A Brief History Of Ancient Jewelry

As long as there have been humans on earth, people have made and used jewelry to ornament themselves. Prehistoric man (or maybe woman) made jewelry of leather or grasses strung with durable and non durable items such as shells, feathers, berries, stones or bones.

Ancient Western cultures used gold as the preferred metal dating back to Egypt as far back as 3000 BC. The properties that we love today were exactly the same; it was rare, easy to work with and never tarnished. We have examples of rings, earrings, arm and head ornaments, pendants and necklaces made in ancient Egypt. Even today, we are drawn to these beautiful artifacts and art work. “King Tutankhamun And The Golden Age Of The Pharaohs” is currently on tour in the United States and will be available thru September 2007 in Fort Lauderdale, Chicago and Philadelphia. You can see 50 of the major excavated treasures including his royal diadem, his gold crown and one of the gold and inlaid coffinettes which contained his mummified internal organs. To be sure this display will be well attended because of our huge interest, not only in antiquities, but also jewelry. See For Yourself.

Greek jewelry art is known to have been executed into a common form of earrings, bracelets and necklaces from about 2500 BC. Until the Classical period, around 500 BC, gold was formed into beads and thin foil was formed into petals and rosettes. They made thin coils of gold wire and formed the wire into chains or plated necklaces or bracelets. Subjects drawn from nature were a common theme such as butterflies, bees and starfish. The Natural Museum in Athens has a large collection dating from about 1500 BC of gold disks that were attached to clothing through a small perforation. This collection includes works of art such as golden diadems, gold earrings and gold rings depicting domestic scenes, battles and animals. These were intricately decorated articles and great skill was required to produce them.

In China, styles and methods of jewelry making have continued uninterrupted from antiquity to the present day. Chinese jewelry used silver more often in their traditional jewelry than gold and then gilded to prevent tarnishing. Blue was a favorite color in ancient times and was enameled over silver and gold. The most valued of precious stones was Jade. The Freer Gallery of Art at The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC has a world-renowned collection of art from China, Japan, Korea, South and Southeast Asia. The Sackler Gallery, houses early Chinese bronzes and jades, Chinese paintings and lacquerware, ancient Near Eastern ceramics and metalware, and sculpture from South and Southeast Asia. Many pieces of ancient jewelry are on display in these two galleries which are connected by an underground gallery space.

Indian Jewelry produced enamel, soldered and filigreed work of great refinement. Some of the best silver jewelry in the world came from Kashmir and Bengal. In London, the Victoria & Albert Museum includes priceless golden and enameled jewelry artifacts that were acquired during the 17th Century.