The Origins of Jewelry
Let’s continue on with the history of jewelry in other ancient cultures.
The first examples we have of Ancient Greek jewelry utilize beads shaped in the form of various shells and animals. Around 1400 BC the Greeks started to incorporate gems and gold into their jewelry designs. By the year 300 BC the Greeks had ventured into the area of colored jewelry utilizing emeralds, pearls, and amethysts. The Greeks also made cameos from a striped brown pink and cream agate stone known as the Indian Sardonyx. Greek jewelry started off with simple designs, when compared to other cultures of the time, but as time progressed, the designs grew increasingly more complex with varying materials.
Jewelry in Ancient Greece as to be worn during special occasions or while on public appearances. It was not worn in the daily life of the Ancient Greeks. It was a common gift, and women used it to show off their beauty, social status, and degree of wealth. Often jewelry was deemed to have mystical powers. For example, it was thought to provide the wearer with protection from the “Evil Eye” (a look by another person that is thought to send injury or bad luck), or other supernatural powers. Most Greek jewelry of the time was made from silver and gold, with ivory and gemstones, clay and bronze utilized as well.
Two types of jewelry were developed by the Ancient Greeks. They were cast jewelry pieces and those that were formulated by hammering out sheet metal. We have fewer examples of these cast jewelry pieces available today. It was made by casting the metal onto two moulds made out of either clay or stone. When these two moulds were joined together with wax, and molten metal was poured into the center of the mould. This was a technique that had been passed down since the Ancient Bronze Age. Jewelry made from hammering sheet metal was much more common. Sheet metal was hammered to the desired thickness, then soldered together.
The most common example of early Roman jewelry was the brooch (a decorative piece of jewelry designed to be attached to garments), which was used to secure clothing together. The Roman Empire was huge, and the Romans took full advantage of it, incorporating a diverse range of materials from far and wide. In earlier times they utilized a lot of glass beads and pearls, but in later years they utilized bronze and bone and gold. Imported sapphires from Sri Lanka and Indian diamond, along with amber and emeralds were also incorporated into their jewelry designs.
In a similarity to their neighbors the Greeks, one of the purposes of Roman jewelry was to ward off the “Evil Eye” that may have been given by one’s enemies. Women wore jewelry all over their bodies, but for men, it was often only a ring on the finger. It was expected that Roman men would wear a ring on one finger, but some Roman men wore a ring on every finger, while others wore no jewelry at all.