned as Emperor of the French in 1804, he revived the style and grandeur of jewellery and fashion in France. Under Napoleon’s rule, jewellers introduced parures, suites of matching jewellery, such as a diamond tiara, diamond earrings, diamond rings, a diamond brooch, and a diamond necklace. Both of Napoleon’s wives had beautiful sets and wore them regularly. Another fashion trend resurrected by Napoleon was the cameo. The period also saw the early stages of costume jewellery, with fish scale covered glass beads in place of pearls or conch shell cameos instead of stone cameos.
New terms were coined to differentiate the arts: “jewellers” who worked in cheaper materials were called “bijoutiers”, while jewellers who worked with expensive materials were called “joailliers”, a practice that continues to this day.
Most modern commercial jewellery continues traditional forms and styles, but designers have widened the concept of wearable art. The advent of new materials and coloring techniques has led to increased variety in styles. Other advances, such as the development of improved pearl harvesting by people and the development of improved quality artificial gemstones has placed jewellery within the economic grasp of a much larger segment of the population.
The late 20th century saw the blending of European design with oriental techniques. The following are innovations in the decades straddling the year 2000. Also, 3D printing as a production technique gains more and more importance. With a great variety of services offering this production method, jewellery design becomes accessible to a growing number of creatives. An important advantage of using 3d printing is the relatively low costs for prototypes, small batch series or unique and personalized designs. Shapes that are hard or impossible to create by hand can often be realized by 3D printing.
Artisan jewellery continues to grow as both a hobby and a profession. The increase in numbers of students choosing to study jewellery design and production in Australia has grown in the past 20 years, and Australia now has a thriving contemporary jewellery community. Many of these jewellers have embraced modern materials and techniques, as well as incorporating traditional workmanship.
More expansive use of metal to adorn the wearer, where the piece is larger and more elaborate than what would normally be considered jewellery, has come to be referred to by designers and fashion writers as metal couture.