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Jewellery

Jewellery, period , regions, materials used for jewellery

Jewellery refers to the ornaments people wear on their person. These ornaments are used for decoration and are made generally of enamel, precious metal or precious stones .Jewellery refers to jewels used for personal wear and sometimes jewels even adorn watches, idols and crowns.

The word jewellery is derived from the word jewel, which was anglicized from the French word joule which in turn leads back to the Latin word jocale which means plaything.

More often than not, jewellery is used as personal wear for decoration, and jewellery also has religious and magical values especially in the rural areas of India. Some even wear jewellery for good luck. Jewellery for some is also a symbol of wealth and status. Jewellery is used for a number of reasons, namely as currency, wealth display, storage, or functionally as clasps, pins and buckles. Jewellery is also used as protection, in the form of amulets and magical wards, or as artistic display.

Jewellery is made out of various types of material and range from the less expensive, like costume jewellery, to the most expensive, made of gold, precious metals and gemstones. The less expensive costume jewellery is generally mass produced and is affordable.
Jewellery which is precious is generally made of gold, platinum alloy, diamonds and silver. The less expensive are made of glass, wood, often carved and turned, shells, animal substances such as bone and ivory, natural clay and even plastic. Beads are often used in jewellery. Beads may be made of glass, gemstones, metal, wood, shells and clay.

The advent of jewellery relates far back to ancient times when, pebbles, bones, berries and feathers were used to either hold clothing together, or to pierce people’s ears, lips and noses with such objects. Jewellery was originally made from ivory, wood and metal. As early as 3500 BC, gold was also used by heating it and melting it on fire. Thereafter, silver, copper and bronze were also used. In 2000 BC ancient Egyptians started using gem stones as well.

Modern jewellery is a diverse industry. The Modern Jewellery Movement began in the late 1940s at the end of World War II. The movement was noted with the works of George Jensen .New materials such as plastic, precious metal clay and different colouring techniques led to a variety in style. The late 20th century saw blending of European design with Oriental design. Designs have blended the world over, from different cultures over different periods of time.

The history of jewellery can be traced region wise and period wise. For easier comprehension, these have been classified according to regions/periods below

1.Early History
2.Egypt
3.Mesopotamia
4.Greece
5.Rome
6.Middle Ages
7.India
8.America
9.Pacific
10.China
11.Africa

1.Early History

The first signs of jewellery came from the Cro Magnons, ancestors of Homo Sapiens around 40000 years ago. Pre historic jewellery consisted of crude necklaces and bracelets. The jewellery pieces were made of bone, animal sinew and pieces of carved bone used to secure clothing together. In some cases, jewellery had shell and mother of pearl pieces. Carved bracelets made of ivory and copper pieces have also been found.

2.Egypt

The first signs of jewellery making in ancient Egypt was around 3000 to 5000 years ago. Egyptians preferred gold over other metals. Jewellery in Egypt symbolized power and religious sentiments of the community. Ancient Egyptians wore jewellery from a variety of gemstones in jewellery such as bracelets, brooches, head dresses, pendants and rings. They believed gems have magical powers and bring good luck. Jewellery was also made from glass, tin oxide based earthenware and enamel. Egyptians also included jewellery in tombs. Egyptian jewellery was made in large workshops attached to temples and palaces.

3.Mesopotamia

Jewellery in Mesopotamia was made of thin metal leaf, and was set with brightly coloured stones, mainly agate, lapis, carnelian and jasper. Shapes of jewellery included leaves, spirals, cones and bunches of grapes. Jewellery included work for personal use as well as for adorning statues and idols. Expert metal working techniques such as filigree, engraving and fine granulation were found.

4.Greece

The Greeks started using gold and gems in jewellery in 1400 BC and they valued metalwork. Greek jewellery featured filigree, and lacelike decorations made by twisting fine wires of gold and silver into patterns. Jewellery makers made two different styles of pieces, cast pieces and pieces made out of sheet metal Jewellery in Greece was mostly used for public appearances or on special occasions. Jewellery in Greece was given as gifts and predominantly worn by women to show their wealth, status and beauty.

5.Rome

Romans often used gems in their jewellery. They used gold settings and precious stones and they wore gems in rings. The most common artifact of early Rome was the brooch which used to secure clothing together. Romans used gold, bronze, bone, glass, beads and pearl. They imported Srilankan sapphires and Indian diamonds and used emeralds and amber in their jewellery. Early Italians also worked on crude gold, and created clasps, necklaces, earrings and bracelets.

6.Middle Ages

Post Roman Europe continued to develop jewellery making skills, especially the Celts and the Merovingians. Clothing fasteners, amulets, signets were the common pieces known at this time. The Celts specialized in continuous patterns and designs, and the Merovignian designs are best known for stylized animal figures. Visigothic work, and cloisonné and garnet are famous works of the Middle Ages.

7.India

The Indian subcontinent has a continuous legacy of jewellery making. The first to start jewellery making were people of the Indus Valley Civilisation. They created gold earrings, necklaces, bead necklaces and metallic bangles. Bead trade in the Indus Valley region was most common. The bead maker would buy a rough stone and place it in the hot oven till it became deep red. The red stone would be chipped to the right size, and painted with designs. Complex jewellery soon replaced simple jewellery, and necklaces were soon adorned with gems and greenstone. India was the first country to mine diamonds. Jewellery making and designs and traditions are passed down to the children and family, and jewellery is commonplace in India during ceremonies and weddings. Anklets, bracelets, and rings for the nose and toes are popular in India.

8.America

Jewellery developed in America about 5000 years ago, in Central and South America. Large amounts of gold were easily accessible and the Aztecs and the Mayans created numerous works in the metal. The Aztecs used jewellery for status and in sacrifices to appease the gods. The Mayans made beautiful jewellery from jade, gold, silver, bronze and copper. The Mayans also traded in precious gems, and made jewels out of bone and stone. In North America, native Americans used shells, wood, turquoise and soapstone. American jewellery pre dominates the Modern Jewellery Movement.

9.Pacific

Jewellery making in the Pacific started later than in other areas. Early Pacific jewellery was made of bone, wood and other natural materials. Most Pacific jewellery is worn above the waist, with head dresses, necklaces, hairpins, arms and waist belts. Opal gemstones are used in Australian jewellery. Tribal jewellery still exists on some of the islands.

10.China

Jewellery became popular in China during the Song dynasty. The Chinese favoured silver, enamel, feathers and jade. Jade was often carved and polished, and combined with metal. Chinese jewellery is delicate and elaborate, and often takes the form of ornate headdresses. Chinese use silver, blue gems and glass. Earrings and amulets are used with the Chinese symbol or dragon. Chinese also place jewellery in their graves.

11.Africa

African craftworkers have used local materials, such as bone, coloured feathers, ivory, wood, and sometimes metals to make colourful ornaments. Necklaces of shells and seeds, studs of ivory or bone for the lobes of the ears and bronze bangles are popular in Africa.

Published: 2007-05-18
Author: Amita Shanbag

About the author or the publisher
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